Counter-terrorism: Striking the Balance Between Security and Liberty

It was announced in October 2017 that people viewing terrorist content online could face up to 15 years in prison, under new legislation. The Home Secretary suggested a change to existing law and that the penalty could be applied in cases where extremist content was viewed multiple times.

The proposed change in legislation comes after several high-profile terrorist attacks in the UK in 2017 and a fear that radicalisation is on the rise.

In a recently published report by the joint committee on human rights (JCHR), fears were expressed that such legislation would be incompatible with human rights law. The report states that the new legislation would unfairly criminalize those viewing such content without criminal intent, including journalists, academics and ‘inquisitive and foolish minds’.

The committee, a Parliamentary human rights watchdog, believes that such prohibition may be an infringement of Art. 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which includes the right to receive and impart information.

The new counter-terrorism and border security bill, currently under Parliamentary scrutiny, does contain a defence of ‘reasonable excuse’. However, the lack of definition of ‘reasonable excuse’ is a cause for concern.

In summary, the report claims that the current draft of legislation fails to strike the correct balance between security and liberty.

Current legislation for this offence can be found in section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

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This article is written by our legal content writer James Chalkley (LLB. LLM.)

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