Fears of academic freedom being affected by new counter terrorism bill

Theresa May’s proposed counter terrorism bill has come under fire from activist groups and teachers unions.

Home Secretary Theresa May’s speech where she proposed a new bill to fight terrorism within the UK has been criticised by the Open Rights Group and the Human Rights watch.

One of the proposed measures for the bill is a new statutory duty on colleges, schools, prisons, probation providers, police and councils to prevent individuals being drawn into terrorism. Ministers will have powers to issue directions to organisations that repeatedly invite extremist speakers or fail in the duty in other ways.

Mary Senior, Official for the Scotland University and Colleges Union (UCU), said:

“Universities and colleges have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their students and staff and not to allow activities which are intended to foment hatred or violence, or to recruit support for unlawful activities such as terrorism.

“At the same time, universities and colleges rightly cherish, and must continue to promote, academic freedom as a key tenet of a civilised society.  It is essential to our democracy that all views are open to debate and challenge within the law.”

Tom Lawrence, from the Home Office Press office said:

“The purpose of our Prevent programme is stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. It deals with all kinds of terrorist threats to the UK.

“Prevent activity in local areas relies on the co-operation of many organisations to be effective. Currently, such co-operation is not consistent across the country.

“The new duty will require specified authorities to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. This will include local government, the police, prisons, providers of probation services, schools, colleges, universities and others.

“Universities’ commitment to freedom of speech and the rationality underpinning the advancement of knowledge means that they represent one of our most important safeguards against extremist views and ideologies.

“However, extremist preachers have used higher education institutions as a platform for spreading their messages. Universities must take seriously their responsibility to deny extremist speakers a platform.

“This duty is not about the government restricting freedom of speech — which the government is committed to – it is about universities taking account of the interests and well-being of all their students, staff and the wider community.”

The bill, which will be published tomorrow, will also give police the power to seize passports and travel documents for up to 30 days, from people thought to be leaving UK to engage in terrorism-related activities, and force internet services providers to release Internet Protocol addressees to the police in order to target individuals.

Edinburgh Airport hosts public safety event for Counter Terrorism Awareness Week

By Marion Guichaoua

Police Scotland will be present today at Edinburgh Airport to alert the public about safety travel, as part of Counter Terrorism Awareness Week.

Police Scotland,  the British Transport Police are amongst UK forces taking part in Counter Terrorism Awareness Week which will run from Monday 24 November until Sunday 30 November 2014.

They will be present in transport hubs all across the UK to help the public understand the threat to the UK and emphasise the importance of reporting any suspicious activity.

The Police Scotland website explains that: “The aim is not to alarm the public. No one is better placed to notice someone or something out of place within a community than those who live and work in that community.”

Staff who work across transport hubs will receive training to look out for suspicious behaviour and learn what they should do if an attack should happen.

Speaking ahead of the Safer Travel Days, Superintendent Alan Crawford said: “Police Scotland Border Policing Command welcomes this opportunity to raise the awareness of Counter Terrorism across the transport hubs and wider business community in Scotland.

“Airports and seaports are vibrant transport hubs where the public work and transit on a daily basis. These ports are, in their own right, communities where there is an opportunity for us all to report suspicious activity no matter how insignificant this may seem.

“At a time of increased threat levels, and with the focus on Syria and the Middle East, it is vital that collectively we work together to protect our border.”

Police Scotland also said: “Although the threat level has recently been increased to severe, meaning that a terrorist attack in the UK is “Highly Likely” there is no specific intelligence of any planned attack, however this raised threat level does mean that we all need to be vigilant.”

During Counter Terrorism Awareness Week, the focus will be on five key areas: vigilance in crowded places and transport hubs, preventing violent extremism, preventing financing of terrorist groups and ensuring the safety and security of goods and materials which could be used by terrorists.

There will be a range of activities taking place across Scotland including increased police patrols and additional training for those responsible for safety and security of buildings, businesses and neighbourhoods to help them recognise, respond to and report any suspicious activity.

Today also sees The Safer Travel Day initiative being held at airports and ports across Scotland where travelers will receive information and advice to help keep them safe.

David Wilson, Chief Operating Officer at Edinburgh Airport, said: “Keeping our passengers safe and secure is our number one priority and we work very closely with Police Scotland to ensure Edinburgh Airport is a safe environment for everyone.

“By supporting Counter Terrorism Week we’re playing our part in a much wider operation to ensure the safety of all passengers and employees. Events like today’s Safer Travel Day are vital to help educate people on how to spot potentially suspicious behaviour.”

“There will be high visibility police patrols throughout the airport with officers available today to talk to passengers and staff about how to spot potentially suspicious behaviour.

“Police Scotland is also working with OSCR, the Scottish Charity Regulator to remind everyone to be cautious of donating to charity via third parties.

“OSCR’s Head of Engagement, Judith Turbyne, said:”We are pleased to support Counter-Terrorism Awareness Week, to alert the public in making sure that they check the organisations seeking donations from them.

“As with any requests for donations, there are a number of simple checks that you can make.  You can check the Scottish Charity Register and view our guide to Safer Giving at www.oscr.org.uk.”

 

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 448 other followers