UK Liberty

No proof of terrorist intent

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on February 14, 2008

The BBC:

The convictions of five young Muslim men jailed over extremist literature have been quashed by the Appeal Court.

Freeing the men, the Lord Chief Justice said there was no proof of terrorist intent. The lawyer for one said they had been jailed for a “thought crime”.

A jury convicted them in 2007 after hearing the men, of Bradford University and Ilford, London, became obsessed with jihadi websites and literature.

The Home Office said it would study the judgement carefully.

The judgement is available here.

We asked Mr Edis whether possession of an air ticket for travel to Pakistan would constitute “possession of an article for a purpose connected with the commission of acts of terrorism”. He answered that it would. What then, we asked, of the cheque book that was to be used to pay for the air ticket? Mr Edis conceded that we were getting into difficult territory. The reality is that the phrase “for a purpose in connection with” is so imprecise as to give rise to uncertainty unless defined in a manner that constrains it.

We have concluded that, if section 57 is to have the certainty of meaning that the law requires, it must be interpreted in a way that requires a direct connection between the object possessed and the act of terrorism. The section should be interpreted as if it reads:

A person commits an offence if he possesses an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that he intends it to be used for the purpose of the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.

Section 57 reads:

A person commits an offence if he possesses an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that his possession is for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.

So,

We do not consider that it was made plain to the jury, whether by the prosecution or by the Recorder, that the case that the appellants had to face was that they possessed the extremist material for use in the future to incite the commission of terrorist acts. We doubt whether the evidence supported such a case.

Difficult questions of interpretation have been raised in this case by the attempt by the prosecution to use section 57 for a purpose for which it was not intended. The Recorder understandably sought to apply that section in accordance with the wide scope suggested by its wording. We have ruled that this wording must be given a more restricted meaning. The consequence of this is that the basis upon which the appellants were convicted is shown to have been unsound. Their appeals are allowed and their convictions must be quashed.

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