CAGE’s submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights on human rights issues in the Serious Crime Bill has been referenced by the Committee, serious questions were raised and considered in relation to a clause which allows the government to prosecute individuals preparing acts of terrorism outside UK jurisdiction.
At the end of July this year the Joint Committee on Human Rights called for submissions on human rights issues on a number of Bill’s to be passed into legislation later this year. One of those was the Serious Crime Bill, CAGE’s submission detailed the number of issues and human rights breaches in this Bill. Part of the Bill aimed to extend extra-territorial jurisdiction of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2006, essentially extending the government’s reach to prosecute individuals who they considered to be “preparing” acts of terrorism. CAGE held that the government’s extraordinary move to further extend their powers (which emanate from an Act which has already been widely condemned for being excessively broad) would contravene universally accepted fundamental legal principles.
The key points that were raised in the submission, and were later referenced in the JCHR’s report, were that the government has not shown the necessity for extending their jurisdiction extra-territorially. Further, there has been no proper examination or assessment of the threat posed by travellers to Syria and then government has failed to prove that there is in fact a gap in the law. Finally, and alarmingly, no alternatives to criminalisation were considered – for example to engage with communities in order to understand reasons behind travelling to begin with. The government simply provided “Do nothing” as their alternative to enacting this legislation. CAGE submitted that in failing to do the above, the government did not demonstrate a need for such a dramatic extension of their powers (beyond the current law which should be adequate) – a point which was agreed by the JCHR.
The legal implications of enacting this Bill is that the principle of legal certainty is undermined, as the offences in questions are pre-emptive in nature; made more problematic by the volatility of the situation on the ground in Syria and Iraq – leaving a wide discretion to the police and CPS in deciding who to prosecute.
Further, the practical problems which may arise was not considered by the government, obtaining evidence from abroad and liaising with foreign governments raises questions about information sharing beyond the legal framework.
Despite agreeing with some of the issues CAGE raised, unfortunately the JCHR were still satisfied with the government’s justifications and the provision has not been opposed. Though they conclude that due to the issues with “legal certainty, proportionality” they recommended that prosecutions brought under this clause should be monitored closely – to see if it as operationally useful as the government claims.
For more information please see here.
(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.)