Fresh concerns raised over controversial border security bill

Committee on the Administration of Justice Deputy Director Daniel Holder
Connla Young

CONTROVERSIAL legislation proposed by the British government will give authorities in the UK the power to prosecute people alleged to have committed paramilitary offences outside that jurisdiction.

Earlier this year the Irish News revealed how the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill could establish a mile-wide ‘stop and search border zone' after Brexit.

It has now emerged that an ‘extra territorial jurisdiction' clause could mean that people accused of some paramilitary offences in foreign countries could be pursued through the courts in Britain and the north.

The proposed legislation, which is currently making its way through the House of Lords, would include offences listed in the Terrorism Act including making or possessing explosives under suspicious circumstances.

However, it will also include activities at the lower end of the scale including wearing a uniform associated with a proscribed organisation.

There are currently 14 proscribed organisations based in Ireland listed under the Terrorism Act, including all the main loyalist and republican groups.

However, this list includes several organisations that either no longer exist or have been on long-term ceasefire.

Among the groups listed is Cumann na mBan, which was formed in 1914, and although it continues to exist today is not considered to be an active paramilitary

During a debate in the House of Lords on the proposed legislation last week David Anderson, known as Lord Anderson of Ipswich, failed to introduce an amendment that would have forced the Secretary of State to annually review the list of proscribed organisations.

During the debate he spoke of how he has previously referred to Cumann na mBan.

“I cited the example of the women's group, Cumann na mBan - any involvement in violence far in the past and its centenary celebrations recently attended by the Irish President,” he said.

Concerns were raised in the House of Lords that some organisations have been wrongly proscribed by the British government.

Deputy Director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice Daniel Holder raised concerns about the ‘extra territorial jurisdiction' clause.

“Such an extended law could make some lawful republican commemorations in the Republic an extraditable terrorist crime in the UK,” he said.

“Potentially, this could even include ones organised by the Irish government.”

“It may be said that it highly unlikely the police would ever pursue such cases.

“However, it is not good enough to say we are going to make something a crime, but then not apply the law - the law should be precise.”

Mr Holder added that “current legislation fails to make clear distinctions between past and present organisations”.

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