Evaluate the response adopted by the state to combat terrorism on mainland Britain after 1970
This essay will attempt to give an evaluation of the state’s response to terrorism on mainland Britain since 1970.
It will begin by briefly examining the ways in which terrorism can be defined and discussing some of the tactics that groups associated with it have deployed. The government’s actions to combat it will then be analysed, with reference to the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the Terrorism Act and the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act in particular. This analysis will also contain various criticisms of the legislation involved, and will look at how it may have affected the British public.Finally the essay will assess how these responses may have brought about changes to the liberal democratic principles of the United Kingdom.
Terrorism can be said to be the use of violence for political purposes, but Wilkinson (1986, p. 3) suggests that there are several components within this broad definition that must be taken into consideration. Its conduct is usually outside the normal ‘rules’ of warfare (Gearty, 1991, p. 1), and it can be taken to “.
.. essentially mean any method of war which consists in intentionally attacking those who ought not to be attacked. (Teichman, 1986, p. 96) Due to the very nature of a terrorist organisation it is often engaged in a struggle against a far superior, military opponent- the state, and fear caused by such indiscriminate attacks is often the most powerful weapon at their disposal.
“Indeed the purpose of terrorism is not military victory, it is to terrorize, to change your behaviour if you’re the victim by making you afraid of today, afraid of tomorrow and in diverse societies like ours, afraid of each other. (Clinton, 2001) Terrorism may also deploy more of a direct approach to violence through targeting certain individuals and institutions, in order to either obtain resources, remove opponents or disrupt economic activities. When such tactics have been deployed on mainland Britain since 1970, in terms of eliciting a government response, the most important factors have been the campaign of Irish republicanism and, in more recent years, the rise of the global Islamic fundamentalism. Read about antiterrorism awarenessIn terms of the Republican movement, their activities initially spread to mainland Britain in 1972, and for Gearty (1991, p.
122) the British governments seeming acceptance of earlier violence in Northern Ireland was one of the motives behind this increase in hostilities. They were, to a certain extent, designed to provoke a reaction from the authorities and also to raise the importance of the issue amongst the normal British public. “Although the government might dismiss violence in Northern Ireland, it was considered that it would be harder to ignore it on mainland Britain”.CSIS (1994) suggest that between March 1973 and February 1977 there were some 276 explosions and 14 shootings linked to republican activities in England, with 685 casualties, and 58 fatalities.
Two of the most infamous attacks were to occur in 1974, with the M62 and Birmingham pub bombings, resulting in the lost of 33 lives, and injury to many others (BBC, 2001). Selective assassinations were utilised, with the British army and politicians often being the victims, as well as economic targeting of Cities such as London and Manchester in the 1990s.For Gearty (1991, p. 123) these activities do not immediately threaten the structure of the state, but are symbolic in that they communicate to the mainland British public the republican paramilitary aim of removing UK political power in Ireland. In the first half of the 1970s, the initial view of the police and government was that existing legislation was sufficient to deal with this terrorist threat, believing that extra powers would be a drain on manpower, and would also force paramilitary organisations underground making surveillance more difficult.
However, as the republican campaign intensified in 1974, the police did begin to seek such powers, and when the Birmingham pub bombings led to public and parliamentary outcry, the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) was introduced in the same year. The original 1974 Act was to be renewed every six months, although the new 1976 version extended this period to twelve months. The first part dealt with proscribed organisations, and thereby enabled the Home secretary to ban organisations appearing to be concerned with terrorism in the United Kingdom, who were thought to be connected to the politics of Northern Ireland (PTA 1976, section 1 (iii)).The only organisation that was originally proscribed was the IRA, although it was later joined by the INLA in 1979.
Such bans made it illegal to belong to such an organisation, and to organise a public meeting in support of one. The Act also prevented a member from addressing the public, even if this was unconnected with Northern Irish affairs (Scorer et al, 1985, p. 12). The banning of such activities though, was often undermined by broadcasters, who were able to use actor’s voices to communicate the speech of such members (Joyce, 2005).The public were also prohibited from raising money for proscribed groups, and could also not receive financial contributions on behalf of one. The revised 1984 PTA, further extended illegal activities to include those outside the UK and eventually anyone suspected of political violence anywhere in the world could be detained.
The 1989 Act was to add a further part to the legislation that was to deal solely with the financing and support of proscribed groups, including the illegality of controlling or concealing funds (PTA 1989, Section 11 (i)).Rose-Smith (1979) argues that this criminalizes those whose only crime was to stand on an anti-British, anti-imperialist platform- (harassing) them off the streets, out of their meeting places and into silence. ” (Ibid, p. 156) The second part of the PTA was to re-introduce the power of the Prevention of Violence Act that had been in legislation from1939 to 1954.
It gave the Home secretary the right to exclude persons from the British mainland who were believed to be involved in acts of terrorism, although this was later changed to give the power to exclude from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK (Rose-Smith, 1979, p. 126).As the Home Secretary did not require the same level of proof as a court of law, this Act enabled the authorities to remove persons who they believed had terrorist connections, without having sufficient proof to obtain a conviction (ibid, p. 128). NCCL (2001) suggest that this restricted a persons movement in their own country, and as there is no right to view or challenge the evidence against them, it represented an infringement on their human rights The final part of the Act involved the introduction of new police powers with regards to the arrest and detention of terrorist suspects.Arrests could be made without warrants, providing there was a reasonable level of suspicion, and so the police were able to detain people were no crime had been committed.
The police were also given the right to hold a person in custody for up to seven or twelve days, depending on where they were arrested, with the permission of the Home Secretary, and without taking them to a magistrate’s court or charging them (Scorer et al, 1986, p. 51). Once in custody a person was often denied access to a solicitor, and/or their family, under legal technicalities involving unreasonable delays to an investigation (Rose-Smith, 1979, p. 47). The Act also included greater freedom to search a person or property, and contained the provision that withholding information relating to terrorism was to be regarded as an offence.
Under the PTA over 7,000 people were detained, but only a tiny minority were actually charged with offences covered by it. For Liberty (2001) almost all of those charged could have been dealt with by ordinary criminal law, and has led to “some of the worst human rights abuses in this country over the last 30 years, contributed to miscarriages of justice and have led to the unnecessary detention of thousands of innocent people, mainly Irish. (Ibid) Rose-Smith (1979, p. 138) has suggested that the police used these numerous detentions in order to gather information and evidence on Irish political participants, and in doing so have suppressed legitimate activities in these communities.
Under the new powers of detention, Liberty (2005) propose that the safeguards normally associated with criminal law were removed, creating two separate systems of justice, one of which saw certain procedures ignored and led to several infamous miscarriages of justice, such as the Guildford four.Just as in the 1974 Birmingham bombing, the death of twenty-eight people after a bomb in Omagh was to see the government introduce new legislation, this time in the form of the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act. The Act was to make conspiracy to commit violence abroad an offence, and also introduced further proscription of groups in Northern Ireland and beyond (Joyce, 2005). Terrorist legislation was further added to in 2000 with the introduction of the permanent Terrorism Act, which was to replace most of the previous legislation.The Home Office (2005) extended the regime of proscription to international terrorist groups, such as Al Qaida.
By 2005 there were 25 groups on the proscribed list, 19 of which were Islamic, and 14 in Northern Ireland (Home Office, 2005b). A new definition of terrorism within the Act includes the ‘threat of action’, and also deals with attacks on property and disruption of economic activities. This would therefore appear to include domestic groups, such as environmental and animal rights campaigners, as well as computer ‘hackers’.It could therefore be said to be criminalizing dissent and extra-parliamentary protest (Bowring and Korff, 2004, p.
6). Other new criminal offences also include “inciting terrorist acts, seeking or providing training for terrorist purposes at home or overseas, providing instruction or training in the use of firearms, explosives or chemical, biological or nuclear weapons” (Ibid) This can be seen in some ways to be yet again a government reaction to factors outside it’s control, in this case the perceived rise of global fundamentalism.Such a reaction can also be seen with the 2001 Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA) that was introduced two months after the attack on the World Trade Center on 11th September. This Act extends police powers in terms of surveillance and identification, with company communication systems being asked to keep internet and telephone information in case it may be helpful in the investigation of terrorist offences (New Internationalist, 2005). For Liberty (2001) this violates the data protection act, as millions of users can have their private material accessed by the police, despite having committed no crime.The police have also been given the power to remove clothing in order to identify a person thought to be connected to a terrorist group, photograph them without a legal reason, and also retain the fingerprints of persons without conviction (ibid).
The perceived foreign threat from terrorism is specifically addressed in the ATCSA, as the Home Secretary may legally detain, and then deport, any foreign nationals suspected of being involved in international terrorist activities without trial. Human Rights Watch (2004) questions whether the suspension of fundamental human rights obligations is warranted by the threat to the U. K. from terrorism, and.
.. condemn(s) the differential treatment of foreign nationals compared to U. K. citizens as discriminatory”(Ibid) When being detained in this country such persons are often denied access to full legal consultation, and any evidence referring to their case is often withheld.
More than 500 people have been detained under the ATCSA, but like the PTA there have been very few convictions (New Internationalist, 2005).CAMPACC (2005) suggest that by focussing on non-UK citizens, a culture of suspicion has been promoted by police actions, government legislation, and the media, directed at the refugee, migrant, and especially Muslim, population. This may add to racial prejudice, which interestingly enough the ATCSA legislates against. “Throughout Europe, a ‘climate of hysteria is encouraging immigration officers to act on suspicions based on little more than religious stereotyping.
” (Ibid)The suspicions brought about by the government’s activities following ‘9/11’ are therefore comparable to the prejudice faced by Irish persons in earlier years. The speed at which the above pieces of legislation were introduced, following terrorist actions, indicates the state’s realisation that it must be seen to be acting against a perceived threat. After Birmingham, Omagh and the attack on the World Trade Center, the British governments of the day all attempted to gain public confidence by creating such protective measures.Such an attempt can be seen at the time of writing, with the newly proposed unlawful detention of prisoners being put forward by the judiciary. The government, in what would appear to be a response to this is currently attempting to put through new anti-terror proposal, which would probably see it having to opt out of the European human right convention.
New powers of detention given to the Home Secretary would include house arrest, limiting communication, restrictions on travel, and electronic tagging of terrorist suspects (BBC, 2005).However, for Wilkinson (1986, p. 18) it is vital that any liberal democratic government should not allow such preventative and protective measures to undermine the democratic freedoms of its citizens. There is therefore, to a certain extent, a problem with the government’s anti-terrorism legislation and its subsequent effects, in that the arbitrary nature of some of the decisions involved appears to challenge these democratic freedoms (Scorer et al, 1985, p. 73).
The various Acts, and the new security powers contained within them, have sought to outlaw and avoid the serious disruptions or changes of policy that terrorist groups have aimed for. In spite of this, by not simply addressing terrorism as an existing criminal act, and creating new legislation to deal with it, the government has by its own actions changed policy under duress (Wilkinson, 1986, p. 19). As a democracy the UK government cannot itself resort to terror and total repression in order to eliminate terrorist violence, but the increased powers of relevant legislation have seen increasing focus on surveillance and financial scrutiny and approaches indicative of risk management and prevention rather than prosecution. ” (Walker, 2004) Since 1970, the British state has attempted to protect its democratic values, but for some this has led to a greater oppression of some minorities within the mainland. As ‘suspicion’ remains an important part of the legislation, and certain groups would appear to be over proscribed, Irish and Muslim communities have, to varying extents, become increasingly the focus of government activities.
As communal and other networks in these groups come under scrutiny, opposition to the government grows from both within and outside of the communities involved (CAMPACC, 2005). For Gilbert (1994, p. 159) the state must uphold the order within these communities, even in the face of terrorist threats, but as the UK government’s response seems to be more and more draconian they have become more unstable and susceptible to reaction (CAMPACC, 2005).Liberty (2001) argue that by continuing to add to the powers of the administration, the government is violating the fundamental principles of liberal democracy, which is in itself counter-productive, and will probably prove to be ineffective, in response to terrorism. In conclusion, the government response to terrorism on the British mainland since 1970 has not prevented politically motivated violence, and the activities associated with it. It has however, involved the detention of thousands of people who were not subsequently charged with any offence, and a massive increase in the surveillance of the population.
Subsequent legislation has also restricted free speech, and the ability of some to move freely in the United Kingdom. It would seem that the government’s response has been mostly in reaction to public anger, after violent events have occurred, and it has for the most part failed to tackle the root of the problem. It’s attempts at prevention, instead of prosecution, have seen a lack of willingness to deal with the perpetrators of terrorism under normal criminal law, with specific legislation simply removing civil liberties for the general population.The targeting of certain minority groups by the police and security forces has simply alienated them further, which in turns leads to greater opposition to the government, and perhaps more sympathy with the terrorist cause. As actions to counter terrorism have become increasingly repressive, the activities of terrorist groups on the British mainland would appear to be continuing, despite the government’s efforts.
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