Terrorism Act 2000: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Terrorism Act 2000
UK Government Coat of Arms
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Long title: An Act to make provision about terrorism; and to make temporary provision for Northern Ireland about the prosecution and punishment of certain offences, the preservation of peace and the maintenance of order.
Statute book chapter: 2000 c.11
Territorial extent: United Kingdom[1]
Date of Royal Assent: 20 July 2000
Status: Current legislation
Text of statute as originally enacted
Official text of the statute as amended and in force today within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database

The Terrorism Act 2000 (c.11) is the first of a number of general Terrorism Acts passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It superseded and repealed the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996. The powers it provides the police have been controversial, leading to noted cases of alleged abuse, and to legal challenges in British and European courts. The stop-and-search powers under section 44 of the Act have been ruled illegal by the European Court of Human Rights.


Definition of terrorism

Terrorism is defined, in the first section of the Act, as follows:

Section 1. -
(1) In this Act "terrorism" means the use or threat of action where-
(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government [or an international governmental organisation][2] or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious [, racial][3] or ideological cause.
(2) Action falls within this subsection if it-
(a) involves serious violence against a person,
(b) involves serious damage to property,
(c) endangers a person's life, other than that of the person committing the action,
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.
(3) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied.

Sections (2)(b) and (e) could be criticised as falling well outside the scope of what is generally understood to be the definition of terrorism, ie acts that require life-threatening violence.[4]

Prior to this, terrorism was defined in an Act as a footnote, such as Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993 (c. 18) section 2(2):[5]

"acts of terrorism" means acts of persons acting on behalf of, or in connection with, any organisation which carries out activities directed towards the overthrowing or influencing, by force or violence, of Her Majesty's government in the United Kingdom or any other government de jure or de facto.

and Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 (c. 4) section 20(1):[6]

In this Act "terrorism" means the use of violence for political ends, and includes any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public or any section of the public in fear.

In Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996, the criminal offences referred to as terrorism are provided as an exhaustive list of over 70 items.[7]

This move to establish a sound definition of terrorism in the law made it possible to build an entirely new set of police and investigatory powers into incidents of this kind, beyond what they could do for ordinary violent offences.

Proscribed groups

As in previous Terrorism Acts, such as the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989, the Home Secretary had the power to maintain a list of proscribed groups that he believes are "concerned in terrorism". The act of being a member of, or supporting such a group, or wearing an item of clothing such as "to arouse reasonable suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation" is sufficient to be prosecuted for a terrorist offence.

International groups

The secretary of state's list proscribes a number of international organisations, the majority due to accusations connected with Islamic fundamentalism. The list as of February 2009 is:[8]

Mujaheddin e Khalq (MeK) was removed from the list of proscribed organisations in June 2008, as a result of judgements of the Proscribed Organisations Appeals Commission and the Court of Appeal

Domestic groups

A number of armed groups are also proscribed due to accusations arising from the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The list as of October 2005 is:[8]

Notable sections

Section 41 (detention without charge)

Section 41 of the Act provided the police with the power to arrest and detain a person without charge for up to 48 hours if they were suspected of being a terrorist.[9] This period of detention could be extended to up to seven days if the police can persuade a judge that it is necessary for further questioning.[10]

This was a break from ordinary criminal law where suspects had to be charged within 24 hours of detention or be released. This period was later extended to 14 days by the Criminal Justice Act 2003,[11] and to 28 days by the Terrorism Act 2006.

Section 44 powers (stop and search)

The most commonly encountered use of the Act was outlined in Section 44 which enables the police and the Home Secretary to define any area in the country as well as a time period wherein they could stop and search any vehicle or person, and seize "articles of a kind which could be used in connection with terrorism".[12] Unlike other stop and search powers that the police can use, Section 44 does not require the police to have "reasonable suspicion" that an offence has been committed, to search an individual.[13]

In January 2010 the stop-and-search powers granted under Section 44 were ruled illegal by the European Court of Human Rights. It held that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated in the case of two people stopped in 2003 outside the ExCeL convention centre in London, which at the time was hosting a military equipment exhibition. The Court found the powers were "not sufficiently circumscribed" and lacked "adequate legal safeguards against abuse", over-ruling a 2003 High Court judgement upheld at the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.[14]

Section 58 - Collection of information

This section creates the offence, liable to a prison term of up to ten years, to collect or possesses "information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism".

Sections 57-58: Possession offences: Section 57 is dealing with possessing articles for the purpose of terrorist acts. Section 58 is dealing with collecting or holding information that is of a kind likely to be useful to those involved in acts of terrorism. Section 57 includes a specific intention, section 58 does not.[15]

Stop and search, arrest and conviction rates

Between July and December 2007, the BBC reported that more than 14,000 people and vehicles had been stopped and searched by British Transport Police in Scotland.[16] In 2008 the Metropolitan Police conducted 175,000 searches using Section 44, these included over 2313 children (aged 15 or under), of whom 58 where aged under 10.[17]

Up to early 2004 around 500 people are believed to have been arrested under the Act; seven people had been charged. By October 2005 these figures had risen to 750 arrested with 22 convictions; the then current Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, said "the statistics illustrate the difficulty of getting evidence to bring prosecution".[18]

Figures released by the Home Office on 5 March 2007 show that 1,126 people were arrested under the Act between 11 September 2001 and 31 December 2006. Of the total 1,166 people arrested under the Act or during related police investigations, 221 were charged with terrorism offences, and 40 convicted.[19]

Noted arrests under Section 58 include Abu Bakr Mansha in December 2005, and the eight suspects involved in the 2004 Financial buildings plot.

Reactions and analysis

In his comprehensive commentary on this Act and other anti-terrorism legislation, Professor Clive Walker of the University of Leeds comments:[20]

"The Terrorism Act 2000 represents a worthwhile attempt to fulfil the role of a modern code against terrorism, though it fails to meet the desired standards in all respects. There are aspects where rights are probably breached, and its mechanisms to ensure democratic accountability and constitutionalism are even more deficient, as discussed in the section on ‘Scrutiny’ earlier in this chapter. It is also a sobering thought, proffered by the Home Affairs Committee, that the result is that ‘This country has more anti-terrorist legislation on its statute books than almost any other developed democracy.’ (Report on the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill 2001 (2001-02 HC 351) para.1). But at least that result initially flowed from a solemnly studied and carefully constructed legislative exercise."

Alleged abuses

The laws have been criticised for allowing excessive police powers leaving scope for abuse. There have been various cases in which the laws have been used in scenarios criticised for being unrelated to fighting terrorism. Critics allege there is systematic abuse of the act against protesters.[21]

Many instances have been reported in the media of innocent people who have been stopped and searched under section 44 of the Act. According to Home Office guidelines, police are required to have "reasonable suspicion" that a person is acting as a terrorist.[22] Critics of the Act claim that, in practice, police are using Section 44 emergency powers as "an additional tool in their day-to-day policing kit" to stop and search innocent citizens without reasonable grounds, going beyond the original intention of Parliament.[23][24]

One of the issues arising from the Section 44 authorisations has been the use of the Act to detain lawful protestors or other people who are in the vicinity of demonstrations. Critics claim the Act gives police extended powers to deter or prevent peaceful protest.[25]

Problematic use of Section 44 powers has not been restricted to political protestors; according to reports, journalists, amateur and professional photographers, trainspotters, politicians and children have been subject to stop and search under suspicion of being involved in terrorist activities while engaged in lawful acts such as photography. The taking of photographs in public spaces is permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (freedom of panorama), and while the Terrorism Act does not prohibit such activity,[22] critics have alleged misuse of the powers of the Act to prevent lawful photography.[26] (Further restrictions on photography have, however, been introduced with the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008)

Vernon Coaker, the Minister of State stated on 20 April 2009 that, "counter-terrorism measures should only be used for counter-terrorism purposes".[27]

In December 2009, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) issued a warning to police chiefs to stop using Section 44 powers to target photographers, whether tourists, amateurs or professionals, stating that the practice was "unacceptable".[28]



  • In October 2005 Sally Cameron was held for four hours after being arrested under the act for walking on a cycle path in a controlled port area in Dundee owned by Forth Ports. While cyclists were free to pass through the port zone, she was arrested and detained because she was a pedestrian and under suspicion of being a terrorist.
I’ve been walking to work every morning for months and months to keep fit. One day, I was told by a guard on the gate that I couldn’t use the route any more because it was solely a cycle path and he said, if I was caught doing it again, I’d be arrested...The next thing I knew, the harbour master had driven up behind me with a megaphone, saying, ‘You’re trespassing, please turn back’. It was totally ridiculous. I started laughing and kept on walking. Cyclists going past were also laughing...But then two police cars roared up beside me and cut me off, like a scene from Starsky and Hutch, and officers told me I was being arrested under the Terrorism Act. The harbour master was waffling on and (saying that), because of September 11, I would be arrested and charged.[29]
  • In July 2008 anti-terror police held a 12-year-old autistic boy with cerebral palsy and his parents whilst travelling on the Eurotunnel Shuttle rail service under Section 7 of the Terrorism Act. The child's mother was taken to an interrogation room and questioned on suspicion of child trafficking and released without charge. Kent Police later apologised for the incident.[30]

Section 44

  • In September 2003 two people - Kevin Gillan and Pennie Quinton - intending to protest against the Defence Systems Equipment International (DSEI) show in London's Docklands, were stopped and searched under the Act. There followed an outcry that this was a misuse of power. The pressure group Liberty took the case to High Court where the Judge ruled in favour of the police.[23][31] Appeals to the Court of Appeal, and, in March 2006, to the House of Lords, failed.
  • Walter Wolfgang was removed from the 2005 Labour Party conference for heckling Jack Straw. He was later stopped by police under the Terrorism Act on attempting to re-enter the conference.
  • Over 1000 anti-war protesters, were stopped and required to empty their pockets, on their way to RAF Fairford (used by American B-52 bombers during the Iraq conflict).[21]
  • During the 2005 G8 protests in Auchterarder, Scotland, a cricketer on his way to a match was stopped at King's Cross station in London under Section 44 powers and questioned over his possession of a cricket bat.[21]
  • In October 2008 police stopped a 15-year-old schoolboy in south London who was taking photographs of Wimbledon railway station for his school geography project. He was questioned under suspicion of being a terrorist. His parents raised concerns that his personal data could be held on a police database for up to six years.[32]
  • MP Andrew Pelling was questioned after photographing roadworks near a railway station[33]
  • In April 2009 a man in Enfield was questioned under Section 44 for photographing a police car that he considered was being driven inappropriately along a public footpath.[34]
  • Trainspotters have frequently been subjected to stop and search; in August 2009 a rail enthusiast was pursued by Dyfed-Powys Police for photographing a locomotive at a Murco oil refinery in Milford Haven.[35] Between 2000 and 2009, police used powers under the Act to arrest 62,584 people at railway stations.[36]
  • In November 2009, BBC photographer Jeff Overs was searched and questioned by police outside the Tate Modern art gallery for photographing the sunset over St Paul's Cathedral, under suspicion of preparing for a terrorist act. Overs lodged a formal complaint with the Metropolitan Police.[37][38]
  • In December 2009, renowned architectural photographer Grant Smith was searched by a group of City of London Police officers under Section 44 because he was taking photographs of Christ Church Greyfriars; although he was working on public ground, the church's proximity to the Bank of America City of London branch caused a bank security guard to call the police.[39]

See also

Other jurisdictions:


  1. ^ The Terrorism Act 2000, section 130(1); this is subject to sections 130(2) to (6) which provide that sections 59 to 61, Part VII and Schedules 5, 15 and 16 do not extend to the United Kingdom.
  2. ^ Words in square brackets inserted by Terrorism Act 2006.
  3. ^ Word in square brackets inserted by Counter-Terrorism Act 2008.
  4. ^ http://www.unodc.org/unodc/terrorism_definitions.html
  5. ^ Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993 1993 CHAPTER 18
  6. ^ Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 (c. 4)
  7. ^ "Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996 1996 CHAPTER 22". Office of Public Sector Information. http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1996/ukpga_19960022_en_1. Retrieved 2 December 2009.  
  8. ^ a b http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/security/terrorism-and-the-law/terrorism-act/proscribed-groups
  9. ^ http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2000/00011--f.htm#41
  10. ^ http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2000/00011--w.htm
  11. ^ http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2003/30044--x.htm#306
  12. ^ http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2000/00011--f.htm#44
  13. ^ Welch, James (9 December 2009). "How can the police detain you?". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/dec/09/police-detain-arrest-kettling. Retrieved 12 December 2009.  
  14. ^ "Stop-and-search powers ruled illegal by European court". BBC News. BBC. 12 January 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8453878.stm. Retrieved 12 January 2010.  
  15. ^ WikiCrimeLine Terrorism Act 2000 Sections 57 58: Possession offences
  16. ^ "Random searches on rail network". BBC News. 15 December 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7146080.stm. Retrieved 2 December 2009.  
  17. ^ Dodd, Vikram (18 August 2009). "Metropolitan police used anti-terror laws to stop and search 58 under-10s". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/aug/18/met-police-stop-search-children. Retrieved 12 December 2009.  
  18. ^ "Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence". UK Parliament. Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-73) 11 OCTOBER 2005. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmhaff/515/5101105.htm. Retrieved 2 December 2009.  
  19. ^ "1,166 anti-terror arrests net 40 convictions". The Guardian. 5 March 2007. http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,,2027077,00.html. Retrieved 2 December 2009.  
  20. ^ The Anti-Terrorism Legislation (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002
  21. ^ a b c "The police must end their abuse of anti-terror legislation". Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2005/10/03/do0304.xml. Retrieved 2008-01-01.  
  22. ^ a b "Photography and Counter-Terrorism legislation". The Home Office. 18 August 2009. http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/about-us/publications/home-office-circulars/circulars-2009/012-2009/. Retrieved 30 November 2009.  
  23. ^ a b "Pair seek unlawful search ruling". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/3886833.stm. Retrieved 2 December 2009.  
  24. ^ "Section 44 - Terrorism Act 2000". Liberty. http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/issues/6-free-speech/s44-terrorism-act/index.shtml. Retrieved 2 December 2009.  
  25. ^ "Free Speech & Protest". Liberty. http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/issues/6-free-speech/index.shtml. Retrieved 2 December 2009.  
  26. ^ Geoghegan, Tom (17 April 2008). "Innocent photographer or terrorist?". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7351252.stm. Retrieved 30 November 2009.  
  27. ^ http://www.webcitation.org/5gzuBth26 Demonstrating Respect for Rights? A human rights approach to protest policing original
  28. ^ "Police U-turn on photographers and anti-terror laws". The Independent. 5 December 2009. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/police-uturn-on-photographers-and-antiterror-laws-1834626.html. Retrieved 9 December 2009.  
  29. ^ "Two wheels: good. Two legs: terrorist suspect". The Times. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1829289,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-01.  
  30. ^ "Terror police detain disabled boy". BBC News. 23 July 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7520598.stm. Retrieved 30 November 2009.  
  31. ^ "Arms fair protesters lose legal challenge". The Guardian. 31 October 2003. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2003/oct/31/armstrade.terrorism. Retrieved 2 December 2009.  
  32. ^ "Terrorism Act: Photography fears spark police response". Amateur Photographer Magazine. 30 October 2008. http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/news/terrorism_act_photography_fears_spark_police_response_news_271070.html. Retrieved 30 November 2009.  
  33. ^ "Tory MP stopped and searched by police for taking photos of cycle path". Daily Telegraph. 6 January 2009. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/conservative/4144210/Tory-MP-stopped-and-searched-by-police-for-taking-photos-of-cycle-path.html. Retrieved 30 November 2009.  
  34. ^ Cosgrove, Sarah (14 April 2009). "Man questioned under terrorism law after taking picture of police car in park". Enfield Independent. http://www.enfieldindependent.co.uk/news/4289832.Man_questioned_under_terrorism_law_after_taking_picture_of_police_car_in_park/. Retrieved 2 December 2009.  
  35. ^ Andrews, Emily (25 August 2009). "Innocent trainspotter suspected of being a terrorist by police after taking photos of trains". Daily Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1208784/Innocent-trainspotter-suspected-terrorist-police-taking-photos-trains-near-oil-refinery.html. Retrieved 30 November 2009.  
  36. ^ Slack, James (5 January 2009). "The train spotters who are being treated like terrorists". Daily Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1105207/The-train-spotters-treated-like-terrorists.html. Retrieved 30 November 2009.  
  37. ^ "BBC photographer on being stopped by police". The Andrew Marr Show. BBC. 29 November 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8384972.stm?ls. Retrieved 30 November 2009.  
  38. ^ Davenport, Justin (27 November 2009). "BBC man in terror quiz for photographing St Paul's sunset". London: Evening Standard. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23776068-bbc-man-in-terror-quiz-for-photographing-st-pauls-sunset.do. Retrieved 30 November 2009.  
  39. ^ Booth, Robert (8 December 2009). "Police stop church photographer under terrorism powers". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/dec/08/police-search-photographer-terrorism-powers. Retrieved 9 December 2009.  

External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address