UK government warned against extending law on glorifying terrorism
Plans to amend the law on glorifying terrorism in the wake of the pro-Palestine marches in the UK should not be implemented as doing so would not help the police, MI5 or the probation service, the UK government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation has said.
In a 15-page report submitted to the Home Office, Jonathan Hall KC said the marches did not warrant new terrorism legislation, and said there was “good reason for caution” due to the risk of unintended consequences as well as the depletion of limited state resources.
Ministers would like to tighten the law to capture the behaviour of a minority of pro-Palestine demonstrations in recent weeks.
But in his advice to Home Secretary James Cleverly, Mr Hall said that the changes to legislation would be inappropriate given the seriousness of the crimes they cover and the risk of causing “excessive damage” to the right to free speech.
He said: “My overall conclusion is that there is no need to legislate for any amendments to terrorism legislation now, and good reason for caution. It is difficult to identify any real situations where a gap in terrorism legislation means that terrorist mischief cannot currently be addressed by arrest and prosecution.
“Given the number of pro-Palestine marchers, there have been plenty of opportunities for gaps to become apparent. There may well be other mischiefs (such as antisemitism), but those are not a subject for terrorism legislation.
“There is a general risk of legislating in response to one set of protests because of the risk of unintended consequences when new legislation comes to be applied to other protests.”
Mr Hall also said that to “extend the poll of terrorist offences unnecessarily” would create yet more work for the security services.
“Either the investigative authorities dramatically shift their resources or ignore new terrorist offences,” he warned.
“If individuals are convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment, this has major resource implications for their management in prison and on release.”
As it stands, the glorifying of terrorism is already a criminal offence, but only where it could be reasonably inferred that the behaviour in question seeks to encourage acts of terror.
Mr Hall wrote: “The terrorism definition applies just as well to the anti-apartheid actions of Nelson Mandela and the revolutionary battles of Scotland’s William Wallace as to the terrorist attacks on 7 October 2023. There are plenty of other examples. A general solution of prohibiting all reference to terrorists or terrorist acts at public marches can therefore be rejected at the outset.”