The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 came into force on 12 February 2019.
The aim of the 2019 Act is to update existing terrorism offences for the digital age and to strengthen the enforcement authorities' ability to intervene to stop terrorist activities.
The Terrorism Act 2000 already prohibits the collection of information likely to be useful to a terrorist. The 2019 Act extends this criminal offence to cover the viewing or streaming of such material online. There is an existing defence which applies where the individual has a reasonable excuse. This is clarified by the 2019 Act to include a situation where the individual did not know and had no reason to believe that the document or record contained, or was likely to contain, information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing to commit an act of terrorism. The 2019 Act includes further specific situations where the defence may be relevant, namely where the individual's actions were for carrying out work as a journalist or for academic research.
The existing offence of inviting support for a proscribed organisation is extended to apply to situations where a view is expressed by someone, reckless as to whether this will encourage others to support the proscribed organisation.
It is also now an offence to publish an image online which displays a flag, emblem or other symbol of a proscribed organisation. An equivalent offence already exists for such publications off-line.
The Home Office fact sheets explaining the new legislation confirm that 74 organisations have been proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000 and that to the year to 30 September 2018, 85 individuals were charged with terrorism-related offences.
The 2019 Act enables local authorities, as well as the police, to make referrals of individuals considered to be at risk of being drawn into terrorism to a Channel panel to discuss ways of accessing support.
A duty is placed on the Secretary of State by the new legislation to establish an independent review of the Government's strategy in this area which is aimed at preventing vulnerable individuals from becoming terrorists, or supporting terrorism.
Further reference should also be made to the Government's fact-sheets and the detailed provisions of the legislation.
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