Being accused of involvement in terrorist activity is taken very seriously by the courts. Since 2000 there have been several legislations passed in order to broaden the definition of terrorism as well as introducing more severe measures to undermine and prevent further terrorist activity in the UK and abroad.
If you are suspected of terrorism and leave the country, you may find yourself being detained upon your return. The law currently allows passengers to be stopped and searched at airports.
The recent passing of The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 in parliament means that counter-terrorist efforts by the government will be increasing. If you are suspected of involvement of terrorist activity outside of the UK, police will be able to seize your passport at the border, any electrical equipment such as laptops and phones, and money. Your trip abroad may also be disrupted whilst foreign and UK security services carry out their investigations. You may be questioned on foreign land by foreign police or held for questioning at a UK port.
If you are suspected of involvement in terrorist activity in any way then it’s crucial that you enlist the services of an experienced lawyer/solicitor, especially if you have plans to leave the country. Unfortunately, you may face various scenarios on your return. Please see below, although this is not an exhaustive list it provides some guidance on what you may face on your return:
- You may be questioned up to 6 hours at the airport under Schedule 7. You have the opportunity to instruct a solicitor and you would be strongly advised to instruct an experienced Terrorism Law solicitor. At which point you may be arrested under Terrorism Legislation or released.
- If arrested you will be taken to a police station to be interviewed under caution. Again, if you have not already instructed a solicitor you would be advised to instruct an experienced Terrorism Law solicitor.
- If released, the security services may contact you and may invite you to take part in a voluntary interview, which would often take place in an informal setting. We would recommend that you take advice from experienced Terrorism Law solicitor before attending such an interview.
What activities are defined as terrorist activities?
The Crown Prosecution Service defines terrorism as “the use or threat of action, both in and outside of the UK, designed to influence any international government organisation or to intimidate the public. It must also be for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause.”
Examples of terrorist activity include:
- An action designed to disrupt the electoral system
- Violence against members of the public, the police, military or politicians
- Damaging property
- Endangering the health and safety of the general public
What are the types of terrorism charges?
- The most commonly charged offences under The Terrorism Act 2006 include:
- Preparation of terrorist acts (Section 5) – it is an offence for a person to make preparations to commit a terrorist offence or to help others do so. The prosecution must prove the accused had the specific intent to commit an act of terrorism, and this can include having a minor role as well as planning for mass murder.
- Collecting information (Section 58) – anyone who collects or records information likely to be useful to a person planning for or committing a terrorist act.
- Distributing terrorist publications (Section 2) – it is an offence to disseminate publications that encourage acts of terrorism. A publication for the purposes of this offence is defined as one that could assist a person to prepare for and/or carry out a terrorist act.
Offences can also be charged as having a ‘terrorist connection’. This can lead to confusion as to whether the person is a terrorist as such charges are not brought under specific terrorist legislation such as the Terrorism Act 2006 and the Counter-terrorism Act 2008. An example includes charges brought under Schedule 18 of Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. This schedule contains a list of terrorism offences, including crimes that have ‘a terrorist connection’ such as murder or causing an explosion. Those responsible for killing MP Jo Cox and Fusilier Lee Rigby were charged with murder, but both crimes were clearly terrorist offences.
Will I be given a fair trial if I am accused of terrorism?
The right to a fair trial is enshrined in The Human Rights Act 1998, Schedule1, Article 6. This states that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty and those charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:
“(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;
(b) to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;
(c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;
(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;
(e) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.”
At Spartans Law, we can attend police station interviews. If you have been accused of a terrorist-related crime, we will ensure that you are being interviewed in accordance with the law and will advise you when not to say anything that may prejudice your case.
Terrorism charges are extremely serious and can have a lifelong impact on you and your family. It is imperative, therefore, that you get help from a law firm that has the experience and understanding of UK anti-terrorism law and can provide you with a solid defence.
As a group of dedicated and experienced solicitors, we can help you through the complex process and provide you with the best representation. Communication is invaluable in terrorism cases, and if you are detained when abroad then your family becomes the primary point of contact and a suitable defence must be built based on the information that they can provide in time for your return to the UK.