London: Terrorist Attacks

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:55 pm on 20th July 2005.

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Photo of Lord Donaldson of Lymington Lord Donaldson of Lymington Crossbench 3:55 pm, 20th July 2005

My Lords, I invite the Minister to consider including in the definition of acts preparatory words that one can take from Section 22 of the Theft Act in relation to handling stolen goods, that the offence is only committed if the perpetrator knows or believes that what he or she is doing is an act preparatory to terrorism.

I raise that because one the features of the problems that arose on 7 July appears to be that the bombers were able to prepare for and carry out their attacks without the knowledge of anyone closely connected with them. A possible way in which that can happen is if someone invites you to go out and buy some materials, allegedly for a perfectly harmless purpose, and you might well help them out by going and buying them. You would in fact be involved in an act preparatory to terrorism, but if you know nothing about it you should not be prosecuted.

I mentioned the handling of stolen goods; one has to be careful not to go so far as to criminalise suspicions. There must be some people in this House who sometimes speculated whether something offered for sale at a low price fell off the back of a lorry—that is a suspicion. If you know or believe, that is a different matter, and that is an offence.