confusedstudent123
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Hi everyone,

I've recently been asked to write a piece on the definition of terrorism and I was just wondering if anyone had any thoughts on S1 Terrorism Act or could point me in the direction of relevant resources?

Would be great to get a debate going here.

Thanks guys
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cliffg
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(Original post by confusedstudent123)
Hi everyone,

I've recently been asked to write a piece on the definition of terrorism and I was just wondering if anyone had any thoughts on S1 Terrorism Act or could point me in the direction of relevant resources?

Would be great to get a debate going here.

Thanks guys

A good staring point might be David Anderson QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and his report, June, this year - available on line - see section 3, Definition of Terrorism.

S. Setty, 'What's in a name? How nations define terrorism ten years after 9/11', 33 U. Pa.J. Int'l L. 1 2011-2012 - available from Hien On-Line.

See Human Rights Watch, 'In the Name of Security', 2012 - available on line - since 9/11, 140 states have enacted or revised counter-terrorism law, many with excessively broad definitions - seen by HRW as opportunism.

Look at UN resolution 1373 and tell me if you can find a definition of terrorism in it, despite the fact that it places binding obligations on states to counter-terrorism. No internationally agreed definition of terrorism.

Take this statement from Lord Phillips in 2006:
"Terrorism is not readily defined and whether activities amount to terrorism can depend upon your point of view. One man's terrorist can be another man's freedom fighter." 'Terrorism and Human Rights', 2 High Ct Q R 61, 2006. Strange for the then LCJ to say that terrorism is not readily defined when a ready definition was in front of him in S 1 of the Terrorism Act. Strange also that he should resort to a hackneyed cliche which confuses the means with the end. In the international context, however, it is that idea of self determination, struggles for national freedom against oppressive regimes, which creates a problem in finding consensus.

Main criticism of UK definition is, however, its excessive breadth.

Recently decided case might also be useful - Al-Sirri v SSHD [2012] UKSC 54
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confusedstudent123
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(Original post by cliffg)
A good staring point might be David Anderson QC, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and his report, June, this year - available on line - see section 3, Definition of Terrorism.

S. Setty, 'What's in a name? How nations define terrorism ten years after 9/11', 33 U. Pa.J. Int'l L. 1 2011-2012 - available from Hien On-Line.

See Human Rights Watch, 'In the Name of Security', 2012 - available on line - since 9/11, 140 states have enacted or revised counter-terrorism law, many with excessively broad definitions - seen by HRW as opportunism.

Look at UN resolution 1373 and tell me if you can find a definition of terrorism in it, despite the fact that it places binding obligations on states to counter-terrorism. No internationally agreed definition of terrorism.

Take this statement from Lord Phillips in 2006:
"Terrorism is not readily defined and whether activities amount to terrorism can depend upon your point of view. One man's terrorist can be another man's freedom fighter." 'Terrorism and Human Rights', 2 High Ct Q R 61, 2006. Strange for the then LCJ to say that terrorism is not readily defined when a ready definition was in front of him in S 1 of the Terrorism Act. Strange also that he should resort to a hackneyed cliche which confuses the means with the end. In the international context, however, it is that idea of self determination, struggles for national freedom against oppressive regimes, which creates a problem in finding consensus.

Main criticism of UK definition is, however, its excessive breadth.

Recently decided case might also be useful - Al-Sirri v SSHD [2012] UKSC 54


Thanks for your reply. I really appreciated your points and especially enjoyed reading David Anderson's report.

I also feel that Lord Carlile's 2007 report on the definition raises some important, and possibly still unanswered questions.

I am primarily focusing on the definition in the UK, although I am obviously using international laws as a comparison.

Is it possible that the excessive breadth of the definition could be seen as a positive catch all?
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cliffg
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(Original post by confusedstudent123)
Thanks for your reply. I really appreciated your points and especially enjoyed reading David Anderson's report.

I also feel that Lord Carlile's 2007 report on the definition raises some important, and possibly still unanswered questions.

I am primarily focusing on the definition in the UK, although I am obviously using international laws as a comparison.

Is it possible that the excessive breadth of the definition could be seen as a positive catch all?
Yes, I think if you review only a small amount of the literature on this topic you will find a constant theme and criticism relating to an excessively broad definition.

I would suggest, however, that you also look at the definition prior to the 2000 Act. That existed in various temporary legislation such as the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973, S. 28(1): "terrorism means the use of violence for political ends ..." You might argue that that was an even broader definition, amenable to all sorts of interpretations.

On the contrary it did require an act of violence. Under the current legislation an act of violence is not required - interfering with an electronic system is enough, S1(2)(e). It also required a political motive, now clearly removed. Section 1(5) is bit of a catch all little bugger as well. Let's say I donate money to a children's hospital in Gaza. There's a good chance it might run by Hamas, a proscribed organisation. Am I caught by the terrorism legislation? Probably yes.

I think the biggest problem arises when you import this excessively broad definition into other legislation and give the SSHD powers to act based on a suspicion that a person is, or has been, or might in the future become involved in terrorism. Generally the criminal law holds someone to account for what they have done in the past. Broad counter-terrorism laws allow the executive, often without substantial proof, to act against a person on the basis of what they might do in the future.

Regardless of the breadth of the definition, however, the question might also be; is the legislation effective? It might "catch all" but if it catches terrorists then surely it's doing its job. International law places a positive obligation on States to counter terrorism and protect life. Better that we do that with broad, sweeping legislation which allows the state to act, than with narrow and restrictive law which hinders it from taking action against those who would seek to harm its citizens?

Strike the correct balance between countering terror, protecting citizens and respecting human rights at the same time, and you'll definitively have a successful career ahead of you ! !
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Hal.E.Lujah
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Somebody has beat me to giving an actual definition (and done it far better than I would have) so I'll instead make the obligatory anti establishment post.


It's whatever the media tell us it is.
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confusedstudent123
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(Original post by cliffg)
Yes, I think if you review only a small amount of the literature on this topic you will find a constant theme and criticism relating to an excessively broad definition.

I would suggest, however, that you also look at the definition prior to the 2000 Act. That existed in various temporary legislation such as the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973, S. 28(1): "terrorism means the use of violence for political ends ..." You might argue that that was an even broader definition, amenable to all sorts of interpretations.

On the contrary it did require an act of violence. Under the current legislation an act of violence is not required - interfering with an electronic system is enough, S1(2)(e). It also required a political motive, now clearly removed. Section 1(5) is bit of a catch all little bugger as well. Let's say I donate money to a children's hospital in Gaza. There's a good chance it might run by Hamas, a proscribed organisation. Am I caught by the terrorism legislation? Probably yes.

I think the biggest problem arises when you import this excessively broad definition into other legislation and give the SSHD powers to act based on a suspicion that a person is, or has been, or might in the future become involved in terrorism. Generally the criminal law holds someone to account for what they have done in the past. Broad counter-terrorism laws allow the executive, often without substantial proof, to act against a person on the basis of what they might do in the future.

Regardless of the breadth of the definition, however, the question might also be; is the legislation effective? It might "catch all" but if it catches terrorists then surely it's doing its job. International law places a positive obligation on States to counter terrorism and protect life. Better that we do that with broad, sweeping legislation which allows the state to act, than with narrow and restrictive law which hinders it from taking action against those who would seek to harm its citizens?

Strike the correct balance between countering terror, protecting citizens and respecting human rights at the same time, and you'll definitively have a successful career ahead of you ! !


I have looked at the definition contained within the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989. It was interesting to see how the definition has evolved, especially considering political motives.

Your criticism of s1(5) is one that I had not previously considered but having done further reading, I agree with your viewpoint.

I am interested to hear more on the argument that you have presented when considering the powers given to the SSHD, for example.

I entirely agree with your argument that if the legislation is working then it should not be considered as too broad. Although, I suggest that it may be necessary for some checks and balances to ensure there is not an abuse of such broad powers. Do you agree?

I have also considered the EU's framework decision in my analysis. It is important to see where the UK has exceeded the framework in some areas, but lacked in others.
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cliffg
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(Original post by confusedstudent123)
I have looked at the definition contained within the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989. It was interesting to see how the definition has evolved, especially considering political motives.

Your criticism of s1(5) is one that I had not previously considered but having done further reading, I agree with your viewpoint.

I am interested to hear more on the argument that you have presented when considering the powers given to the SSHD, for example.

I entirely agree with your argument that if the legislation is working then it should not be considered as too broad. Although, I suggest that it may be necessary for some checks and balances to ensure there is not an abuse of such broad powers. Do you agree?

I have also considered the EU's framework decision in my analysis. It is important to see where the UK has exceeded the framework in some areas, but lacked in others.
I think you could run an entire module on counter-terrorism law and no doubt you could write a Phd thesis on it, many have, so we’re barely scratching the surface here. In relation to powers given to SSHD, I suppose I’m actually referring to powers given to a wide range of officials to take action when “terrorism” becomes a part of any issue and when an excessively broad definition has been imported into other law. Look for example at s 54 Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. You’ll see that it imports s1 Terrorism Act 2000 and then applies it to the Convention on Refugees. So a web, almost, is being created. If you then look at the powers of the SSHD to deprive someone of citizenship, s 56 or refuse asylum, you can see where we’re going.

(Coupled to this is a suggestion from some commentators that the higher courts have accorded undue deference to the Executive on matters of national security with the Belmarsh case being a high water mark from which they have since retreated. Some argue, however, that in SIAC the Executive is being put under more and more scrutiny to justify their decisions when they label a person a terrorist. This might be too far away from your question, though; it’s more addressing the issue of the impact of a broad and vague definition of terrorism.)

To take an almost ridiculous but very pertinent example see this article by David Allen Green on why Andrew Mitchell wasn’t allowed to cycle through the main gates of Downing Street – terrorism law!

http://www.newstatesman.com/david-al...owning-street-
(If that link doesn’t work come back to me.)

But hopefully you can see the point – create a broad and vague definition of “terrorism” and then use that word in other legislation and eventually every official can do almost whatever they want against any citizen. A longstop against such abuse of course is the Human Rights Act and eventually the ECtHR. And there is no doubt that terrorism powers have been abused. See, for example, the way amateur photographers in central London have been subjected to counter-terrorism law.

Sorry but I haven’t looked at the EU framework decision. To my shame I’ll admit that I avoid EU law unless absolutely necessary.

Some questions which you might want to consider when writing on this subject:

The criminal law is well equipped to deal with acts such as murder, possession of firearms, serious damage to property, kidnapping and threats of violence. Why is another toolbox of counter-terrorism law needed?

What is it that really defines terrorism, leaving the S1 definition aside? (I’d suggest that it might be the fact that the initial victim of a terrorist is not his primary target. His primary target is the state. Is that clear in the definition?)

Why is terrorism deemed to be such a heinous crime that it requires special criminal justice procedures and police powers? Is it convenient for states to characterize those who disagree with them and resort to violence as terrorists and therefore people who lack morality and legitimacy?

If terrorism is such a heinous crime, why do states inevitably forgive terrorists, negotiate with them and accept them into democratic government?
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qh3g17
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If you or anyone else is still on here, please contact me. I am literally writing a dissertation on this and I am in dire need of help. Thank you
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