We urgently need new legislation to exempt those taking part in non-violent direct action from all the anti-terrorism legislation that has been passed in previous years. That legislation was not (we hope) designed to throw peaceful protestors into prison, but it is now being used to jail fifteen citizens whose ‘crime’ was to stand in the way of deporting people, some of whom have subsequently won the right to remain.
Only one person has previously been convicted of this offence in the last 18 years since it became law. The Attorney General has turned near redundant law into repressive legislation. There are plenty more bad laws that have been passed by Parliament in the name of fighting terrorism and the police are always stretching the interpretation of the rules because the Home Office allows them to. Our right to protest is being curtailed, innocent people are being labelled as domestic extremists, and others are spied upon by undercover police. This has must stop.
I have made many attempts to amend the Counter Terrorism Bill going through Parliament at the moment. The government has accepted one of my amendments securing more protection for journalists and academics, but that is only one of many changes that needs to be made. I pushed for a vote on another of my amendments that would have stopped the government broadening the definition of what it means to support terrorism by including words spoken that could be ‘supportive’ of terrorism. Eminent lawyers and QC’s in the Lords voted with me as they could see how the government was going to trap more and more people in its widening net of accidental terrorists. The amendment would have passed with cross party support if the Labour Party had backed it, but despite Shami Chakrabarti being shadow Attorney General, they did not. In fact the Labour Party have failed to make any substantial attempt to push a civil liberties agenda in the Lords and exploit the lack of a natural Conservative majority.