Home Secretary hits back at criticism of anti-terror crackdown

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Sajid Javid has defended the Government’s proposed new anti-terror laws, insisting they are “not part of a sinister strategy to create an Orwellian state”.

The Home Secretary said critics have “wrongfully” argued that the legislation risks criminalising thought.

Last week ministers unveiled a raft of measures aimed at boosting anti-terror laws following five attacks last year.

A number of existing offences will be tweaked under the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill to close off potential loopholes.

For example, the offence of inviting support for a banned terror group will be extended to capture the expression of supportive opinions that are “reckless as to whether others will be encouraged to support the organisation”.

An official impact assessment document said that, given the way the existing offence is constructed, it has not always been possible to take action against people who make inflammatory public speeches in which they made it clear that they supported Daesh – also known as Islamic State – or another proscribed organisation, but do not invite others to do so.

In anticipation of possible civil liberties complaints about the impact on freedom of speech, the Government stressed it was not making it unlawful to hold a private view in support of a terrorist organisation.

“But it is right to criminalise those who make clear expressions of support for terrorist organisations, and who are reckless as to whether that will encourage others to support the organisation,” said a Home Office factsheet.

However, campaign group Liberty argued the plans would “make thought-crime a reality”.

In an article for the Guardian, the Home Secretary said the changes “will make us safer” but emphasised there was “no blank cheque” when deciding on the approach.

“I totally reject any attempt to simplify today’s debate into one of security versus liberty,” he said.

The Bill also proposes to amend offences relating to the encouragement of terrorism and dissemination of terrorist material so they can apply in cases where conduct is directed at a child or vulnerable adult who may not understand what they are being encouraged to do.

Other steps include raising from two to five years the maximum period fingerprints and DNA may be retained on national security grounds in cases where a person has not been convicted of an offence, and amending the crime of collecting information likely to be useful to a terrorist to cover the repeated viewing or streaming of material online.

Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation Max Hill QC said he was included in some of the discussion about the plans.

“I agree with some of the Bill proposals, but do not agree with others, and I look forward to expanding on this in front of the Bill Committee later this month,” he said.

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