New laws affording the UK greater powers to crack down on hostile state activity have received Royal Assent. The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 also ensures sentencing for certain terrorism offences can properly reflect the severity of the crimes, as well as preventing re-offending and disrupting terrorist activity more rapidly.
The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 purposefully updates existing counter-terrorism legislation drafted by Westminster mandarins in order to reflect the digital age, including the way in which people view content online. Importantly, the new Act of Parliament also reflects the speed at which terrorism plots develop.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid observed: “Terrorists and hostile states pose a persistent threat to our national security, with the 2017 atrocities and Russia’s use of chemical weapons on our soil highlighting the dangers we face. Keeping people safe is my foremost priority and this important piece of legislation will help to do exactly that. The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act gives the police the powers they need to disrupt plots and punish those who seek to do us harm.”
Main provisions in the Act
The main provisions included in the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act are as follows:
*a new power to stop, question, search and detain an individual at a port or border area to determine whether they are, or have been, involved in hostile state activity
*creating an offence of entering or remaining in an area outside of the UK that has been designated by the Home Secretary if it’s necessary for protecting the public from terrorism
*updating the offence of obtaining information likely to be useful to a terrorist to cover material that’s only viewed or streamed, rather than downloaded to form a permanent record
*an increase to the maximum penalty for certain preparatory terrorism offences to 15 years’ imprisonment
*extending the offence of inviting support for a proscribed organisation
*a requirement for terrorist offenders to provide additional information to the police in line with what registered sex offenders must provide
*establishing an independent review of Prevent, the Government’s strategy for supporting those vulnerable to radicalisation
In June 2017, the Prime Minister announced a review of the Government’s approach to counter-terrorism to ensure that it was working as effectively as possible. This resulted in the updated CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy, which was published in June 2018. New legislation was central to the revised strategy.
The Act was introduced as a Bill to the House of Commons on 6 June 2018 and the introduced to the House of Lords on 12 September 2018.
A provision amending the Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993 came into force on Tuesday 12 February.
The additional provisions in the Act will come into force in the coming months.
Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill
Legislation giving police and prosecutors the power to obtain faster access to electronic data held overseas has now become law. Where a relevant international agreement is in place, the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Act 2019 will allow police and prosecutors quicker access to electronic data held outside of the UK, supporting investigations into crimes such as child sexual exploitation and terrorism.
The Act of Parliament affords law enforcement agencies and prosecutors the power to obtain electronic data directly from an overseas communications service provider (CSP). There’s already a similar process in place for UK law enforcement to obtain information from UK companies.
The UK is currently in the process of negotiating a data access agreement with the US, where the world’s largest CSPs are based.
Ben Wallace, the Minister for Security and Economic Crime, stated: “Increasingly, paedophiles and terrorists exploit the Internet to facilitate their depraved and dangerous criminal activities. With 99% of child sexual abuse content hosted on overseas platforms, it’s vital that we give the police the powers they need to gain rapid access to this data and put a stop to the perpetrators abusing these children. This Act will do exactly that. I want to thank Parliamentarians of all parties for their rigorous scrutiny of this important piece of legislation.”
Assistant Chief Constable Richard Berry, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for Investigatory Powers Act capabilities, responded: “The cumbersome nature of long-standing arrangements for mutual legal assistance has for many years inhibited the speed at which UK policing has been able to access vital information stored in other countries. More timely access to such data is welcome. The provisions in the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Act can speed up investigations, while still allowing for in-built judicial safeguards and scrutiny.”
Mutual legal assistance channels
Currently, when law enforcement agencies want access to data held by a CSP overseas, mutual legal assistance channels are used which can take anywhere from six months to two years, resulting in delayed or sometimes abandoned investigations or prosecutions.
The Act gives law enforcement agencies the ability to apply to a UK Judge for an overseas production order which, if granted, will require the specified CSP to provide, or allow access to, stored electronic data for investigating and prosecuting serious crimes.
The overseas production order would give the police and prosecutors the ability to seek access to the required electronic data, such as messages, files and pictures, directly from the overseas CSP, in turn reducing the time it takes to days or weeks.
The process will remain subject to robust judicial oversight. Protections for legally privileged material and journalistic data have been written into law. The legislation also requires the Government to seek death penalty assurances in any relevant international agreement.
The Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Act finished its Parliamentary passage through the House of Lords on Monday 11 February.