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The end of direct action?
Opposition grows to the proposed Terrorism Bill

This article has been forwarded from the Big Issue and includes a letter to the Guardian, a feature reproduced from the Big Issue, a briefing from Chris Maile and contact information.

Further info: Terrorism Bill - Straw redefines terrorism
Activists guide to the Terrorism Bill

Letter to The Guardian

When Labour came to power, we expected them to pursue their stated commitment to social justice. We did not expect an all-out assault on our civil liberties. But the new terrorism bill will be our new year's gift from the home secretary. Jack Straw's extension of the definition of terrorism is frightening. Concerned citizens who pull up GM crops may be breaking the law, but they are hardly the IRA. And it defies belief that publications such as The Big Issue' and others that regularly report on direct action protests are to risk criminalisation for not handing over our notes to the police. It is time for a broad-based coalition to unite against these measures.
Matthew Collin Editor, The Big Issue.

The Terrorism Bill was published on 2 December. Its second reading was heard on December 14, which voted against setting up a special standing committee. It will go to committee stage some time after 10 January 2000.

Among the 125 clauses are:

Clause 1
Redefining terrorism (taken from the FBI) to include the 'threat' of 'serious violence' (redefined as 'disruption') against 'property'.

Clause 3
Banning organisations (proscription). The consultation paper concedes that (p15 cm4178) 'the potential scope of the list would be very wide'. GenetiX Snowball? Reclaim the Streets? SchNEWS?

Clause 11
Five years jail if you speak at a meeting where there is a member of a proscribed organisation.

Clause 18
Five years jail if you fail to report information which may lead to a terrorist act.

Clause 57
Incitement to commit an act of terrorism (remember the new definition). Could catch journalists, e-mail lists, news-sheets.

Read the text of the Terrorism Bill at The text of the consultation paper is at:

The Big Issue Tel: 0171 526 3200 Fax: 0171 526 3301 236-240 Pentonville Rd, London N1 9JY.


old terrorists. new terrorists?
Proposals for harsh new legislation could mean that peaceful protesters will be treated like terrorists. by gibby zobel

{NB: Headlines ran next to 2 images, one of an IRA terrorist, mid 1970s, and one of a GM activist decontaminating a test-site}

Animal rights and environmental campaigners are used to being the first on the receiving end of new police powers and surveillance. Five-mile exclusion orders, CS spray, unmasking balaclavas, conspiracy charges, huge deterrent sentences, the list goes on.

Now a new definition of terrorism looks set to put people who, for example, pull up GM plants in the same frame as IRA terrorists. For some this is high farce. Last week, two people were up in court on charges such as criminal damage (to a police uniform button) during an anti-fur protest

and harassment (howling at a police dog) at an eclipse festival. This is not unusual: previous terrorist crimes by animal rights protesters and environmentalists include convictions for throwing orange peel, criminal damage (to a piece of string) suspicion of possession of explosives (it was a vegan chocolate cake in a sealed tin); possession of an offensive weapon (a 55p Star Wars light-sabre), criminal damage (to a £4.40 tape measure) and so on.


In essence the Government is proposing to lift all the powers it has to combat terrorism in Northern Ireland and move them - lock, stock and two-smoking barrels - to apply in the UK. 'Domestic terrorism,' according to the Home Office consultation paper on Legislation Against Terrorism, includes 'animal rights, and to a lesser extent environmental rights activists [who] have mounted, and continue to pursue, persistent and destructive campaigns. While the level of terrorist activity by such groups is lower than that of some of the terrorist groups in Northern Ireland there is nothing to indicate that the threat they pose will go away.'

These powers, described as 'unprecedented in peace time', were part of temporary emergency legislation enacted 25 years ago to combat the IRA in the wake of the Birmingham pub bombings. Yet Home Secretary Jack Straw now sees that these powers, including banning organisations and greater stop-and-search powers, are necessary in the UK.

The Government wants to redefine terrorism. Heres the new definition, which the Home Office has taken from the FBI: 'the use of serious violence against persons or property, or the threat to use such violence, to intimidate or coerce a government, the public, or any section of the public for political, religious or ideological ends'.

So now you dont even need to harm a hair on anybodys head - the new terrorists are those who commit violence against property. In fact, you only need to threaten to do so. Oh, and serious violence is being redefined to include serious disruption. The Governments chief concern in the consultation paper seems to be whether the legislation would be 'vulnerable' to a challenge from the European Court of Human Rights.


Add to this the summer heatwave of increasingly ludicrous stories identifying ringleaders involved in ripping up GM crops, or demonstrating in the City of London and you get a public fresh and ready for such Draconian legislation, expected to be announced in the next government legislative programme in the Queens speech in November.

After the J18 protests, City police say they are in a war of 'long-term attrition' against direct-action groups and say 'the demonstration signals a new era of violent protest'. A post-event investigation involves over 60 officers studying 5,000 hours of videotape.

One man was fingered in a broadsheet paper this month as the 'Man in a suit with a mobile phone who called the shots in the City'. He told The Big Issue: 'For a few days at least, I find myself engendering a paradoxically clandestine fame - besuited mystery man in breezeblock unloading incident.

'Apparently a crack team of City of London and Metropolitan officers have been analysing the CCTV footage of the riot which, their police report claims, points to particular individuals orchestrating the events. I think it points to the glib conclusions of some deeply unimaginative souls in the City constabulary.'


'There I was in a suit I purchased from a second-hand gentlemans clothiers, carrying a briefcase and copy of the FT. From this, deduce those razor-sharp police minds, I was a ring leader. No shit, Sherlock.'

Greenpeace, which has 28 people due for a court appearance - including Lord Melchett - for attempting to destroy a GM crop, is incensed. 'Who are the real terrorists?' asks spokesman Jim Thomas. 'Its the companies which release long-term damaging crops into the environment without choice.'

The new definition of terrorism is so broad and so wide as to be a convenient catch-all. But animal rights activists say the law is almost irrelevant. 'It doesnt really matter what the law is, it is what they do behind your back, whether its the police, ARNI [the Animal Rights National Index police database] or Special Branch,' one animal rights activist told The Big Issue. 'Ive been obviously followed by cars but whether its blatant or they are thick bastards Im not sure. We recovered a tracking device from one of our vehicles.'

For animal rights campaigners specifically, there have been several high-profile cases involving explosives. The Animal Liberation Front says that it never intends to injure anyone. Bombs, though, are bombs. Tony Humphries is currently in HMP Swaleside in Kent and is appealing against the seven-year sentence handed down this year for 'conspiracy to cause explosions'.


At the trial he says that 'there were some interesting revelations from the Special Branch officer who seemed to confirm the use of regular surveillance on over 100 people on an ARNI list, the extensive use of trackers and static surveillance and even the monitoring of street stalls. So all those suspicious and paranoid feelings about how much the authorities take our movement seriously are confirmed.'

So why the new law? 'Rather than listening to what people are saying they are more interested in criminalising people - there is something fundamentally wrong there,' says Jim Thomas. 'It is to be particularly galling for Greenpeace to be labelled terrorists. We have been at the end of real terrorist activity - the blowing up of the Rainbow Warrior.'

(3) The Terrorist Bill has already had its second reading, and is moving at an alarming pace, so we need to be taking emergency action if we are to have any input into the legislation at all.

Below I attach my latest briefing on the subject, Liberty have a much more comprehensive briefing. The Right to Protest Forum have a meeting in London on Monday the 20th at 6.30pm, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, (near Holborn Tube) London.

We have setup a mailing/discussion email list you have to subscribe to the list by going to Chris Maile



The Bill goes no where near the recommendations contained within the consultation document. However we have to be very vigilant on its hidden agenda, and the prospects for many adverse measures being added later, or through the easier route of Statutory Instruments (The Regulations), which might not be known until after the Bill is passed.

Other organisations are starting to show opposition, particularly Liberty who have compiled a 30 page briefing (I have copies if people want it), and The Right to Protest Forum, who are looking to do at least some co-ordination of objection.

The Bill - General

The Bill reclassifies terrorism from that of violence against people to that of violence against property, and brings in the definition of a terrorist: In this Act "terrorism" means the use or threat, for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause, of action which-
  • (a) involves serious violence against any person or property,
  • (b) endangers the life of any person, or
  • (c) creates a serious risk to the health `or safety of the public or a section of the public.
C is particularly of concern, health and safety, not to wear a hard hat on a building site is contrary to the health and safety regulations, while I am not putting it as loosely as that, it does open up many potential areas of concern, where activists, siting in the front of a lorry containing animals for export, or nuclear waste could be said to be putting the health and safety of the public at risk.


But generally speaking the terminology ideological cause just about covers every aspect of our actions, be it GM foods, Road Protests (Squat Cafes), Labour Disputes, Protests over Police Brutality...

I personally would come within that description and therefore be classified as a terrorist, albeit I never participate in violence actions, but many of my actions could be seen to be contrary to clause 'C'. And even violence against property, that could mean the accidental pulling out of marker pegs on road protests (not that I know anything of the 6 miles of pegs pulled up on the M65), to the holding of a picnic in the middle of a GM crop.

That is fine, but it also allows this to be extended to the support for such action in any country outside the UK, (the end of support for East Timor), you do not need to do it, only support others in those countries that commit violence (it does not matter that the governments of those countries are torturing and murdering thousands of women and children).

This briefing is not as comprehensive as it was intended due to Liberty producing a detailed report (no point in reinventing the wheel). However I do not go along with some of the recommendations of Liberty, in particular there recommended definition of terrorism (see page 3 of their summary).


Northern Ireland

Much of the Bill deals with Northern Ireland, with special provisions that will only apply there. It is easier to extend existing provisions of an Act, than it is to have new legislation brought into being. We must then keep a close eye on the NI provisions, and how this may later effect the whole of the UK, not forgetting of course that if we consider them to be infringements of our civil liberties, then they must be infringements of the citizens of NI civil liberties.

Cordoned Area

A new feature is something they refer to as 'Cordoned Areas', which relates to areas under prevention of terrorist investigation. This really has me worried, I can see this used in many protest situations, because the Police do not have to have any concrete belief, only that they believe that it is expedient to do so, and that it is appropriate, no notice needs to be issued. An arrested person within the area need not know of the designation (that is no warning needs to be given).

The offence of being within (or in a building adjacent to) a cordoned area, carries a 3 months jail sentence. Sections 31 to 37.



The SofS could so easily proscribe many organisations in the UK, especially if we look at how RTS have been lampooned in the media lately. Prime candidates could be RTS, EF and ALF; once those groups are proscribed then others may include organisations opposed to and take an active part in direct action against GM foods and the Arms Trade.

Not only would it be an offence to belong to these organisations, but also to openly support them, or even speak at a meeting where members of those organisations were speaking. This would effectively stop most, if not all, public direct action opposition to the government and others.

Stop and Search

The powers to stop and search are extended, and will as they are now be extensively used, and can even include strip searches (albeit that an officer can only require the removal of outer clothing in public). This can be without a warrant, but then requires strip searches to be carried out by a person of the same sex (Section 41 (3))

But under Schedule 5 searching premises a Constable can strip search so long as it is not in public anyone even someone of the opposite sex, failure to comply has a 3 month prison sentence.


Arrest Without Warrant

Section 39 allows the arrest without warrant of any person a Constable 'reasonably' suspect to be a terrorist. With the large number of iffy arrests that take place on direct action campaigns, we can see this used to good effect by the police, no longer would they need to use the lesser offence of 'breach of the peace'.


Several of the Sections when referring to bail state that the only power that can grant bail is a Judge of at least High Court Rank. Section 64 (NI only) allows for bail to be granted to police or military custody. This could of course later be extended to the whole of the UK. This would allow the Police to ask for bail into their custody, thereby extending the possibilities for questioning suspects, and to ensure that they are not held in the more liberal environments of a prison.

Treatment of Arrested Persons

I am a little confused by Sections 11 to 15 of Schedule 7, which relates exclusively to 'Scotland'.

However other sections seem to indicate, but not as clearly as the provisions relating to Scotland, that the whole of the UK are covered by the provisions contained within the following. That assertion seems to be backed up by the Liberty briefing, but I do not have the resources or time to cross-reference other Acts to state definitively that this is the case. But I would urge people to proceed as if these provisions do cover the whole of the UK, at least until we can say definitively that they do not.

You have a right to inform someone of your arrest, as well as your solicitor under Sch 7 Para 12 (1). That is: 'A person detained shall be entitled to have intimation of his detention and of the place where he is being detained sent without delay to a solicitor and to another person reasonably named by him'.

But this can then be taken away for up to 48 hours under 12 (2): A police officer not below the rank of superintendent may authorise a delay (not extending longer than the period of 48 hours from the start of the detention) in making intimation where, in his view, the delay is necessary on one of the grounds mentioned in paragraph 14(3).


14(3) states: The grounds mentioned in paragraphs 12(2) and (5) and 13(4) and in sub-paragraph (1) are that it is in the interests of the investigation or prevention of crime, or of the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of offenders. Note here: for the investigation or prevention of crime and not terrorism.

Again under 12 (4) a right is given, but 12 (5) takes it away for up to 48 hours.

12 (4) A person detained shall be entitled to consult a solicitor at any time, without delay.

12 (5) A police officer not below the rank of superintendent may authorise a delay (not extending longer than the period of 48 hours from the start of the detention) in holding the consultation where, in his view, the delay is necessary on one of the grounds mentioned in paragraph 14(3)

The consultations shall be in private, except where a Assistant Chief Constable orders that they shall not, in other words an arrested person in Scotland cannot even consult with his legal advisors in private. Sch 7 Para 14 (1)

Note: Children are to be treated the same (except that the child does not have the right to have intimation sent to another person). Sch 7 Para 13.


The rest covers the whole of the UK. The police may apply to a Chief Magistrate to detain a person beyond the 48 hour period, that person may make oral or written representation, so may his legal representative. But:

Schedule 7. Sec 28 (3)

(3) A judicial authority may exclude any of the following persons from any part of the hearing- (a) the person to whom the application relates; (b) anyone representing him.

This cannot be justified in any shape or form, to exclude a person from any hearing is contrary to the basic concept of human rights, which we might expect in certain dictatorships, but has no place in a democracy (as if we lived in one).

It will most certainly be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights at some stage or another, with a fair chance of it being declared unlawful. Whilst there is protection from EC legislation, I assert that this Section is also at odds with the basic concept of 'Common Law'. Which follows the basic principle that justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done.


Armed Forces

Schedule 9 gives the Armed Forces the right to search premises (without a warrant) and to stop and search people (and vehicles), albeit only for the two purposes of looking for munitions and 'wireless transmitter or scanner'. This is the short end of the wedge, leading to the time when other powers are handed to the Armed Forces, we have already seen the SAS used in evictions, albeit as supposed civilians, increase the powers and it will only be a question of time before all such evictions are taken out of the hands of the Under Sheriff and firmly placed with the armed forces.

However I am a little confused by the wording of Schedule 9, which could refer only to NI or to the whole of the UK, at first reading it could be seen to be only NI, but it seems strange that parts of the Schedule are written in double paragraphs, this may simply be for preciseness, or it could be as I suspect intended for use in the whole of the UK. I attach Schedule 9 in appendix 1.

Wireless receivers, are not mobile phones wireless receivers, does not nearly every radio these days have the capacity (or near capacity) to be a scanner. While it is abundantly clear what type of transmitter that the Bill refers to, the problem is it does not state so clearly, it simply says 'wireless transmitter or scanner'. As with all law if you do not state precisely what the wording of the Act means, then anything can be interpreted from it. At the Stanworth Valley evictions (M65 Campaign), we made good use of CB radios (I also understand that this was the case with the M11 Campaign). They would under this law have the right to search for those radios, would this also mean down the tunnels !


Disclosure of Information

This could be very worrying to those with families, as it will be an offence not to disclose information to a constable about fundraising activities of terrorists. Remember that the support for even overseas terrorist is an offence, and raising funds for such organisations or individuals. So if we take the example that a husband/partner/wife is engaged in support for East Timor, the partner would be required to inform on them, or be guilty of an offence with a maximum prison sentence of 5 years.

The offence is about reasonably suspecting, which is far short of actually knowing, and would include anyone, your work colleques, family, friends and those that you might do business with such as your bank manager, but excludes your legal advisor when he receives information in privileged circumstances- For the purpose of subsection (5) information is obtained by an adviser in privileged circumstances if it comes to him, otherwise than with a view to furthering a criminal purpose


A premises also includes a tent or movable structure Sec 116. Why they need to put this provision in anti terrorist legislation is strange to say the least, that is unless it is intended to be used against activists engaged in direct action occupation of development sites !

Not liable in Law

There is to be a code of practice that officers must follow (this applies to: (a) a constable, (b) a customs officer, and (c) an immigration officer.), but such officers will NOT be liable to criminal or civil proceedings. Sch 11 Sec 6(3):- The failure by an officer to observe a provision of a code shall not of itself make him liable to criminal or civil proceedings. But the fact that there is a Code will be admissible in Court as evidence, that is, it does not matter a toss what they get up to they are above the law, with a convenient code to hide behind.



The Terrorist Bill is available on the Internet at: EXPLANATORY NOTES:

The Original Consultation document is available at:

Liberty can be contacted at:
Liz Parratt Liberty 21 Tabard St London SE1 4LA 020 7403 3888

The Right to Protest Forum
J-B Louveaux Flat 7 10a Airlie Gardens London WA8 7AL 0171-727-0590

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