Yet it is notable that the official threat level only reached ‘Critical’ twice this year, meaning that we have avoided both a state of emergency and any sense of rising panic among the population.
Speaking to Wadham Human Rights Forum, UK Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation Max Hill outlined his role, the big issues of this year and areas of law where he thinks review might be needed.
“Whilst we must all wait for the full facts of the 2017 attacks in London and Manchester to emerge, it seems that some of those who committed terrorist murders on our streets may have reached their murderous state having been influenced by what they read and what they see online, just as much as by whom they meet. It is this element of ‘remote radicalisation’ which is acutely difficult to spot,” he said.
Addressing the role of social media in facilitating these terrible crimes, Hill commented that controlling social media comes at a high price if it interferes with the freedom of communication which every citizen enjoys. “Driving material, however offensive, from open availability into underground spaces online would be counter-productive if would-be terrorists could still access it,” he added.
Hill outlined the threats posed by UK-linked individuals who travel to fight in Syria and Iraq. He also described the change in terrorist practices, the move away from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and the emergence of ‘lone actors’, deploying low-cost, unsophisticated means of attack. He also considered the threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism, and the increase in the activity of right wing extremist groups.
He outlined four areas where he thinks that review and possibly change is needed: port and border controls; arrest and detention; the consequences of pre-charge custody; and the need for reflection on existing terrorism offences.
The role of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation is to monitor UK counter-terrorism legislation for its fairness, effectiveness and proportionality. The work is underpinned by three central principles: complete independence from Government; unrestricted access to classified documents and national security personnel; and a statutory obligation on Government to lay the Independent Reviewer’s reports before Parliament.
The Wadham Human Rights Forum is a continuing series of lectures, seminars and discussions hosted by the Wadham College Law Society and open to all. Max Hill QC was introduced by the Warden of Wadham College, Ken Macdonald QC.