UK terror watchdog warns against “thought-crime” laws

The UK’s independent terror watchdog has claimed it would be “quite wrong” to introduce laws to “criminalise thought without action” as he appeared to criticise a planned crackdown on online extremism.  

Max Hill QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation said: “We do not, and should not criminalise thought without action or preparation for action.

“Thought with steps towards action can be terrorism. Thought without action or preparation for action may be extremism, but it is not terrorism.”

He also warned ministers against rolling out new criminal offences and measures like banning orders and extremism disruption orders if they target people who may hold “extremist views” but are not actually taking steps to commit an act of terrorism.

Hill said such a crackdown on extremism would “fall on the wrong side of the divide.”

Prime Minister Theresa May held firm, saying that her government stood by moves to tackle the “scourge of extremism”.

Max Hill QC

Among new measures proposed Ms May to tackle extremism are banning orders and extremism disruption orders, backed by potential jail sentences. Hill, instead, urged ministers to speak to a wider range of Muslims, including those with whom they did not agree, and criticised calls for them to “do more to fight extremism” without spelling out what that should involve.

Earlier this month, Hill said Britons who joined ISIS through “naivety” should be spared prosecution and instead be allowed to reintegrate back into society if they return home.

That contrasted significantly with remarks from Foreign Office minister, Rory Stewart, who said that “in almost every case British ISIS fighters should be killed.”

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