The number of terror arrests resulting in charges is in line with figures for other indictable offences, the first bulletin on terror statistics in seven years has revealed.
Over a third, 35 per cent, of people arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act go on to be charged for a criminal offence, only four per cent higher than those prosecuted for indictable offences, such as murder, manslaughter or rape.
A further nine per cent of terrorism arrests result in action other than criminal charges, such as transfer to immigration authorities.
Between September 11, 2001, and March 31, 2008, 1,471 people have been arrested under terrorism offences. Since 2002/03 there has been an average of 227 terrorism arrests a year.
While 60 per cent of those charged following terrorist arrests were convicted of terrorism-related offences, less than eight per cent were charged with terrorist offences.
The statistics released were announced earlier in the year but their publication was delayed as some discrepancies were checked. While the figures announced by Chief Scientific Adviser Paul Wiles are now being treated as National Statistics, they are not yet officially classified as such. They remain official statistics under the Government’s Statistics and Registration Act 2008.
These are the first figures to be released since 2001 when acts of terrorism ceased in Northern Ireland. They include all arrests between the period of September 11, 2001, to March 31, 2008. They do not account for cases where charges have not yet been delivered; therefore the sentencing of the men currently convicted of involvement with 7/7 terror attack are not included in the figures.
The most common offence for arrests under terrorism legislation was possession of an article for terrorist purposes; which made up 32 per cent of the charges. Under non-terrorism legislation, but for an offence deemed terrorist-related, the most common offence was conspiracy to murder, which comprised 31 per cent of arrests.
Of the 1,471 arrests, 162 , or 11 per cent, resulted in non-terrorist related charges. The most common offence being forgery and counterfeiting, which accounted for 23 per cent of the non-terrorist related charges.
People of Asian appearance arrested made up 42 per cent of the total arrests (617), but only 142, (23 per cent) of these were charged with terrorism-related offences. This is compared to 29 per cent of white people arrested for terrorism offences being charged and 37 per cent of black people.
Six people have been detained for the full 28-day pre-charge detention period since it was increased on July 25, 2006. Of these, three were charged and three were released without charge.
In 2006/07, there were fewer people arrested for terrorism offences, but a higher percentage were charged, compared to 2007/08.
As of March 31, 2008, 125 people were serving prison sentences for terrorist-related offences; the figure does not include those detained by immigration authorities or awaiting extradition. Of these, 17 are classified as “domestic extremists/separatists”; they have committed crimes such as combating national security and have not been charged in relation to terrorism on a national scale.
In 2007/08, 31 people were convicted under terrorism legislation and 25 were convicted under non-terrorism legislation. The conviction rate for those charged under non-terror legislation appears to be higher, at 80 per cent, than those convicted for charges under terror related legislation, at 46 per cent.
Since September 11, 2001, most convictions were for possession of an article for terrorist purposes – 22 per cent. Most convictions under non-terrorism legislation were under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 (16 per cent).
The number of charges resulting in a conviction were at their highest in 2005/06. This number dropped dramatically in 2006/07 and dropped further in 2007/08. However, as a number of cases from recent years remain open, the year on year figures are not entirely comparable.
Since 2005/06 the conviction rate under terrorism legislation has been higher than under non-terrorism legislation and the number of people convicted under terror legislation remains fairly constant between 2006/06 and 2007/08. But between 2001/02 and 2004/05 convictions under terror legislation continually dropped, reaching its lowest point of around five per cent in 2004/05.
March 2008 to March 2009 figures are to be released in the autumn with quarterly releases from there on.
Shadow Security Minister Baroness Neville-Jones of the Conservative Party has criticised the delay in their release.
“These figures are months late because Labour initially got their sums wrong. It’s interesting to compare how many of those arrested have subsequently been convicted. A lot of people have been released without charge, like the 12 arrested last month in the north west. Whilst the number of arrests increased in 2007-08, the number of people charged dropped by a quarter.
“One of the most powerful deterrents to terrorism is successful prosecution and imprisonment. The Government needs to allow intercept evidence in court so that real terrorists don’t get let off for lack of admissible evidence,” she said.
- People arrested under terrorism offences since April 1, 2005:
•Under 21 – 11 per cent
•21-30 – 46 per cent
•Over 30 – 43 per cent
- 41 per cent of terrorist prisoners were remanded or convicted under terrorism legislation.
- 42 per cent were remanded or convicted for terrorism related offences under non-terrorism legislation.
- 62 per cent of terrorist prisoners class themselves as UK nationals.
- 56 per cent of prisoners remanded or convicted for terrorism-related offences were of Asian ethnic origin.
- All but one of the domestic extremists, such as animal rights protesters, were white.