The Terrorism Act 2006: Discouraging Terrorism

Tufyal Choudhury

in Extreme Speech and Democracy

Published in print February 2009 | ISBN: 9780199548781
Published online May 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720673 | DOI:
 The Terrorism Act 2006: Discouraging Terrorism

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The UK's Terrorism Act 2006 makes it an offence for a person to publish statements that directly or indirectly encourage or induce a person to the commission, preparation, or instigation of acts of terrorism. These new ‘encouragement offences’ constitute a significant restriction on the exercise of the fundamental right of free expression. Its threat to free speech arises not only from specific prohibitions and prosecutions but also the wider chilling effect on expression. This chapter examines the potential contribution the new offence might make to the government's desired aim of preventing violent radicalization. It looks at the efficacy of the legislation in two respects: firstly, the role that the impugned statements play in the radicalization process; and, secondly, the potential for the criminalization of such statements to be counter-productive and undermine the government's broader counterterrorism strategy. It is argued that radicalization is largely a private process. Public statements that encourage acts of terrorism may contribute to this process but are not central to it. Furthermore, the provisions in the legislation that aim to proscribe such statements are drafted with a degree of breadth and vagueness that increases the risks of the legislation becoming counterproductive. The uncertainty surrounding the scope of the new offences and the discretion needed to enforce the legislation in a climate of distrust and fear between parts of the Muslim community and public institutions will reinforce perceptions of discrimination and unjust enforcement of counterterrorism laws, which in turn will undermine the broader counterterrorism strategy.

Keywords: Terrorism Act 2006; UK; freedom of speech; radicalization; counterrorism laws

Chapter.  12313 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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