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Information for the public and legal professionals on terrorism offences in Scotland, including COPFS policies and how we are implementing recommendations. 

What is terrorism?

The Terrorism Act 2000 defines terrorism, both in and outside of the UK, as the use or threat of one or more of the actions listed below, and where they are designed to influence the government, or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public. The use or threat must also be for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause.

The specific actions included are:

  • serious violence against a person;
  • serious damage to property;
  • endangering a person's life (other than that of the person committing the action);
  • creating a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public; and
  • action designed to seriously interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.

The use or threat of action, as set out above, which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism regardless of whether or not the action is designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public or a section of the public.

Action includes action outside the United Kingdom.

It is important to note that to be convicted of a terrorism offence a person doesn't actually have to commit what could be considered a terrorist attack. Planning, assisting and even collecting information on how to commit terrorist acts are all crimes under British terrorism legislation.

Reporting suspicious behaviour

Police Scotland have published counter terrorism advice including how to spot and report suspicious behaviour.

In an emergency dial 999. You can also report suspected terrorism through Police Scotland’s anti terrorist hotline on 0800 789 321.

Prosecution policies on terrorism

We have published guidelines for the Police about the detention, treatment and questioning of those suspected of terrorism offences. 

Joint working in the UK

We have published a statement of shared purpose on the handling of terrorist cases within the UK.

Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation recommendations

The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation (IRTL) is a UK-wide statutory position, with a remit to scrutinise and report on terrorism legislation. The current IRTL is Jonathan Hall KC, who was appointed to the role in May 2019. The IRTL prepares annual reports for the Home Secretary, which are laid before Parliament.

In 2019 the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation made a recommendation that COPFS publish a Code of Practice on the detention of individuals detained under section 41 and Schedule 9 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

In response to this recommendation COPFS published updated guidance on the detention, treatment and questioning of persons under terrorism legislation.

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