Clamping Down on Terrorism in the United Kingdom
Posted: 18 Jun 2008
Date Written: November 2006
There is a long history of laws responding to terrorism that have been utilized in the United Kingdom. This article outlines the important strands of development, including in the former colonies of the British Empire, in Ireland, and in mainland Britain itself. It offers an overview of contemporary legislation the Terrorism Act 2000, the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 and the Terrorism Act 2006. These comprise a formidably detailed and complex code of measures, principally concentrating upon special police powers, offences and criminal processes, the proscription of organizations and the restriction of financial flows to the terrorists. The article then considers thematically some of the main controversies surrounding the laws. The discussion is organized around the following binaries: a rational code not panic legislation; a criminal justice model not a war model; the language of rights not the language of balance; international cooperation not unilateralism; appropriate structures not empty acronyms. The conclusions warn against undue optimism about the impact of the special laws and undue reliance upon the laws to an extent which damages the very values that the laws seek to protect.
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