New Online Terror Laws ‘Criminalise Thought,’ Says Terror Chief — Risk Jail For Viewing ‘Far Right Propaganda’

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The government should not “criminalise thought”, the UK’s terror watchdog has said, after ministers revealed new laws criminalising viewing “extreme” online material following a wave of Islamist attacks.

Earlier this month, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said people could be imprisoned for up to 15 years for “repeatedly viewing” things deemed “far-right propaganda” or “terrorist material” online, but without planning or committing acts of violence.

In the wake of recent Islamist attacks, Ms. Rudd said the government could create new criminal offences, including banning orders and extremism disruption orders, backed by potential jail sentences.

Max Hill QC has hit back, insisting, “thought without action” is not terrorism and explaining that limiting people’s freedoms because of terror attacks would be a victory for terrorists.

In quotes released ahead of a speech in London Tuesday night to the human rights campaign group Justice, he adds: “We do not, and should not, criminalise thought without action or preparation for action.

“Whilst we can all agree that there should be nowhere for real terrorists to hide, we should also agree that legislating in the name of terrorism when the targeted activity is not actually terrorism would be quite wrong.”

During his lecture, he also warned: “The struggle for national security must not be used as a stick to beat down the rights we hold dear. If that were to happen, terrorism would have prevailed.

“We as a nation must not be terrified, nor must we allow our Parliament to enact measures that might make things worse, not better.”

The measures announced by the home secretary were backed by Prime Minister Theresa May and were among “potential new criminal offences to defeat extremism” promised in her manifesto.

Mrs. May has also called on internet giants to censor more content to tackle terrorism, and for free speech to be restricted on social media.

Following Mr. Hill’s speech, a No 10 spokesman said: “As we have seen painfully in the UK this year, we face an unpredictable threat from terrorism. We have to tackle the ideologies that drive or inspire these kinds of attacks.”

Adding: “What we want to do is to send a clear message that we will not tolerate terrorism, those who help radicalise terrorists with their extremist views, or those who turn a blind eye to terrorist activity.”


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