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Parliament passes counter terrorism legislation

Parliament in session

Parliament has unanimously passed fundamental legislation designed to equip law enforcement agencies with the tools that they require to counter the “scourge” of terrorism.

The Terrorism Act 2018 repeals the existing Terrorism Act 2005 and replaces it with a much more comprehensive and robust regime.

In presenting the legislation to the House Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said: “It is regrettable that we need this legislation, but this is the unfortunate reality of the world in which we live.”

The new Act makes provision for a wide range of conduct including acts that are intended to encourage terrorist activity, the provision of training, travelling abroad for the purpose of terrorism, funding travelling abroad for the purpose of terrorism and financing offences in addition to acts such as bombing.

The legislation passed with one amendment after GSD MP Daniel Feetham called for a tightening up of the wording of one section to limit the types of criminal conduct in-scope there.

The Opposition welcomed the legislation and Mr Picardo thanked them for their “positive contributions”.

The Leader of the Opposition, Elliott Phillips said: “Terrorism is a global threat to our way of life and it is right that our law enforcement agencies are supported and are given enhanced tools to fight this evil.”

Honing in on specific sections of the legislation which provide for the suppression of the financing of terrorism he said that given Gibraltar’s status as a financial centre “we must acknowledge that within the financial service provision there are possibilities, unwittingly and innocently, for financial service providers to become mixed up in terrorist financing.”

He added: “So it is important, of course, that we strengthen those powers to deal with that and the forfeiture provisions in particular are to be welcomed.”

The terms of the legislation came about from a request by the Royal Gibraltar Police for the provision of certain powers that are available to their UK counterparts.

Although the legislation affords police more powers in this respect it also ensures increased accountability, Mr Picardo said.

He said the ability to extend the period of detention under the new legislation is “the best place to see how we have sought to ensure the right balance between the increase of the power to the law enforcement agencies and the increased accountability that will be required”.

Under the new legislation suspects can be detained for up to 17 days of detention, which is significantly longer than the 24 hour detention limit for detainees in respect of other offences, but every 12 hours there will be an assessment of the individuals detention and a decision whether or not to continue that detention.

“So yes more power but also more requirement for accountability because it’s important that our law enforcement agencies have these powers but it’s important that our law enforcement agencies account for the exercise of those powers,” he said.

“Our first duty as Parliamentarians is to ensure the safety and security of our citizens,” Mr Picardo told MPs.

“This legislation gives our police the power and the tools to ensure that safety and provide that security in respect of terrorist activities.”