This week is ‘Counter Terrorism Week’. The initiative by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has seen more than 3,000 police officers out and about advising on public safety. There has even been a surge of sniffer dogs at airports hunting money leaving the UK to fund terrorism.
It’s not difficult to see why. We live in dangerous times. The threat level in the UK has been raised from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’. There are increasing concerns over hundreds of aspiring British jihadis travelling to Iraq and Syria to learn terrorist tradecraft. And Scotland Yard Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, recently disclosed that “four or five” plots have been foiled this year.
So that’s why I warmly welcome the Home Secretary’s recent anti-extremist proposals. They include measures to block suspected foreign fighters from returning to the UK. In addition, organisations such as colleges and universities will be legally required to help deter radicalisation. Terrorism prevention and investigations measures (TPIMs) will be beefed up to allow terror suspects to be relocated around the country. And police will be handed powers to force internet firms to hand over ISP details that could help identify suspected terrorists.
These measures are sensible and proportionate. They preserve the freedom of our society whilst helping to keep us safe. And in striking that delicate balance they have won the support of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.
That’s why I was astonished to hear a prominent human rights group describe the package of measures as “Another chilling recipe for injustice and resentment by closing down open society”. Nonsense. Now, I’m no head-banger; I don’t automatically assume that everything that comes out of human rights organisations is inevitably misconceived. Not a bit of it. They often do an important job in exposing those politicians who are more concerned about chasing tomorrow’s headline than drafting legislation that works.
But on this occasion, they have got it completely wrong. Britain faces a very real and present danger from an ideology that would not hesitate to bring mass bloodshed and mayhem to our streets. The Home Secretary’s package of measures is robust but fundamentally fair.
Instead, I’m afraid Liberty’s language on this occasion is just the kind of lurid headline-grabbing slogan that they criticise politicians for. They should know better.