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Essay: The normal criminal justice system should be used for countering terrorism

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  • Subject area(s): Criminology essays
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  • Published: 30 January 2022*
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  • Words: 1,770 (approx)
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  • Tags: Terrorism essays

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In 2000, The Terrorism Act was introduced to remedy problems of increased terrorism. In this Act “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where– (a) the action falls within subsection (2)….. (5) In this Act a reference to action taken for the purposes of terrorism includes a reference to action taken for the benefit of a proscribed organisation. This essay will agree with the given statement above of how normal criminal justice system should be used for countering terrorism and it will look at why it should be preferred when encountering terrorist attack with links to past incidents and matters and all the laws that are being enforced within the criminal justice system for countering terrorism.

Firstly, the definition of Terrorism itself covers criminal offences i.e. section 1 C) states endangers a person’s life which is linked to suicide bombing and in end they all go to prison, so the punishment is fairly equal. However, the judge can reduce their liability from murder to manslaughter. To argue that after the 2017 Manchester attack, there was a petition from UK citizens to bring back the capital punishment for terrorist and to stop using normal criminal justice system. The question that arises from this petition is that, Will the capital punishment deter terrorist from killing people? It has been clearly shown by Sir Ronald Tiersky that ‘’Death in the minds of ISIS fighter, in not the end of life. It’s the way to the eternal life of bliss in heaven’’ This illustrates how terrorists will not deter from any capital punishment and they are choosing to get killed so they can be classified as martyr and so they can obtain their special place in heaven. Therefore, the normal criminal justice system should be the preferred way of countering terrorism.

There are some special methods in criminal law itself that are used during terrorist attacks. One example of that is the shoot to kill policy. Shoot-to-kill is not a policy but an action that may be required if there’s a threat that endangers other peoples’ lives. This action should be used by the police not a normal individual. There have been times when the shoot to kill policy has been applied. Last year in London on 2 June 2017, when three attackers drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge and launched a knife attack in Borough Market, killed 8 people and as a result, The London Metropolitan Police applied the ‘’shoot to kill police’’ which resulted in the attackers being shot dead by the officers. This shows how there are specialist laws for the terrorists in the criminal justice system, which have been used recently. However, there was a time when the shoot to kill policy was wrongly used which was in the Da Silva v United Kingdom case where an innocent electrician was mistaken as a terrorist and shot dead in a tube. This caused a lot of violence with individuals arguing to input specialist terrorist laws.

The role of the criminal justice system in countering terrorism is a challenging one. Indeed, the primary objective of counter-terrorism approaches must be to prevent terrorist incidents from taking place and in most cases criminal justice system is working to prevent terrorist attacks from occurring. Such as The Metropolitan Police Service Counter Terrorism Command aims to protect London and takes the lead in protecting the UK from the threat of terrorism, working closely with the four other counter terrorism units. It brings together intelligence, operations and investigations functions. It also engages with a range of partners, including the British Security Service (MI5) and Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), to prevent terrorist related activity. This suggests how special arrangements have been put in place within the criminal justice system to prevent terrorism from occurring. In addition to this, there has been an increase in security such as within days of terrorist attack at London Bridge and Borough Market in June 2017, barriers were put in place on bridges including Westminster, Waterloo and Lambeth in an effort to prevent terrorists from mowing down pedestrians. Along with this the number of firearms officers and vehicles has gradually increased since 2016. Scotland Yard said ‘the public could expect to see more police officers, both armed and unarmed, on the capital’s streets in the wake of Tuesday’s incident’ , which was after the parliament car crash incident on March 2017.

Even though there is a need for specialist anti-terrorism legislation. But they will not work as greater as criminal justice as anti-terrorism legislations are misused. For example, in the case (R. v Secretary of State for the Home Department) where the home secretary rejected an individual’s visa on the basis of suspected terrorist, which was unjustifiable as it was nowhere near terrorism. Despite this Terrorist Prevention Investigation Measures doesn’t work as there is small number of it. Along with that TPIMS are not very useful as they suffer exactly like a case of rape where it’s easy to commit and hard to prove.

Liberty’s earlier publication Anti-Terrorism Legislation in the United Kingdom, noted that of the more than 7,000 people detained in Britain under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the vast majority have been released without charge and only a small fraction has ever been charged with terrorism related offences. Almost without exception these people could have been arrested under the ordinary criminal law. Therefore, criminal justice system is a better way of encountering terrorism as more special laws for terrorists within the criminal justice system are coming in force. For example, the counter terrorism and border security bill 2018 will ensure that the punishment properly reflects the crime and ensure that the terrorist offending can be disrupted more quickly. An example of one of the main provision in the bill is as follows: increase to 15 years’ imprisonment the maximum penalty for certain preparatory terrorism offences, add terrorism offences to the list of offences for which an individual This means that there will be longer prison sentences and stronger management for terrorist offenders after their release. As the strategy to counter terrorism also mentions; New counter-terrorism legislation will underpin our approach, ensuring the police and Crown Prosecution Service have the powers they need to enable intervention at an earlier stage in investigations

According to the MI5’s website, it shows that the threat of a terror attack on UK is very severe. Research suggests that in 2017, there were 4 terrorist attacks. Also 449 people were arrested on the basis of terrorism related offences. An average arrest should be 240 people. Hence 449 is a very great number of arrest, specially at how high it has been compared to previous years. So, 2017 was a bad year of attacks for UK but still nowhere near to what happened during 9/11 or during world war 2, when someone like Hitler was a biggest threat to UK as compared to terrorists. Meanwhile in 2018 there was only one attack which was a car crash in Westminster. But it is also not confirmed as a terrorist attack yet. The attack itself didn’t cause that much harm as only two people were slightly injured. There were 351 arrests for terrorism-related activity in the year to 30 June, a fall of 22% compared with the 449 arrests in the previous year. Along with an increase in white people being arrested on suspicion of terrorism, which is a huge concern. But overall statically the terrorist attacks have slowed down. However, that may be a warning sign for UK because 2019 has just started and on the first day there has been an attack in Manchester which commenced on 1 January at Victoria railway station, where three people including police officer have been stabbed by a man. The police have treated the case as a criminal offence but the counter terrorism team is working to find out if it was a terrorist attack. Therefore, it isn’t a terrorist attack as of yet.

Possibly the attacks are decreasing due to increase in the prevent duty from The Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015. The Act clearly mentions about the risk of being drawn into terrorism. It outlines more in chapter 1 section 26 about preventing people from being drawn into terrorism. There has been a huge increase in the prevent duty. In the year to March 2018, 1,312 individuals were referred to Prevent, an increase of 36% on the previous year, and accounting for 18% of all referrals. By referring greater people for prevent channel programme it is surely decreasing the chances of those individuals being radicalised which is also keeping our society safe as it will deter their chances of being radicalised which as a whole will keep our community safe and maybe that might be the reason why the terror attack rate has decreased as compared to 2017.

There have been arguments that the criminal law is not good to keep everyone safe from terrorist, as it doesn’t have tools such as spying. However, those who are convicted are charged within the criminal justice system but in all of these cases they are considered and labelled as terrorists. Because Schedule 2 of Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 contains a list of offences which a judge could conclude as ‘a terrorist connection’. These include charges such as murder or causing an explosion. For example, the killings of Lee Rigby and Jo Cox MP were charged as murder, but both amounted to a terrorism offence and those responsible for the 21/7 bombings were charged with conspiracy to cause explosions, which also amounted to terrorism offences. In all of these cases those convicted are considered terrorists, because even though they are covered by different legislation than the Terrorism Acts, the crimes committed clearly had terrorist aims. So they are clearly classified as terrorist whilst dealt within the criminal justice system.

To Summarise it is clear that the ordinary criminal justice system should, so far as possible, remain the preferred way of countering terrorism. Anti-terrorism law is creating terrorism. I.e. in 1980’s in Britain there was a sign in London reading ‘No Irish, No Dogs’ , which is counterproductive as this has led to more terrorism. All this aggravates individuals such and creates suspect communities. Suspecting everyone causes hate. Recently the attacks on Muslim community has been very high. All this is causing terrorism and creating hate and convincing those individuals to sign up to become part of the terror group. Similarly, by introducing specialist terrorism acts such as spying all this will firstly breach article 8 of Human Right Act 1998 which protects everyone’s right to respect for your private and family life. Also it will cause chaos as it will affect everyone. Therefore, while combatting terrorism, criminal justice system should remain the preferred way.


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