Prevention Of Terrorism Act 1988 (And 1998)

This article could be considered in conjunction with the comments I have made in the article entitled “All Catholics are Terrorists”.

It was 1989. I had completed my dissertation for my Honours on my LLB course. The paper was entitled “is unjust law, law?”. I will not bore you with the jurisprudence of the points made in that tome. What I will do is indulge myself a little to tell you a little of what my paper concluded.

In that paper, I reminded my readers (probably only my mum at the time and probably now, not a whole lot more!) that we (the British) were at war with the IRA. Some called it The Troubles (what an amazing euphemism – if only it were not so sad) and some called it a conflict. I am sure that there are legal implications of what that whole episode was named but whatever it was called, it was a bloody conflict, with serious, frequent and fatal blood shed on both sides of the fence.

Also around that time, for a bit more background information, we enacted the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1988. At the time of its enactment, the Houses of Parliament were told, assured, convinced, that the Act would only remain in place for 14 WEEKS. Ten years later, it was supplemented (or supplanted depending on your political persuasion) by the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1998.

At that time, the British Government were riled, I was at that time serving in the Territorial Army and very much on the “side” of the British. We wanted to sort out the murdering Irish b*****ds.

The problem for me as a person was that I was also in the final throes of my law degree. I believed then and I believe now in the Rule of Law, of Justice, of right and wrong. (Doesn’t everybody?) Fiat Justitia Ruat Coelum MEANS something. Without that, as a Solicitor (as I am now) would be just a job, a deluded food processor in a meat factory. Bad law is bad law. It should not happen and should not be allowed to happen.

Back to my dissertation – in amongst other things, I wrote in my work that the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six would and should be released. My predictions came true. Sadly, I cannot take credit for being a Mystic Meg of the legal world (oh, if only) and neither can I take any credit for being a legal genius. It was obvious that this would happen, frankly.

Again, I will not bore you with WHY they were likely to be acquitted but I will say this: The politicians at that time, on both sides of the House, meddled with the law to put right things “right” that are politically unsatisfactory at the time. But politically unsatisfactory to who? To the politicians of course. Things will go wrong and often do, when politicians meddle in the legal system to fix political problems. Miscarriages of justice will occur and worse than that, if such a thing could be contemplated, is that or rights as citizens are made a tiny bit weaker because of it.

You may have forgotten about the Prevention of Terrorism Acts, you may have forgotten about the IRA terrorists and you may have forgotten about the fear that they put in the daily lives of the British Population and the countless, pointless loss of live even here on the mainland.

You may have even forgotten that many men and a woman were incarcerated for what the law says they did not do – for over 30 years in total. 30 wasted years of their lives that we cannot give back to them. 30 political years of vote wins. And of course that would not happen now – not now, with hindsight or with the advances in our legal morality. Surely not.

I hope not.

Think about the vile murdering Muslim terrorists now. None of them charged with any offence, despite them being incarcerated in Gitmo for god only knows how long. The incongruity of this paradox hurts my head. On the one hand, we “know” that they are involved in terrorism; we know they make our streets unsafe and put at risk the lives of our children.

But to keep them incarcerated without charge is anathema to any right minded person’s moral and legal code, let alone the established legal code of a developed civilised democratic nation. That utter unbelievable incredible faux pas not only destroyed the credibility of the USA as the bastion of good and the defender of Right, but fuelled the fire of terrorism to a magnitude never seen before as far as I am aware. That is bad news. The USA involved politics in the Rule of Law and frankly fucked up big time.

We, the British (well English and Welsh to be precise) are not that far behind. We have been involved in illegal rendition flights, sending BRITISH CITIZENS to third party countries that either are despotic or rub shoulders with them, knowing that they will be tortured. British security forces have been in the same building or room as British Citizens who have been tortured not by our forces (thank god) but by those whose countries they use, thereby creating a deniability of torture at our hands.

The story goes on and on. Let me put it into stark relief what happens when politicians are trusted to mess with the law if you are still not yet convinced. We are now talking about holding specialist trials. Trials where all the qualified personnel, the lawyers for both the defence and the prosecution, the Judges, the whole lot, have security clearance  as the information that may be put in these hearings is so sensitive. I do understand the need to maintain secrecy to protect our working methods, our fight against terrorism, our need to protect the personnel and so on. But at what price?

The defence only gets the “gist” (I kid you not) of the case against the accused. There will be parts where even the defence will not be allowed to hear and the prosecution’s case that is put to the Judge (obviously security cleared) without the defence even present.

This is utter madness.

I know we are all pissed off with terrorism and 9/11 and 7/7 more to the point for us was a disgusting act of violence that should never again be allowed to happen.

But really? Not even knowing what the case is against you before you are potentially fully convicted of an offence that you do not fully get to hear about and leaving you in prison for life. LIFE.

I am ashamed that in 20 years’ time, our children will look back on us and wonder what on earth we were thinking to allow this to happen. Just like twenty-somethings now seem to question what the bloody hell we were doing when the PTA came into force.


The comments in this article are not intended to constitute legal advice. As ever, in all the articles written, it is imperative that you take independent legal advice before acting on any of the information contained herein.


Shak Inayat
0207 183 2898


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