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'Scrap terror laws' says independent reviewer

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Tim Dieppe comments on a suggestion by Max Hill QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, to scrap all terror laws. Tim agrees, noting that counter 'extremism' measures have already caused problems for Christians who pose no threat. Instead of creating new laws, the Government should ensure existing legislation is rigorously enforced.

 

Max Hill QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has argued that the Government should consider abolishing all anti-terror laws as they are "unnecessary." Mr Hill spoke to The Independent, saying that Britain "has the laws we need" to intervene where necessary. He added: "We should review them and ensure they remain fit for purpose, but we should have faith in our legal structures, rather than trying to create some kind of new situation where the ordinary rules are thrown out."

 

We can't 'legislate our way out'

Mr Hill believes that Britain cannot "legislate its way out of" the threat from returning Isis fighters and home-grown extremists. Instead, "we should make use of what we have."

"In an ideal world, we wouldn't have specific terror offences," he said, whilst adding that he does not believe the existing acts will be "swept away any time soon".

Mr Hill pointed out that some of the perpetrators of recent terror attacks in the UK were previously "operating at a low level of criminality." He believes that "people like that should be stopped wherever possible, indicted using whatever legislation, and brought to court."

 

Avoiding 'thought crimes'

Mr Hill cautioned against new measures that would stray into the "forbidden territory of creating a thought crime." He is clearly concerned to protect maximum freedoms in this country whist tackling the terrorist problem with existing legislation.

Christian Concern agrees with Mr Hill that existing legislation should be enforced more rigorously to tackle terrorism. Governments tend to react to problems by creating new legislation, when often existing legislation is sufficient. Government plans and existing measures to tackle 'extremism' are dangerously close to creating forms of 'thought crime'.

 

'Extremism' is difficult to define

The Queen's speech on 21 June set out plans to establish a new Commission for Countering Extremism "to support the government in stamping out extremist ideology in all its forms, both across society and on the internet, so it is denied a safe space to spread".

A recent survey showed that there is widespread confusion and divergence of opinion about the definition of extremism. Surprisingly large portions of the population believed that mainstream political views are extreme. There is no consensus on what counts as extreme. A majority, however, believed that it is not helpful to use the word 'extreme' when discussing political or social opinions.

 

Restriction of Christian freedoms

We have seen one case where the Government's Prevent strategy was used to ban a Christian Union from holding meetings on college premises. Prevent is aimed at tackling 'extremism' at universities and colleges, and this example highlights the difficulty in defining extremism.

Already, it is the case that expressing support for marriage being between a man and a woman could risk your career prospects. Felix Ngole was expelled from university for expressing this on his personal Facebook page. Richard Page was dismissed as a magistrate and suspended as a non-executive director of an NHS Trust after expressing the view that a child is best raised by a mother and a father.

 

The Government should listen

Mr Hill took responsibility for examining the UK's counter-terror laws in March, after a career in which he has prosecuted members of the IRA, al-Qaeda, Isis, and others. His is an experienced voice in this area. He is right to argue that more legislation is not the answer to tackling the very real threat of Islamic terrorism in the UK. Existing laws need better enforcement. We hope and pray that the government pays attention to what he is saying.


Links:
Terror laws should be scrapped, says Government's independent reviewer of terrorism legislation (Independent)
Prevent strategy used to ban Christian union
A Commission for Countering Extremism? | Roger Kiska
University 'thought police' remove student from social work course | Andrea Williams

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