London – A new study released by CAGE today,20 Years of TACT: Justice under Threatprovides an analysis of the use and impact of two decades of the Terrorism Act (TACT) 2000.

The report provides statistical and case evidence testifying to how TACT 2000, alongside successive counter-terror legislation, has led to the erosion of rights, the subversion of the judicial system through the increasing use of secret evidence, and the entrenchment of discrimination against Muslims and foreign nationals. 

The report makes these key observations :

  1. The CT regime has expanded to unprecedented levels, even further than at the height of the Irish “troubles”.
  2. The expansion of CT powers is largely due to pre-crime convictions for offences that are far removed from acts of violence, such as possession of proscribed material, or evidence probative of an intention to commit offences.
  3. Prosecutions succeed primarily because the burden of proof shifts to the defendant and the reliance on secret evidence, undermining fundamental principles of justice. Moreover cases are tried in an environment of Islamophobia, and the securitisation of Islamic belief, knowledge and practice.
  4. The amplification of terror arrests is used as a benchmark of ‘success’, to capture more funding and power – despite only 11.6% of all terror arrests resulting in convictions. As a result the public is forced to accept wholescale securitisation and surveillance in every sphere of life.
  5. The bar for what constitutes a terrorism offence is so low it now includes actions that bear no connection to violence or even ideology. The statistical increases in terrorism convictions is not evidence of an increase in ‘terrorism’, but more about the net being widened further.
  6. The proscribing of ‘terrorist’ organisations is more about foreign policy concerns than domestic security.

The report calls for the abolition of CT legislation, and outlines three basic steps towards a society based on trust and the elimination of mass surveillance and securitisation. This requires us to Revoke the CT regime and return to the use of the standard criminal law process, to Repair the damage caused to communities targeted by the CT regime , and to Re-evaluate by fostering an environment built on social security as opposed to “national security”. 

Azfar Shafi Author of the report said:

“At a time when questions of police and state violence have taken centre stage, it is critical that we assess how TACT and the “counter-terror” regime have created a sprawling surveillance regime that has led to militarised and dragnet policing. This report seeks to trace the impact on individuals, communities, institutions and principles in British society over the last two decades.”

“The perpetual drive for more laws and more powers to combat “terrorism” have served to hollow out the justice system and democracy from the inside out over the last twenty years. This report highlights some of the damage that has been enacted in the name of countering “terrorism” since 2000, and charts a new direction.”

Fahad Ansari, a Human Rights Solicitor said:

 “Two decades of counter-terrorism legislation and policies have desensitised the British public to the erosion of due process within the criminal justice system to the extent that it is now controversial for someone accused of a crime to be able to attend their hearing and see the evidence against them. The propensity of successive governments to respond to every act of terrorism by further legislating away fundamental freedoms has not only failed to keep us safe, but has sought to make every citizen the eyes and ears of the state.”

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)