Trevor Mendham

UK Civil Liberties - New Labour's Record

Terrorism Act 2000

The Terrorism Act 2000 replaced the "temporary" Prevention of Terrorism Act with a new permanent set of rules. It set out to define terrorism and gives police massive powers to deal with it.

The biggest problem with the 2000 Act was that it defined "terrorism" in a very broad way. Basically terrorism is defined as action or the mere threat of action that is made for advancing a cause, that attempts to influence the government and that falls into one of several categories including serious damage to property or disruption of an electronic system.

What's so bad about that?

Consider anti-GM protestors who destroy a field of GM crops. Whatever you think about GM crops, no-one believes such people are "terrorists". Yet they are committing serious damage to property in order to influence the government and advance a political cause. The Terrorism 2000 Act makes them terrorists.

The Act also makes it an offence to collect information possibly of use to terrorists without a "reasonable excuse". So just having a map with the sites of GM crop trials marked makes me a terrorist.

Don't forget the issue of electronic systems. What if public sector workers at government computer centres take strike action?

As always, it's intent vs capability. We are told that yes, that's possible, but the police would never actually use these powers that way.

That argument has already fallen apart.

The most blatant abuse of the Terrorism powers was suppression of anti-war protests.

The most recent example of abuse of power was in September 2003 when police used the Terrorism Act against protestors at the Defence Systems and Equipment International arms fair. Yes the protestors caused damage and disruption but no-one could possibly class them as terrorists.

Update 31/10/2003: The High Court has supported the use of these powers against the DSEI protestors, underlining the danger of this Act.

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