New article: Is there a Conservative Counter-Terrorism?

The latest issue of the King’s Law Journal is a special reflection on ‘civil liberties under Conservative-led governments since 2010′. The papers within the issue cover a wide range of topics including human rights protection across what Colin Harvey calls the “fractured union” of the UK, to the European Social Charter discussed by Colm O’Cinnéide.

My colleague Lydia Morgan and I have a paper on counter-terrorism law and policy (“Is there a Conservative counter-terrorism?”), wanting to question whether there is something distinctive about the Conservative approach to counter-terrorism in the post-2010 era when compared with what came before it. In the paper we find that actually there is a remarkable level of substantive continuity between New Labour governments from 1997-2010 and the 2010+ approach in Conservative-Led governments. The Blair/Brown approach in turn is deeply informed by what preceded it, especially in Northern Ireland, so that in fact there is a fairly wide and deep consensus about some core commitments within UK counter-terrorism law. Those core commitments are: a focus on prevention, an embrace of surveillance, and a manifestation of human rights scepticism in the counter-terrorism context. Continue reading New article: Is there a Conservative Counter-Terrorism?

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I have a column in today’s The Independent on Jeremy Corbyn’s remarks on the importance of addressing the causes of terrorism and the potential for foreign affairs policies to impact on terrorism at home. The full column is available for free here, and here is a taster

In most other policy fields, we expect government to act on the basis of evidence; to survey the research, to consider it in context, to forecast the possible outcomes, to make the best laws and policies they can on the basis of this, to evaluate those laws and policies after some time, and to change them if they are not working. In the field of counterterrorism, however, this is perceived as weakness rather than prudence. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Proposed new surveillance laws in Ireland

Last Wednesday the Irish Times carried a long article by Elaine Edwards on the proposal to extend surveillance and intercept laws in Ireland to social media accounts and web-based text messages. I am quoted in the story, noting how important it is that effective safeguards and oversight would be built into any such proposed law to ensure its compliance with fundamental rights. The whole story can be accessed here.

New Essay: Evaluation and Effectiveness of Counter-Terrorism

Last autumn I went to Antwerp to give a lecture at a symposium there about responsible innovation in security technology. I am pleased that many of the papers from that symposium are being brought together in a book, including mine. I have now posted the accepted version of the essay on SSRN where it can be downloaded for free. Here is the abstract:

In spite of their proliferation at national and supra-national levels, evaluation of whether counter-terrorist measures are actually effective is worryingly inadequate or, sometimes, simply non-existent. In this short essay I argue that the expansion of counter-terrorism in the past fourteen years has had, and continues to have, serious implications for human rights (not only of suspected terrorists, but of all of us), for democracy, and for the Rule of Law. As a result, part of assessing the justifiability of maintaining (and expanding) these measures must be to establish that there are not only prospectively necessary and designed with rights concerns in mind (the arguments made in justifying introducing them), but also actually effective and proportionate. In order for us to truly assess the effectiveness of a counter-terrorist measure and the robustness of the underlying necessity claim, we must assess the extent to which they meet both meta-objectives of security measures per se and the specific objectives of these measures in as comprehensive, rigorous, and open a way possible. Current practice is, however, not to do this in a systematic manner, meaning that counter-terrorism continues to expand on the basis of prospective arguments as to its necessity and appropriateness, claims for trust on the part of governments and, ultimately, shaky evidentiary bases.