Dissent and the Constitution

UK Counter terrorism policy, student
radicalization and the internet
Ian Cram, School of Law, Leeds University
Pressure from the top to ‘deradicalise’universities
• ‘...we have not done enough to deal
with the promotion of extremist
Islamism in our own country.
Whether it is making sure that
imams coming over to this country
can speak English properly, or
whether it is making sure that we deradicalise our universities, we have to
take a range of further steps, and I
am going to be working hard to make
sure that we do.’
• PM Cameron, HC Debs (2010-11)
Vol.520, col.910 (15/12/10)
Pressure from Independent
Reviewer of Counter Terrorism Law
• Universities have ‘been
slow or even reluctant to
recognise their full
responsibilities in the face
of ‘unambiguous evidence
of radicalising activities.’
Lord Carlile of Berriew,
Independent Reviewer of
Counter terrorism law
and policy
Broader Research Questions
• How has the ‘war on terror’ impacted on
freedom of expression and association in the
• To what extent might recent developments be
problematic for a liberal democracy committed
to rule of law, limited government, individual
autonomy and informed self-rule? – has UK
adopted a ‘militant-democracy’ style defence of
the liberal state? If so – should this be of
Discrete measures impacting upon
expressive freedoms
• Proscription of political associations
• Criminalising possession of documents (useful to
persons committing etc acts if terrorism) – ‘reasonable
excuse’ academic curiosity?
• Indirect encouragement of terrorism (including
• Withholding information about terrorist acts
• Official Secrets Act prosecutions; DA notices
• Production orders against journalists
• Random stop & search of photographers
(but see now HO Circular 012/ 2009 &
ECtHR in Gillan (2010) App. No. 4158/05)
• Broad meaning – ‘process of adopting a system of
ideas that overtly challenges an established social
and/or political order’
• Narrow meaning ‘process of adopting a system of
ideas that overtly challenges an established social
and/or political order and leads them to
commit/attempt to commit terrorist acts.’
• (Caldicott UCL Inquiry, para 8)
• ‘Prevent’ strand (early version 2006)
• (i) deterring those who facilitate terrorism and
those who encourage others to become terrorists
by making more hostile the environment in
which the extremists and those radicalising
others can operate
• and
• (ii) tackling disadvantage and supporting reform
by addressing structural problems in the UK and
overseas that may contribute to radicalisation,
such as inequalities and discrimination
Prevent Mark 2 – elements of the
elaborated strategy
• Preventing Violent Extremism: Winning Hearts
and Minds (Dept for Communities & Local
Government) £6m fund to support local
programmes intended ‘to build civic leadership and
strengthen the role of faith leaders and institutions’
• Support for self-regulation in mosques
• Radical Middle Way roadshows with visiting
Muslim scholars to UK who challenge jihadist
• Universities- guidance on extremism on campus
Quilliam Briefing Paper – Radicalisation on a British
University Campuses - a case study (Oct 2010)
• Looked at Isoc, City University London in Sept 2009June 2010 period
• Claimed to find four ‘radicalising agents’ which made
students ‘vulnerable’ to Islamic radicalisation which in
turn produced a ‘potential’ for ‘radicalisation to Islamic
Quilliam Briefing Paper – (contd)
‘Four radicalising agents’
• 1. Exposure to ideology that seems to sanction,
legitimise or require violence
• 2. Exposure to persuasive people or groups
• 3. A crisis of identity
• 4. A range of perceived grievances some real,
some imagined to which there may seem no
credible and effective non-violent response
Some problematic aspects of
counter-radicalisation strategy
• Absence of unequivocal empirical evidence causally
linking a specific terrorist act to exposure to
ideology/persons at university.
• Restrictive attitude of some groups (eg Quilliam, NUS)
towards notion of free speech in general and academic
freedom in particular
• Existing, excessive restriction of radical speech via
broadly drafted Terrorism & Public Order Laws – liberty
of expression becomes a weak background assumption –
weakness of HRA
Academic freedom
• Universities are ‘open institutions where ...
debate, challenge and dissent are not only
permitted but expected, and where controversial
and offensive ideas are likely to be advanced.
Intellectual freedom is fundamental to their
mission, their teaching and their research.’
• Foreword UUK Freedom of Speech on campus
– rights and responsibilities in UK Universities
(Feb 2011)
Council for Academic Freedom and
Democracy (1972)
• Whatever else they may be designed to do,
academic institutions of all kinds and at all levels
must be critical. They must be committed to reexamining accepted knowledge, assumptions
and practices. It is their job, whatever other jobs
they have, to nurse scepticism and to apply it to
established beliefs and the present order.
• The Case for Academic Freedom p.4
DIUS/BIS Scenarios – Example 3
‘Inappropriate Student Use Of The Internet
• College library staff have reported that a student has
approached them expressing concerns at images she
had seen fellow students looking at on computers in
an IT room. She reported that two males were
looking at some kind of home-made images of other
men dressed in military and civilian clothing
holding guns. The two men were joined by two
others and she could see that they were watching
shots being fired and explosions on the computer.
The images then appeared to show somebody
making a homemade explosive device.’ p.15
Universities’ qualified duty to
uphold freedom of speech
Education (No 2) Act 1986, s.43
Duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable that
the use of university premises is not denied to an
individual or group on account of the views of that
R v University of Liverpool ex parte Caesar-Gordon
[1991] 1 QB 124
• Held – where threat of disorder or breach of peace on
campus is made out, s.43 does not prevent university
cancelling the meeting
Revised definition of ‘terrorism’
• the use or threat of ‘action’ (serious violence
against person, serious damage to property,
endangering a person’s life, creating a risk to the
health or safety of the public or a section of it,
seriously interfering with/disrupting an
electronic system) designed to influence the
government, international government
organisations or to intimidate the public or a
section of it for the purpose of advancing a
political, religious or ideological cause
Terrorism Act 2000 s.1(4)
“action” “person” “property” “government”
apply to actions, persons, property and
(including anti-democratic, tyrannical
Indirect encouragement of terrorism –
Terrorism Act 2006 s.1
• (3) ... Include(s) every statement which—
• (a) glorifies the commission or preparation
(whether in the past, in the future or generally)
of such acts or offences; and
• (b) is a statement from which those members
of the public could reasonably be expected to
infer that what is being glorified is being
glorified as conduct that should be emulated by
them in existing circumstances.
Breadth of glorification offence
• ‘Glorifies’ includes any form of
praise/celebration (s.20(2))
• Not necessary to show (i) that anyone was
actually encouraged to commit an act of
terrorism OR (ii) that the speech raised a
real/serious threat of terrorist activity
• No public interest defence
• Could include praise of a past conflict
Breadth of glorification offence
• Expressing an understanding of reasons why persons
engaged in resistance against a state (eg Israel, Zimbabwe,
Chechnya, Libya, Yemen) COULD be construed as
meeting the requirements of s.1, Terrorism Act 2006.
• Even showing ‘positive’ side of combatants in a historical
conflict (George Orwell’s depiction of an Italian Anarchist
in Homage to Catalonia) could be problematic if capable
of being understood as approving others to emulate today)
• Defence if accused has no intent to encourage terrorism
(directly/indirectly) AND (i) he/she did not endorse
statement and (ii) non-endorsement was clear from all the
Impact of terrorism laws in the
academic context
• May 2008 - Nottingham University - Arrests of Sabir (MA
student) and Yezza (PA to Head of Mod Languages & Cultures)
after latter downloaded an edited version of Al Qaeda training
manual at Sabir’s asking (freely available on web via inter alia US
Justice Dept)
• Yezza’s colleagues noticed document on his computer when Yezza
away from his desk and alerted police.
• Both men arrested & released without charge after a few days
• Nottingham VC - no right to access terrorist materials; those that
do for research are likely to have a good defence after perhaps
spending time in police detention (THES (2008) July 17, p.8) &
see Barendt, Academic Freedom and the Law (2010) at p.258
UUK Freedom of Speech on campus – rights
and responsibilities in UK Universities
• Survey in 2010 revealed ‘extensive and generally
productive engagement that exists between
universities, their students and external
organisations to allow debate and discussion on
campus whilst at the same time being aware of the
boundaries to this debate and the need for vigilance
in safeguarding their student staff and wider
community.’ (2011, p.31)
UUK Freedom of Speech on campus – rights
and responsibilities in UK Universities
• Recommendations
• Ensure that university personnel are familiar
with legal requirements
• Provide clear info to SUs and student societies
about rights and responsibilities
• Maintain dialogue with police, community
groups, LAs
• UUK to work with universities to develop
policies and implementation strategies
Quilliam’s risk avoidance stance
• “(J)ust as it is right to be concerned about the
danger of fascist rhetoric spilling over into
violence, so it is right to be aware that extreme
forms of Islam may provide a launch-pad for
Islamic-inspired terrorism.”
• Radicalisation on British University Campuses:
a case study (2010) p.3.