Role And Significance Of Victims In The Law Criminology Essay

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Undoubtedly traumatic in its impact, the crime of terrorism eludes simple analysis. The dark complexity of suicide attacks has exposed inadequacies of security forces, religious figures and psychologists. It is no wonder that drastic action is seen as needed in combating such a group of people that have total disregard for society.

It is than understandable why measures (such as specialist anti-terror laws) are put in place to protect us from direct contact with such individuals, and it is such measures which show the significance of the public/ potential victims, in the current state of the law.

Legal activism is seen as the best way to combat terrorism with the argument that such laws are justified by the currently unprecedented threat of attack.

The significance of victims is vast in, not only from the thousands that have previously died in such attacks, but also for the protection of any member of the public that could be a victim. Therefore it is in their interest laws protecting them are passed.

However, there are no simple solutions to cope with terrorism thus a broad range of responses are needed to reduce the risk of further terrorist attacks. These responses come in the form of Pre-charge detention, detention without trial and control orders, but how well do they serve the interests of the victims? Not very well as the law that is in practice can be seen to be not just unfair but going against the public (the potential victims) that it is meant to protect.

From the definition of the word 'terrorism', protection of these potential victims does not look good. This is because the current legal definition of terrorism appears to be broadly drawn so it includes activities that would not generally be considered terrorist activity in the ordinary English usage of the word. This is because by including violence against property, the definition could extend the meaning of terrorist activity to cover non-violent protest, which while amounting to criminal damage cannot be considered "terrorism".

Also, there is the danger of limiting free speech involved in ancillary offences regarding terrorism. This is particularly applicable where the same definition of what constitutes terrorism applies to activity in democratic states domestically, and activity in undemocratic and illegitimate states abroad.

Under UK legislation, the maximum period for individuals suspected of terrorism is currently 28 days - this seems excessive in that it is seven times the limit for someone suspected of murder. Nevertheless it can be seen to serve the interest of the potential victims in that terrorism cases for a number of reasons.

The first of these is that terrorism cases are more complex with the use of false identities and international links, thus justification comes in that the police need more time for their investigations. This is not least because the volume and nature of material needed to be sifted through warrants the time scale of detention.

What is more is that there is a need to forestall major acts of violence by terrorists which means that those suspected of planning attacks must often be apprehended on the basis of information derived from intelligence and at a stage when a great deal of evidence remains to be granted and evaluated.

However most importantly, terrorism differs from most other offences in the weight that must be given to preventing its commission, especially in an age of suicide bombers and attacks without warning. All the above with this particular factor can be seen to best serve any potential victims by limiting the threat to an absolute minimum.

Having said this, the duration of pre-charge detention seems excessive to say the least seeing as though Canada only holds such suspects for 1 day, America for 2 and Ireland, with an extensive terrorist past only holds them for 7 respectively.

It is for that reason that many voice their opinions that the limit of detention should be reduced in that the measures in place are excessive in the goal to limit the number of potential victims. Lord Carlile of Berriew has said that he expects to see cases in which the maximum of 28 days will be proved inadequate. JUSTICE also recognised via the counter terrorism proposals, Para. 10, that there could even be arguments for extending pre charge trial potentially running for as long as the police show diligence in pursuing the investigation.

The current length of pre-charge detention does not deploy the criminal process how it should be as it undermines the very essence of the due process which guarantees both a part of a traditional part of common law and a central part of our international human rights. Protection of potential victims can be seen to be achieved here, but it comes at the price of disregarding such an integral part of our legal system.

Some may argue that the state has a responsibility to protect freedom, not just from agents of the state but from individuals within it. It can therefore be considered that strong and robust Anti-terror measures are a means of protecting potential victims and freedoms.

Having said this, a form of a precedent is found in Internment. This was introduced to Northern Ireland in the 1970's and it was a huge failure as many of the people who were interned had not been active in the IRA since 1916 and it led to civil unrest.

In regards to the area of pre- charge detention, it is questionable if it has served in the interest of the victims, but what is of a greater worry is that it is not right how easily we are allowing years of hard won liberties and democratic principles to be thrown away, abandoning justice out of fear is a shameless act and an affront to all those who struggled for such basic human rights in the past.

Control orders are another way in which the law tries to protect potential victims. A control order is an order made by the Home Secretary to restrict an individual's liberty for the purpose of protecting members of the public from a risk of terrorism. Its definition and powers were provided by Parliament in the Prevention of Terrorism Act [1] .

These control orders range from non derogating control orders that have minor restrictions to derogating control orders that by s.1 (10) (a) are orders that are incompatible with ones right to liberty under Article 5 of the Human Rights Act [2] . Such orders can be placed on British Nationals and foreign suspects alike.

The question is however are control orders an appropriate mechanism for protecting members of the public/ potential victims, from the risk of terrorism? The fact is that they are believed by many to be appropriate, shown by the than Prime Minister Tony Blair arguing 'they are not a strong method of keeping people under control. They are the best we can do within the legislation that exists'. They gain more of a case for themselves in that they are the strongest option open to the authorities who are barred from detaining suspects or deporting foreign national suspects.

It could also be argued in their favour that despite their weaknesses, they keep tabs on people whose free movement around Britain could threaten national security. What is more is that their very existence sends out a powerful deterrent message to people who might otherwise be caught up in terrorist activity. Thus all such actions can be seen to help potential victims by minimising the risk of attack.

Not everyone has the stated above view in that it is argued by civil liberties groups and Muslim organisations that control orders fly in the face of natural justice because suspects can effectively be deprived of their freedom on the basis of secret information and without even being accused of a crime. This brings me to question that if they have not be accused of anything thus have not done anything wrong, yet are under such orders why are the public being protected as victims? Moreover why are the public considered victims?

With the great deal the people who are placed under such restraints have to deal with it begs the question how are they not considered the victims?

The above is especially so considering the a few people are suffering, some of whom will no doubt be innocent, for the greater good, a policy which is not right.

In light of modern terrorism it is debatable whether specialist terrorism law even serves the interest of the victims. The only real other alternative there seems to be is that of using the traditional criminal justice system.

Disadvantages of taking this approach is that the police will lose the proactive element of their investigation as they would need to look for evidence before an arrest can take place, add to this a traditional criminal justice system deals with a crime once it has been committed, with terrorism cases a crime would rather be prevented before it is committed. Another pitfall from using the criminal justice system is that it is that the police could only hold suspects for a maximum of 3 days before they must be charged. Furthermore is that it be harder for the police to obtain evidence as it making a premises secure takes a few days in itself

However using the criminal justice system will help serve the interest of victims not just through convictions but also by ensuring the victims that are wrongfully arrested have the benefit not to be detained for an excessive amount of time even when their guilt cannot be proven.

The above in turn will ensure that wrongfully charged victims human rights are protected to a much greater, which also provides a much clearer cut way of dealing with the suspects fairly and quickly. Victims will know what they have done wrong and so if they do have any defence they could put it forward. Victims will also at least benefit from a presumption of innocents and ant trial of the accused will at least be a fair trial under Article 6 of the Human Rights Act [3] .

It is debateable as to whether we, the public (as potential victims), need such specialist anti terror law. This is because there are too many acts and too much power under each act to justify. As previously stated, there are no simple solutions to cope with terrorism thus a broad range of responses are needed to reduce the inevitable risk of further unprecedented threat of terrorist attacks.

The Terrorism Act [4] shows how much we have given up in that not only does it widen the definition of terrorism to domestic terrorism which includes political, religious and ideological cause, it creates new offences of inciting terrorism and enhances policing powers which includes that of stop and searches creating the effect that the potential victims of potential terrorist attacks have become victims in another way from their over powered state. The state has to remember that not only does it have a duty to protect potential victims from terrorist attacks but also those who have been accused without charge because until proven they are also victims and deserve to be treated as such.

What it comes down to is that these powers cast a wide net for treating more and more people as 'terror suspects', not to mention anti terror powers foster a racist culture of suspicion towards essentially migrants and Muslims, treating them as suspect communities. This politics of fear helps to intimidate dissent and so shield the government's foreign policies from criticism and protest.

It all comes back to the Terrorism Act as it is this act that underpins all subsequent anti-terror laws. As previously mentioned, it defines terrorism to include simply 'the threat' of serious damage to property, in ways designed to influence the government to act for a 'political cause' anywhere in the world. . This broad definition stigmatises a wide range of legitimate political activity as terrorism. Organisations could be banned on the basis that their activities in other countries fit the broad definition of terrorism. Since the introduction of the act the Home Office banned more than forty organisations, free speech has suffered a devastating attack and political activists have been prosecuted.

The prevention of terrorism act also criminalised any statements 'glorifying terrorism', or possession of any item which 'may be useful for terrorism'. Again these powers referred to the broad definition of terrorism from the 2000 law. Some 'suspects' have been prosecuted simply for downloading documents from the internet, for possessing 'radical' DVDs, for exploring websites, and for writing poems. These prosecutions intimidate dissent against the government's foreign policies.

Attacks on civil liberties are not simply a means but also a fundamental purpose of 'anti-terror' laws. As previously stated, ordinary criminal law provides more than adequate powers for the police to protect the public.

'Anti-terror' laws contradict fundamental principles of justice - the presumption of innocence and a fair trial by jury. They treat suspicion as guilt, impose punishment without trial, and allow arbitrary executive decisions.

All these powers could be used even more extensively against any of us making us all victims from a law that is meant to serve us, bringing this country closer to a police state.

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