From 2000 to the present, the British Parliament passed a series of Terrorism Acts that were aimed at terrorism in general, rather than specifically focussed on terrorism related to Northern Ireland. The timings were influenced by the September 11, 2001 attacks and 7 July London bombings, as well as the politics of the Global War on Terrorism, according to the politicians who announce them as their response to a terrorism act.
Between them, they provided a definition of terrorism that made it possible to establish a new and distinct set of police powers and procedures, beyond those related to ordinary crime, which could be applied in terrorist cases.
List of legislation
- The Terrorism Act 2000 (text)
- gave a broad definition of terrorism for the first time
- provided for an extended list of proscribed terrorist organizations beyond those associated with Northern Ireland.
- allowed police to detain terrorist suspects for questioning for up to 7 days.
- allowed police to stop and search any person or vehicle in designated areas without the need to suspect that person
- The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (text)
- passed in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks
- contained measures that had been rejected from the 2000 Act.
- allowed Ministry of Defence Police to operate outside of military bases even for non-terrorist cases.
- Part 4 enabled foreigners to be detained as terrorist suspects indefinitely.
- required annual renewal of some provisions in recognition of the political climate
- The Criminal Justice Act 2003
- The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (Continuance in force of sections 21 to 23) Order 2003 
- renewed Part 4 of the 2001 Act.
- voted on specifically by Parliament due to its controversial nature.
- The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (text)
- established the "control order" which is a form of house arrest
- was subject to extended Parliamentary dispute which lasted for over 50 hours
- passed just in time to be applied to the Part 4 terrorist suspects
- The Terrorism Act 2006 (text)
- drafted in the aftermath of the 7 July 2005 London bombings
- defines the offence of "glorifying" terrorism
- revises the period of detention of terrorist suspect without charge up to 28 days
- the government had asked for this to be 90 days, but was defeated in a vote
- justified by the claim that necessary evidence to decide charges might be encrypted on one of thousands of hard disks, and it could take this long to search them.
- The Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 (text)
- The Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 (text)
- allows police questioning of suspects after they have been charged
- requires convicted terrorist to notify the police of their whereabouts (similar to existing requirements for sex offenders)
- extends extra-territorial jurisdiction of courts over terrorism offences overseas
- defeat of government attempt to extend period of detention without charge to 42 days
- interpreted as banning all photographs of the police in public places
- The Coroners and Justice Act 2009
- extends sentencing provisions in Criminal Justice Act 2003 to terrorism offences
- The Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2009 (text)
- gives effect to Resolution 1373 of the United Nations Security Council (2001)
- allows the Treasury to freeze the assets of suspected terrorists
- replaces the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006
- criticised by the Supreme Court in 2010
- The Terrorist Asset-Freezing (Temporary Provisions) Act 2010 (text)
- passed in response to the Supreme Court's ruling that the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 was void
- retrospectively legitimises the 2006 Order to give Parliament time to enact new legislation
- expires on 31 December 2010
In February 2009, the Liberal Democrats published a Freedom Bill designed to repeal many of these laws (as well as others such as the Identity Cards Act 2006) aimed at reversing the "cumulative loss" of civil liberties in Britain.
In his comprehensive commentary on the anti-terrorism legislation, Professor Clive Walker of the University of Leeds comments:
"The Terrorism Act 2000 represents a worthwhile attempt to fulfil the role of a modern code against terrorism, though it fails to meet the desired standards in all respects. There are aspects where rights are probably breached, and its mechanisms to ensure democratic accountability and constitutionalism are even more deficient, as discussed in the section on ‘Scrutiny’ earlier in this chapter. It is also a sobering thought, proffered by the Home Affairs Committee, that the result is that ‘This country has more anti-terrorist legislation on its statute books than almost any other developed democracy.’ (Report on the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill 2001 (2001-02 HC 351) para.1). But at least that result initially flowed from a solemnly studied and carefully constructed legislative exercise."
- List of terrorist incidents in the United Kingdom
- List of people convicted under Anti-Terrorism Act in the United Kingdom
- "Section 98, Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001".
- Public Whip. "Vote on this amendment".
- "Section 306, Criminal Justice Act 2003".
- TheyWorkForYou (20 May 2003). "Debate on Criminal Justice Bill".
- "Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (Continuance in force of sections 21 to 23) Order 2003".
- Public Whip. "Vote on this Order".
- Public Whip. "Vote on 90 days amendment".
- TheyWorkForYou (9 November 2005). "Debate on Terrorism Bill".
- Coroners and Justice Act 2009, sections 138-139
- Mulholland, Hélène (26 February 2009). "Lib Dems pledge to axe 20 laws that attack civil liberties". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
- The Anti-Terrorism Legislation (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002)