“Cautious rebalancing” of terrorism laws in favour of liberty should continue, says independent reviewer

The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has released his report into the operation of terrorism law in 2011. The press release is here.

The report puts the case for continuing the process already begun by the Coalition Government of rolling back some of the laws instituted in the decade following 9/11 to address the threat of terrorism. The justification for this is that the threat has reduced in size. Notably, he argues that it may be possible to grant certain terrorist suspects (“the peripheral players”) bail when arrested. David Anderson QC said of his report:

The threat from both al-Qaida related and Northern Ireland related terrorism is a real one. To meet it, we have some of the most extensive and effective counter-terrorism laws in the world. All the more need to keep them under review so that they impinge no further than is necessary on individual liberty.

After a year spent studying the operation of the Terrorism Acts around the country, I have identified three respects in which I believe that change could be considered without diminishing their operational effectiveness. These are the rules governing the proscription of organisations, the detention of terrorist suspects and the examination of passengers at our ports and airports for the purpose of determining whether they are terrorists.

Anderson’s key recommendations are in relation to pre-trial detention, ‘proscribed’ (i.e. banned) groups and stop and search at ports and airports.

The ‘independent reviewer’ is an interesting innovation under terrorism law and a sensible one too. David Anderson QC, the current reviewer is a kind of ‘reader’s editor’ for terrorism law. He is in a fairly unique position, as unlike journalists or most other lawyers, he has privileged access to some of the secret information which underlies difficult decisions impacting on personal liberty, but also the legal expertise to take an independent review.

Under terrorism law, the Secretary of State must appoint a person to review the operation of the Terrorism Act 2000 and Part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000, and in particular proscription of organisations, stop and search powers, arrest and detention powers and prosecutions for terrorist offences.

This is David Anderson QC’s second annual report as Independent Reviewer; I posted on his first report in July last year. He has been busy in the interim, however, releasing reports on control orders, terrorist asset freezing and Operation Gird (investigation suspected attacks during the papal visit to London).

He has also been a regular commentator of the Government’s secret civil trial plans, largely agreeing with the criticisms of the Special Advocates and in particular arguing that judges must have the final say (see his comment to Rosalind’s post on this blog).

For more on the report, see the BBC’s summary and the report and press release reproduced below.

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One thought on ““Cautious rebalancing” of terrorism laws in favour of liberty should continue, says independent reviewer

  1. Presumably David Anderson never heard of he Trojan Horse?
    If he thinks terrorists have gone away he is in cuckooland.
    Why else are there continuing arrests and trials?

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