New anti-terror laws planned to tackle extremism
Theresa May has pledged new measures to combat British Jihadis, including “Asbos for terrorists” and those who try to radicalise others; new banning orders for extremist groups; and changes to the law meaning naturalised Brits fighting overseas can be stripped of their citizenship.
The Home Office last night said it discussed anti-terror plans with the Scottish Government. But a Scottish Government spokesman said it had not been notified that May was looking at new legislation which would have implications for crime and justice issues under Holyrood control, overseen by Kenny MacAskill.
May said Britain must introduce all the legal powers necessary to win the struggle against terrorism.
“We will be engaged in this struggle for many years, probably decades. We must give ourselves all the legal powers we need to prevail”, she wrote, setting out the new measures.
“I am looking again at the case for new banning orders for extremist groups that fall short of the legal threshold for terrorist proscription, as well as for new civil powers to target extremists who seek to radicalise others.”
The Home Secretary added: “People who insist on travelling to fight in Syria and Iraq will be investigated by the police and security services.
“For those who have dual nationality, I have the power to strip them of their citizenship and exclude them from the country.
“Following the recent Immigration Act, I can, in certain circumstances, remove citizenship from naturalised Britons who are fighting overseas and exclude them, too.
“And while it is illegal for any country to make its citizens stateless, any British national who returns from Syria and Iraq faces prosecution here for participating in terrorist activities abroad.”
Since the coalition came to power in 2010, more than 150 people have been excluded from Britain for “unacceptable behaviour”, including foreign preachers of hate.
Police have also secured the removal of 28,000 pieces of terrorist material from the Internet.
May said: “The cowardly murder this week of James Foley, a man who was working to highlight the suffering of the Syrian people to the world, has demonstrated once again the very deadly threat we face from terrorism at home and abroad.” Similar proposals by the Extremism Task Force were first published for consideration in December last year following the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby close to Woolwich barracks in London.
But the government has been under renewed pressure to combat terrorism in recent weeks following the rise of the Islamist State and the killing of GlobalPost and AFP journalist Foley.
A spokesman from the Home Office said: “We discussed the Extremist Task Force proposals with the Scottish Government and they’ve been fully informed regarding the recommendations.”
But a spokesman said: “While there are regular discussions at official level on tackling extremism, the Scottish Government was not notified that Theresa May was looking again at new legislation, which would have clear implications for devolved areas.”
He added: “Scotland has robust measures in place to help safeguard people from any risks from extremism.
“This includes promoting awareness of vulnerabilities and risks and in recent years has reached thousands of professionals working in schools, universities, colleges, local authorities and elsewhere through presentations and workshops, as part of Scotland’s multi-agency response to the threat posed by extremism.”
The UK government has also come under pressure to contemplate working with the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to tackle the militants operating in Syria and Iraq, with former head of the army Lord Dannatt suggesting that there was a need to build bridges with the Syrian president.
But Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said an alliance with the Assad regime would not be “practical, sensible or helpful”. The UK government has called for Assad to be removed as Syrian leader as a result of his actions during the country’s bloody civil war.
The UK already has some of the strongest laws in the world to deal with terrorism cases.
However, the current Terrorism Investigation and Prevention Measures (Tpims) are weaker than the last Labour government’s Control Order regime.
Tony Blair’s administration brought in Control Orders in 2005, which kept terrorism suspects in their homes for 16 hours a day, without access to phones or the internet. They were controversial because they were used for those yet to be convicted.
Control Orders were replaced by Tpims by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition in 2011. Each is authorised by the Home Secretary after an assessment by MI5. Suspects are electronically tagged, must report to the police, and are prevented from travelling overseas.
But they are subject to shorter ten-hour curfews overnight and are allowed limited access to mobile phones and the internet.
And it is believed that none are currently in operation, which critics claimed demonstrates their lack of effectiveness.