A top QC has blasted the UK government’s counter-extremism plans as ‘dangerous, alarming and quite wrong’.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Law in action programme, David Anderson QC said the new laws being proposed by government were ‘dangerous and quite wrong’.
The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation commented that the 2015 draft of the Counter Extremism Bill is the ‘single most alarming document he has seen in his six years in the job’ — even ahead of top secret material about terrorism.
Mr Anderson said, ‘Over the last six years I’ve seen an awful lot of secret material. Everything to do with the operation of the laws against terrorism, everything to do with surveillance. I think the single document that has alarmed me most was the early draft, I emphasise, of the Counter-Extremism Bill that I saw in the summer of 2015. Since then, we’ve seen nothing definite’.
When asked how easy it was to define non-violent extremism, Mr Anderson replied that while the concept was already touched on in law, ‘applying it to ideas that are, for example, un-British or opposed to democracy, seems to me very dangerous and quite wrong. We got through the Cold War after all without making it illegal to be a Communist or express Communist opinions’.
Simon Calvert, campaign director for the group Defend Free Speech, which is opposed to the proposals to target non-violent extremism within the Counter Extremism Bill, welcomed Mr Anderson’s remarks.
Mr Calvert said, ‘David Anderson is well placed to assess the government’s approach to counter-extremism. He is saying, plainly and robustly, that the government is on the wrong track. The proposals — and Extremism Disruption Orders in particular — are dangerous. They need to be stopped before ordinary people are criminalised because their views don’t fit the government’s ideological straitjacket of British values’.