But the UK has three advantages when it comes to preventing terror, says the outgoing Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislationby Sam Macrory / February 21, 2017 / Leave a comment
When a reshuffled minister hands in their departmental pass, or a retired civil servant’s email address is switched off, they abruptly become an outsider looking in. David Anderson, the outgoing Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, will soon be in a similar position when his access to state secrets on the terror threat facing the UK ends. On Monday, it was announced that Max Hill QC will be his successor. “When I read a story and the realisation dawns that I cannot ask to see the document that will tell me what was really going on, I’m sure it will be a shock.”
But he has never been, as his website makes clear, “part of the government machine,” and Anderson has won praise for a willingness to speak to politicians, campaigners, lawyers and individuals affected by government laws and strategies, and for standing up to power when required.
“What impressed me about Theresa May was her thoroughness,” Anderson cautiously replies when asked about his dealings with the former Home Secretary. “I would go to see her and discuss my reports and notice that there were notes and marginal comments on nearly every page—no doubt sometimes disobliging ones. But that, I suspect, is not a quality reserved to home secretaries. How it is transferable into the office of prime minister is for others to judge.”
Upwards of 10 major terrorist attacks have been foiled since 52 people lost their lives in the 7/7 attacks on London in 2005, with just one person—Fusilier Lee Rigby—killed in an act of Islamist terrorism. In the same period, Anderson points out, far-right acts of terror have claimed the lives of the pensioner Mohammed Saleem in 2013 and Labour MP Jo Cox last summer.
The balance between security and defending civil liberties is, he says, healthier than when he began the role in 2011, with Anderson crediting “the British public, which decided to vote in two parties which stood for the cautious rolling back of the laws we had at that time.” The Conservative-Lib Dem coalition ended no suspicion stop-and-search, reduced pre-charge retention to a maximum of 14 days, and put a time limit on the use of control orders. And while Anderson warns that recent terror attacks across Europe show that “you need skill and good luck to avoid…