16 September, 2005: Democracy in action

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So, the Home Office has now published its new draft Terrorism Bill, which creates offences of encouraging and glorifying terrorism, as discussed a little while ago in the context of exclusions and deportations. I couldn't find the document on the Home Office site, but the Guardian has a story about the proposals and have mirrored the text of the Bill.

It looks like it's going to be pretty fucking stupid. In particular, the new Bill states explicitly (s. 16(1)) that,

Expressions used in this Part and in the Terrorism Act 2000 (c. 11) have the same meanings in this Part as in that Act.

and therefore, the same catch-all definition of `terrorism' applies (it is trivially amended -- s.28 -- to include acts designed to influence `an international governmental organisation' rather than just those which influence `the government'). The new Bill does contain an exception (s.2(3)) for glorification etc. of acts of terrorism done more than 20 years ago:

A person is guilty of an offence under this section in respect of a statement glorifying, exalting or celebrating anything occurring more than 20 years before the publication of the statement only if the statement relates, whether directly or indirectly, to conduct or events specified for the purposes of this section by order made by the Secretary of State.

i.e., Charles Clarke gets to nominate historical terrorist events which were so bad that anyone glorifying them should still be liable for up to five years in jail (the 11th September 2001 attacks are presumably an example of such events). Presumably he won't be adding events which are terrorism under the 2000 Act but sensible people don't regard as such (e.g. D-Day, per previous example).

Of course, this doesn't save people who want to make statements like,

I think it was jolly splendid that Britain and the United States invaded Iraq and deposed evil dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.

which is glorification of terrorism; or like,

I think the government should bomb Iran to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons programme.

which is encouragement of terrorism.

As with the recent incitement to religious hatred stuff, it's not quite as bad as it might be; the new offences of encouraging and glorifying terrorism can only be prosecuted with the consent of the relevant Director of Public Prosecutions (s.15). So that's alright then: make everything illegal, and only prosecute the people you don't like. Top work.

Copyright (c) 2005 Chris Lightfoot; available under a Creative Commons License.