Police and prosecutors were locked in crisis meetings last night after what they believed to be the strongest terrorism case ever presented to a court was rejected by a jury.
At the end of a £10 million investigation and trial lasting more than two years, jurors were unable to decide whether or not a group of British Muslims were part of a plot to blow transatlantic airliners out of the sky.
The jury’s indecision in the face of a detailed Crown case raises questions about the public perception of the terror threat that could undermine government attempts to introduce further security legislation.
No no NO!
All it should be raising questions about is why the prosecution failed to convince the jury in this particular case of a particular charge after a two year trial, a £10m investigation, and the “biggest ever surveillance operation“, not about the jury’s perception of “the terror threat” in general, after making such a fuss about it.
Oh, and why the headlines are giving the impression that no-one has been found guilty of anything serious (example).
Note: the jury did deliver guilty verdicts in respect of three men charged with conspiracy to murder. The prosecution’s case was good enough for that, but it was not good enough to convince the jury that the men intended to blow up aircraft (it seems the only evidence relating to this was a list of flight times and notes about airport security arrangements).
(The jury failed to reach verdicts on the other four men. Note there are four more trials relating to this case coming up, and a possible retrial.)
But what is all the fuss about the aircraft bit?
After all, although the three have yet to be sentenced, the sentencing guidelines state that a life sentence with a minimum term of 40 years would be the maximum appropriate for such a case regardless!
They also admitted conspiracy to cause explosions and cause a public nuisance. Without a discount for pleading guilty, they would face 20-35 years for the former. I can’t find sentencing guidelines for the latter, but Kamel Bourgass was given 17 years.
Call me a cynic, but I think the real issue behind such wailing headlines is one of ‘Whitehall’, the Government, the police, and the CPS, believing their own Climate of Fear spin, (see Obsolete for example) and wanting to achieve the ‘best’ (most newsworthy) result, and the national media buying into it – e.g. “a jury failed to reach a verdict on the allegation they were part of the biggest terrorist plot since the September 11 attacks” – rather than be happy with putting these murderous maniacs behind bars with a ‘boring’ conviction.
Again, three of them will be put behind bars!
One of the aspects pointed out is that it took experts over 30 attempts to make a viable bomb:
this was a plan which looks wonderful and petrifying on paper or when it’s reported in the papers, but which is close to impossible to actually pull off, especially if you don’t have the means, the knowledge or the funding to do it.
And of course the experts had greater resources, and exploded their bomb under ideal conditions as opposed to after building it in an aircraft toilet after having to make their way through crowds, queues and security.
We – and our beloved leaders and the media – need to get a grip. Our leaders must stop politicising terror (“the Opposition will get you killed”) and the media should stop buying into the Climate of Fear.
Particularly because these headline grabbing Hollywood terror plots are used to infringe on our liberties.
Important to note that the authorities claimed to have been watching these people (in fact, 20 suspects) for some time, and they only arrested the suspects when it looked the the USA / Pakistan was going to move against a ‘Rashid Rauf‘.