The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill reaches the Lords…

Parliament returned to Westminster on Tuesday after the conference recess, and the Lords was immediately presented with one of those challenges it so often rises to, another anti-terrorism Bill, the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, which received its Second Reading.

From the Liberal Democrat benches, Jonathan Marks outlined the four key tests against which the proposals would be judged;

First, what is the purpose of the measure and what is the mischief it seeks to address? Secondly, is the measure necessary to achieve that purpose? Thirdly, is the measure a proportionate response to the mischief, having regard to the restrictions on liberty that it entails, and in particular would a more limited response achieve the purpose in a more proportionate way? Fourthly, will the measure be effective in achieving its purpose?”

Sally Hamwee, in her usual forensic style, highlighted the seemingly low thresholds for establishing criminal intent, in particular in defining recklessness and reasonable suspicion. The definition of a hostile act against a State was also, in her view, in need of rather better definition than was currently on the face of the Bill.

Martin Thomas gave a potted history of the issues surrounding the word ‘reckless’, with particular reference to some of his former cases, before turning his attention to the potential impact of the Bill on legal professional privilege. Paragraph 26(1) of the Bill states:

A direction under this paragraph may provide that a detainee who wishes to exercise the right under paragraph 23, to consult a lawyer privately may, if the direction is made, consult a solicitor only in the sight and hearing of a qualified officer

— that is, an eavesdropping officer.

As Lord Thomas noted;

It is important for people to realise that defence solicitors and barristers need to have professional privilege to see their client privately to carry out the sometimes rough interrogation of their own client, which can lead only to the proper result.

Andrew Stunell took as his theme the question of Channel panels. I suspect that there aren’t that many people who know that these are early intervention multi-agency panels designed to safeguard vulnerable individuals from being drawn into extremist or terrorist behaviour. More than 6,000 people were referred to them in 2016-17, and the proposal is to allow local authorities, who currently establish and run them, to refer people to them. Noting that only 6% of those referred are seen as requiring intervention, he queried the effectiveness of the current referral process, and indeed, of the entire Prevent strategy.

Summing up from our benches, Brian Paddick confirmed that our Parliamentarians would;

… support any necessary and proportionate measure that makes the United Kingdom safer or will help defeat terrorism, but we will not support measures that we consider to be disproportionate and counterproductive.

whilst reiterating our concerns regarding Prevent, and seeking not only an independent review of Prevent but a recasting of the programme with a much more community-based approach that is incorporated into other safeguarding functions.

The Bill reaches its Committee Stage on 29 October, and it will be intriguing to see whether the Government responds to some of the concerns raised from the Opposition and Crossbenches.

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One Comment

  • Hooray! Liberal Democrats tackling a bill that is horribly illiberal in places. A nice reminder of what we are here for.

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