A further sickening development was that the murder was filmed and the film posted on to the internet. Of course, it is beyond belief that any right-thinking decent person would wish to view such material. Nevertheless, the Metropolitian Police saw fit to issue the following warning:
This prompted the leading writer on legal matters - David Allen Green - to question whether merely viewing this material could actually be an offence under terrorism law.
Mr Green took the matter up with the Police. He published an article about this in his Times blog 21st August. Please read the article - Registration is required but it is free to do so.
It appears that the Police either could not or would not clarify the precise law under which mere viewing may be an offence though Mr Green states that sections 1 and 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006 were referred to. Here is a necessarily very brief look at those sections.
Terrorism Act 2006 sections 1 and 2
These are complex provisions aimed at preventing by criminal sanctions either the encouragement of terrorism (section 1) or the dissemination of terrorist publications (section 2). Both section 1 and section 2 contain specific requirements relating to "mens rea" (guilty mind) and these are, of course, crucial in the definition of the offences in question.
Suppose, as an example, that D viewed the video and then sent it electronically to another. Such conduct would come with section 2(2)(e) - 'transmits the contents of such a publication electronically; ' -
BUT it would still be necessary for the prosecution to prove that D either`
Sections 1 and 2 of the 2006 Act provide for defences - see sections 1(6) and 2(9).
The reasoning of the Police in saying that viewing may be an offence is not clear and Mr Green did not succeed in getting further clarification. Having said all of this, as David Allen Green says, ' ... no sensible or civilized person would want to watch this video.' I absolutely agree with that and would not in any way encourage anyone to flout the Police advice. After all, according to Mr Green, they opted to stand by their warning.
Explanatory Notes to the Terrorism Act 2006 are available.
Daily Mail 20th August 2014 - Police warn .............. - contains a comment by barrister Adam Wagner (editor UK Human Rights blog)
*** NOTE - The government is keen that people report terrorist or extremist material which is found on the internet - See here
My @FT post on @metpoliceuk making a false alarmist statement about the law: http://t.co/H1fdAEUcXX - now with comments. Free, reg. req.
— David Allen Green (@DavidAllenGreen) August 21, 2014