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Terrorism Bill


These notes refer to the Terrorism Bill
as introduced in the House of Commons on 2nd December 1999 [Bill 10]

Terrorism Bill




1.    These explanatory notes relate to the Terrorism Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 2 December 1999. They have been prepared by the Home Office and the Northern Ireland Office in order to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.

2.    The notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be a comprehensive description of the Bill. Where a clause or part of a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment none is given.


3.    The Bill reforms and extends existing counter-terrorist legislation, and puts it largely on a permanent basis. The existing legislation concerned is:

  • the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 (c. 4) ("the PTA");

  • the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts 1996 (c. 22) ("the EPA"); and

  • sections 1 to 4 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998 (c. 40) (the "CJT&CA").

4.    The Bill builds on the proposals in the Government's consultation document Legislation against terrorism (Cm 4178), published in December 1998. The consultation document in turn responded to Lord Lloyd of Berwick's Inquiry into legislation against terrorism (Cm 3420), published in October 1996.

5.    Existing counter-terrorist legislation provides a range of measures designed to prevent terrorism and support the investigation of terrorist crime. These fall into three broad categories: a power for the Secretary of State to proscribe terrorist organisations, backed up by a series of offences connected with such organisations (membership, fundraising etc); the creation of other specific offences connected with terrorism (such as fund-raising for terrorist purposes, training in the use of firearms for terrorist purposes, etc); and a range of police powers (powers of investigation, arrest, stop and search, detention, etc) for use in preventing and investigating terrorism.

6.    The Bill repeals the PTA and re-enacts those of its provisions which remain necessary, with a number of modifications. At present counter-terrorist legislation is subject to annual renewal by Parliament. Under the Bill this will in general no longer be the case. The main provisions in the Bill will be permanent.

7.    The existing EPA would repeal itself on 24 August 2000. The consultation document expressed the Government's hope that the special provisions it makes for Northern Ireland might not be needed after that date, an objective to be kept under review in the light of developments in the security situation. The Government takes the view that the time is not yet right to remove all of these provisions. Part VII therefore provides additional temporary measures for Northern Ireland only, time-limited to 5 years.

8.    Existing counter-terrorist legislation was originally designed in response to terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland ("Irish terrorism"), and some of its provisions were subsequently extended to certain categories of international terrorism. It does not apply to any other terrorism connected with UK affairs ("domestic terrorism"). Under the Bill these restrictions will be lifted, so that counter-terrorist measures will be applicable to all forms of terrorism: Irish, international, and domestic.


9.    The Bill has 8 Parts and 14 Schedules.

  • Part I (Introductory) sets out the definition of terrorism for the purposes of the Bill and, with Schedule 1, deals with the continuation of certain temporary provisions of the EPA until the Bill comes into force.

  • Part II (Proscribed organisations) provides a power for the Secretary of State to proscribe organisations and sets out the associated offences. Schedule 2 lists the organisations which are proscribed and Schedule 3 details the functions of the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission (POAC) which the Bill sets up.

  • Part III (Terrorist property) provides offences relating to fund-raising and other kinds of financial support for terrorism, together with power for a court to order forfeiture of any money or other property connected with the offences. Schedule 4 gives details of forfeiture procedures.

  • Part IV (Terrorist investigations) provides the police with a power to set up cordons, and Schedule 5 sets out further powers to investigate terrorism by searching premises and seeking explanation of items found.

  • Part V (Counter-terrorist powers) provides the police with powers to arrest and detain suspected terrorists, and broader powers to stop and search vehicles and pedestrians, and to impose parking restrictions. Schedule 6 provides for the operation of these powers at ports and borders, and Schedule 7 sets out arrangements for treatment of suspects who are detained.

  • Part VI (Miscellaneous) provides ancillary offences of

weapons training for terrorist purposes, including recruitment for such training,

directing a terrorist organisation,

possessing articles for terrorist purposes,

possessing information for terrorist purposes, and

incitement of overseas terrorism.

  • Part VI also includes provisions on extraterritorial jurisdiction and extradition which will enable the UK to ratify the UN Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings.

  • Part VII (Northern Ireland) provides for the system of non-jury trials in Northern Ireland for the offences listed in Schedule 8. Together with Schedules 9-11, this Part also provides additional police and Army powers for Northern Ireland.

  • Part VIII (General) contains further technical provisions and includes a list of terms defined in the Bill. Schedule 12 provides general powers for police, customs and immigration officers including powers for them to exchange information. Schedules 13 and 14 list consequential amendments and repeals.


Part I: Introductory

Clause 1: Definition of terrorism

10.    Under the PTA, 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" (section 20). The definition in the PTA is limited in that the powers and offences in that Act only apply to terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland ("Irish terrorism") or Irish and international terrorism. The Bill, as suggested in the consultation document, adopts a wider definition, recognising that terrorism may have religious or ideological as well as political motivation, and covering actions which might not be violent in themselves but which can, in a modern society, have a devastating impact. These could include disrupting key computer systems or interfering with the supply of water or power where life, health or safety may be put at risk.

11.    Subsection (2) provides for the definition to cover terrorism not only within the United Kingdom but throughout the world. This is implicit in the PTA definition but the Bill makes it explicit.

Clause 2: Temporary legislation

12.    Subsection (1) repeals the PTA and EPA. Subsection (2), together with Schedule 1, preserves certain provisions of the EPA, in some cases with amendment, until the date on which Part VII (Northern Ireland) of the Bill is brought into force.

Part II: Proscribed organisations

13.    Part II is based on Part I of the PTA (which has effect in Great Britain only) and on sections 30-31 of the EPA (which have effect in Northern Ireland only). The proscription regime under the Bill differs from those it replaces as follows:

  • At present there are separate proscription regimes for Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Under the Bill proscription will no longer be specific to Northern Ireland or Great Britain, but will apply throughout the whole of the UK.

  • At present proscription is only applicable to organisations concerned in Irish terrorism. Under the Bill it will also be possible to proscribe organisations concerned in international or domestic terrorism.

  • At present an organisation or an affected individual wishing to challenge a proscription can only do so in the UK via judicial review (no proscribed organisation has ever done this). Under the Bill, organisations and individuals will be able to appeal to the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission ("POAC"; see below).

Clause 3: Proscription

14.    Schedule 2 lists all organisations currently proscribed under the PTA and the EPA. Some organisations are currently proscribed in Northern Ireland under the EPA but not in Great Britain under the PTA. Under the Bill, any organisation deemed to merit proscription will be proscribed throughout the whole of the UK. The Government is considering which organisations involved in international terrorism might be added to the Schedule.

15.    The power to proscribe and deproscribe in subsection (3), including deproscription following a successful appeal, will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure under Clause 118.

Clauses 4-6: Deproscription: application and appeals

16.    These clauses set out the route by which an organisation which thinks it should not be proscribed, or an affected individual, may seek a remedy. The first step is to ask the Secretary of State to deproscribe; the Secretary of State will be obliged to consider such applications within a period of time specified in regulations to be made under subsection (3) of Clause 4. If the Secretary of State refuses to deproscribe, then the organisation or individual may appeal to POAC as set out in Clause 5 and Schedule 3.

17.    The grounds on which POAC will allow an appeal are set out in subsection (3) of Clause 5. The reference to "the principles applicable on an application for judicial review" allows that once the Human Rights Act 1998 is fully in force, it will be possible for an appellant to raise points concerning those rights under the European Convention on Human Rights which are "convention rights" under the 1998 Act.

18.    Subsections (4)-(5) of Clause 5 deal with the remedy on an appeal to POAC being successful. Where POAC makes an order, this has the effect of requiring the Secretary of State either to lay a draft deproscription order before Parliament or to make a deproscription order on the basis of the urgency procedure (see below).

19.    Clause 6 allows a further appeal from a decision of POAC on a point of law.

Clause 7: Appeal: effect on conviction

20.    If an appeal to POAC is successful, and an order has been made deproscribing the organisation, anyone convicted of one of the offences listed in subsection (1)(c) in respect of the organisation, may appeal against his conviction to the Court of Appeal or Crown Court, so long as the offence was committed after the date of the refusal to deproscribe.

Clause 8: Human Rights Act 1998

21.    Since it is intended that the Lord Chancellor will make rules under section 7(2) of the Human Rights Act so that proceedings under section 7(1)(a) of that Act are brought in POAC, Clause 8 of the Bill applies provisions in the Bill relating to appeals to POAC to such proceedings under the Human Rights Act.

Clause 9: Immunity

22.    An individual who seeks deproscription by way of application or appeal under Clause 4 or 5, either on behalf of the proscribed organisation or as the person affected, might be discouraged from pursuing either course, or from instituting proceedings under section 7 of the Human Rights Act, by the risk of prosecution for certain offences, for example the offence of membership of a proscribed organisation. Clause 9 therefore ensures that evidence of anything done, and any document submitted for these proceedings, cannot be relied on in criminal proceedings for such an offence except as part of the defence case.

Clauses 10-12: Membership, support and uniform

23.    These offences are based on those in sections 2 and 3 of the PTA and sections 30 and 31 of the EPA, and have the same effect. The offence in Clause 11(1) is concerned with support other than "money or other property", because that kind of support is dealt with in Part III of the Bill.

Part III: Terrorist property

24.    This Part corresponds to Part III of the PTA ("Financial assistance for terrorism") and was discussed in Chapter 6 of the Government's consultation document under the heading "Terrorist finance". The name has been changed to "Terrorist property" to make it clear that in the Bill - just as in the PTA - the Part III offences apply not only to money but also to other property. While Part III of the PTA applies only to Irish and certain kinds of international terrorism, Part III of the Bill applies to all forms of terrorism.

25.    In addition to replicating Part III of the PTA, Part III of the Bill also introduces a new power for the police, customs officers and immigration officers to seize cash at borders and to seek forfeiture of the cash in civil proceedings. This is modelled on a power which already exists in Part III of the Drug Trafficking Act 1994 (c. 37).

Clause 13: Terrorist property

26.    This definition comes into play in the "money laundering" offence (Clause 17) and the power to seize and forfeit cash at borders (Clauses 24 and 27). Subsection (1) makes it clear that terrorist property can include both property to be used for terrorism and proceeds of acts of terrorism. Subsection (2)(a) makes explicit that the proceeds of an act of terrorism covers not only the money stolen in, say, a terrorist robbery, but also any money paid in connection with the commission of terrorist acts. Subsection (2)(b) makes explicit that any resources of a proscribed organisation are covered: not only the resources they use for bomb-making, arms purchase etc but also money they have set aside for non-violent purposes such as paying rent.

Clauses 14-16: Fundraising, use, possession and funding arrangements

27.    These clauses correspond to sections 9 and 10 of the PTA. They are based on section 9, but under Clause 1(3) of the Bill the words "for the purposes of terrorism" can be taken to include "for the benefit of a proscribed organisation". As a result, the offences of fund-raising, and using and possessing money, and entering into funding arrangements for a proscribed organisation (section 10 of the PTA) are subsumed into Clauses 14 to 16.

Clause 17: Money laundering

28.    This clause corresponds to section 11 of the PTA and has the same effect. Although it is entitled "money laundering" and is most likely to be used for money, it also applies to "laundering" type arrangements in respect of other property.

Clause 18: Disclosure of information: duty

29.    This clause is based on section 18A of the PTA and has the same effect. It requires banks and other businesses to report any suspicion they may have that someone is laundering terrorist money or committing any of the other terrorist property offences in Clauses 14-17. Subsection (1)(b) ensures the offence is focused on suspicions which arise at work. Suspicions arising in home life were covered by section 18 of the PTA which the Government has decided, following Lord Lloyd, not to replicate. Subsection (5) preserves the exemption in respect of legal advisers' privileged material.

Clauses 19-20: Disclosure of information: permission; co-operation with the police

30.    These clauses correspond to section 12 of the PTA and have the same effect. Clause 19 ensures that businesses can disclose information to the police without fear of breaching legal restrictions. Subsection (1) of Clause 20 allows for the activities of informants who may have to be involved with terrorist property if they are not to be found out and protects others who may innocently become involved. Subsection (2) makes it possible for someone involved with such property to avoid prosecution by telling the police as soon as is reasonably practical (subsection (3)) and discontinuing his involvement if asked to do so by the police (subsection (4)).

Clauses 21-22: Penalties and forfeiture

31.    Clause 21 corresponds to section 13(1) of the PTA and has the same effect. Clause 22 is based on section 13(2) of the PTA and has similar effect subject to one substantive modification. Subsection (6) allows for forfeiture of the proceeds of a terrorist property offence. This could arise in a case where an accountant prepared accounts on behalf of a proscribed organisation - thus facilitating the retention or control of the organisation's money - and was paid for doing so. The money he received in payment could not be forfeited under section 13(2) of the PTA because it was not intended or suspected for use in terrorism. It could not be confiscated under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 because that confiscation regime excludes terrorist property offences. Subsection (6) closes this loophole between the confiscation scheme in the 1988 Act and the counter-terrorist forfeiture scheme.

Clauses 23-30: Seizure, detention and forfeiture of terrorist cash at borders

32.    These Clauses are based on sections 42-48 of the Drug Trafficking Act 1994 (c. 37) which relate to drug trafficking money imported or exported in cash. The main difference (apart from applying the powers to terrorist rather than drug trafficking cash) is that the powers in the Drug Trafficking Act only apply to cash being taken across the UK's external borders, while those in the Bill apply to cash being taken from Northern Ireland to Great Britain and vice versa. As with drug trafficking, no criminal conviction is required.

Clause 23: Interpretation

33.    Subsection (1) allows the power to seize cash to be exercised by any of the agencies operating at borders: police, customs and immigration. This is to allow for the event that a customs or immigration officer is the first to find the cash. However, it is expected that for the most part the power will be exercised by the police. The definition of cash in subsection (2) is intended to cover the most readily realisable monetary instruments used by terrorists; the order-making power in subsection (2)(e) will enable the Secretary of State to add further monetary instruments as the need arises.

Clause 24: Seizure and detention

34.    Once cash has been seized, then under this clause it can be detained for up to 48 hours. During that time the authorities must either seek continued detention, under Clause 25, or forfeiture, under Clause 27. If neither of these occurs during the first 48 hours, the cash will be returned.

Clauses 25-26: Continued detention of cash

35.    A magistrate can allow continued detention for up to 3 months under subsection (2)(b) of Clause 25. A further application can be granted after the 3 months has expired, and so on, up to a maximum of two years (subsection (5)). In Clause 26, subsection (1) provides for any interest accruing on the cash, and subsections (2)-(5) for appeals.

Clauses 27-28: Forfeiture and appeal

36.    This Clause provides for civil forfeiture proceedings in relation to the seized cash. Evidence that the cash is terrorist property is required to the civil standard (subsection (2) of Clause 27); proceedings for a criminal offence are not needed (subsection (3)) and the proceedings themselves are civil as opposed to criminal (subsection (4)). Appeals must be lodged within 30 days, and the route of appeal is in England and Wales to the Crown Court; in Northern Ireland to the county court; and in Scotland to the Court of Session. A successful appeal will result in the cash being paid back, together with any accrued interest.

Part IV: Terrorist investigations

Clause 31: Terrorist investigation

37.    This definition applies both to the power in Clauses 32-35 to use cordons and to the powers in Schedule 5 to obtain search warrants, production orders and explanation orders. There is also an offence in Clause 37 of "tipping off" in relation to a terrorist investigation.

Clauses 32-35: Cordons

38.    These clauses make similar provision to that inserted into the PTA, at section 16C and Schedule 6A, by the Prevention of Terrorism (Additional Powers) Act 1996 (c. 7). They give the police the powers for a limited period, and in a specified area, to set up cordons for the purposes of a terrorist investigation - for instance in the wake of a bomb. They also make it an offence to breach a cordon.

Clause 36: Powers

39.    See notes on Schedule 5 below.

Clause 37: Disclosure of information, &c.

40.    This Clause corresponds to section 17(2)-(6) of the PTA and has similar effect. The offence it sets out, sometimes called "tipping off", is an essential part of the disclosure regime and has a powerful deterrent effect.

Part V: Counter-terrorist powers

Clauses 39-41: Arrest power and related search powers

41.    Clauses 39-41 make similar provision to the arrest provisions at sections 14 and 15 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1989. There is a special arrest power for use in terrorist cases because experience continues to show that it is necessary to make provision for circumstances where, at the point when the police believe an arrest should take place, there is not enough to charge an individual with a particular offence even though there is reasonable suspicion of involvement with terrorism. Clauses 40 and 41 give the police powers to search people liable to arrest under Clause 39.

Clauses 42-45: General powers to stop and search

42.    These clauses make similar provision to the following sections of the PTA: section 13A (inserted by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (c. 33)) and section 13B (inserted by the Prevention of Terrorism (Additional Powers) Act 1996 (c. 7)). They give the police powers to stop and search vehicles and their occupants, and pedestrians, for the prevention of terrorism. As with the powers under the PTA, authorisations apply to a specific area and are for a maximum of 28 days (though that period may be renewed). The main difference is that vehicle stop and search authorisations, as well as pedestrian authorisations, will have to be confirmed by a Secretary of State within 48 hours of their being made, or they will cease to have effect.

Clauses 46-50: Parking

43.    These clauses makes similar provision to that inserted by the Prevention of Terrorism (Additional Powers) Act 1996 (c. 7) at 16D of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1989. This gives the police the powers to restrict or prohibit parking for a limited period in a specified area for the prevention of terrorism and makes it an offence to park in or refuse to move from such an area.

Clause 51: Port and border controls

44.    This clause brings into effect Schedule 6 on port and border controls, and specifies that the Secretary of State may repeal the order-making carding provision at paragraph 16 of the Schedule.

Part VI: Miscellaneous

45.    This Part deals with the offences which were discussed in Chapter 12 of the Government's consultation paper under the heading "Ancillary offences".

Clauses 52-53: Weapons training

46.    These clauses correspond to the offence at section 34 of the EPA. Whereas that offence applied only in Northern Ireland, the new version applies throughout the UK. It has also been extended to cover chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and materials as well as conventional firearms and explosives; and to cover recruitment for training (subsection 53(3)) as well as the training itself. Subsection (5) provides a defence for persons who are acting for non-terrorist purposes, such as the armed forces.

47.    A further modification concerns the need for a recipient of the training. Under subsection 53(1), by contrast with its model in the EPA, no recipient is needed for the offence to be committed. This means that the offence could cover someone who makes weapons instruction for terrorist purposes generally available, for example via the Internet.

48.    The definitions of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and materials are based on other statutes.

*     Under section 1 of the Chemical Weapons Act 1996 (c. 6), "chemical weapons" are toxic chemicals and their precursors; munitions and other devices designed to cause death or harm through the toxic properties of toxic chemicals released by them; and equipment designed for use in connection with such munitions and devices. *     Section 1(1)(b) of the Biological Weapons Act 1974 (c. 6) applies to any weapon, equipment or means of delivery designed to use biological agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict. *     The meaning of "nuclear material" set out in the Schedule to the Nuclear Material (Offences) Act 1983 (c. 18), is "plutonium except that with isotopic concentration exceeding 80% in plutonium-238; uranium-233; uranium enriched in the isotopes 235 or 233; uranium containing the mixture of isotopes as occurring in nature other than in the form of ore or ore-residue; any material containing one or more of the foregoing". The Schedule also further defines "uranium enriched in the isotopes 235 or 233".

Clause 54: Directing terrorist organisation

49.    This offence is based on that in section 29 of the EPA. The EPA offence applies only in Northern Ireland; the equivalent offence under the Bill is applicable throughout the UK. Although the EPA offence is not expressly restricted to Irish terrorist organisations, this is the practical effect of its being confined to Northern Ireland legislation; under the Bill the equivalent offence will apply to all forms of terrorism. The organisation need not be proscribed for this offence to be committed.

Clauses 55-56: Possession offences

50.    Clauses 55 and 56 are based respectively on sections 16A and 16B of the PTA, which were added to the PTA by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (c. 33). Sections 16A and 16B were in turn based on sections 30 and 31 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991 (c. 24). The compatibility of the section 16A offence with the ECHR was considered in the case of Kebilene, on which the House of Lords ruled on 28 October 1999.

Clauses 57-59: Inciting terrorism: England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland

51.    The Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998 (c. 40) made it an offence to conspire in the United Kingdom to commit criminal acts abroad. These clauses similarly make it an offence to incite terrorist acts abroad from a standpoint in the United Kingdom.

52.    A similar proposal was debated by Parliament as part of the Jurisdiction (Conspiracy and Incitement) Bill in 1996. That Bill, which was not enacted, would have extended jurisdiction over all offences of incitement. Clauses 57-59 are by contrast limited to incitement of the offences listed where the offence would be an act of terrorism.

Clauses 60-61: Terrorist bombing offences

53.    These clauses are included to enable the UK to ratify the UN Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings. They enable the UK to "extradite or prosecute" persons who commit terrorist bombings in other countries.


Clause 62: Scheduled offence: interpretation

54.    This clause and Schedule 8 define which offences qualify for special treatment because they are terrorist offences, or are offences related to the situation in Northern Ireland; it also provides for the concept "scheduled offence" and lists them; and gives the Attorney General discretion in certain cases to certify offences out of the list.

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