Learning from the past: Why Mike Baird’s new counter-terrorism bill will fail

On May 4, 2016, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird announced on his Facebook page about new legislation that was tabled in NSW parliament this week.

Today we introduced legislation into Parliament that will allow our Police to detain and question individuals, without charge, for up to 14 days if they are suspected of committing or planning terrorist acts. The laws will apply to anyone over 14 years of age.

– Excerpt from Mike Baird’s Facebook post, 4 May 2016

Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.

“But what could possibly go wrong?” I hear you ask…

The British Parliament enacted similar legislation in the 1970s to combat the IRA terrorist threat

In 1969, the Irish Republican Army was founded. The Provisional Irish Republican Army is the recognised terrorist organisation, not to be confused with the Official Irish Republican Army. The PIRA’s goal was to remove Northern Ireland from British rule and unite it with the Republic of Ireland. Until the PIRA declared a ceasefire on 19 July 1997 (effective 20 July 1997), they were responsible for several bombings and assassinations (among other things) around Northern Ireland and Great Britain, targeting British government officials, military targets, civilians and police.

In 1974, in an effort to combat the IRA, British parliament passed the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974, which enabled police to detain suspects for up to five days (initially 48 hours) without a warrant and on reasonable suspicion that they were guilty of a terrorism offence. Sounds good in theory, but in practice…

The only people arrested and convicted under the Act were innocent

On 5 October 1974, the PIRA detonated bombs at two pubs in Guildford, Surrey. Their targets were chosen based on the popularity of the two pubs among British army personnel from nearby Pirbright barracks. Then on 7 November 1974, a shrapnel bomb exploded in the Kings Arms pub, Woolwich.

The Guildford Four, as they became collectively known, were:

  • Gerard Conlon
  • Paul Hill
  • Patrick Armstrong
  • Caroline Richardson

The Maguire Seven were arrested on suspicion that they had supplied explosives to the IRA. They were:

  • Anne Maguire
  • Patrick Maguire (Snr)
  • Patrick Maguire (Jnr) (a minor aged 14 years at the time of the bombings)
  • Vincent Maguire (a minor aged 17 years at the time of the bombings)
  • Sean Smyth
  • Patrick O’Neill
  • Patrick “Giuseppe” Conlon

The Guildford Four and Maguire Seven were arrested shortly after the bombings. Despite having alibis that were verified by witnesses, they were detained and charged. They were allegedly beaten and tortured, an allegation which Gerard Conlon maintained right up to his death in 2014. An inquiry was conducted to investigate the failings of the police investigation at the time, but it stopped short of suggesting that there was an official coverup. Gerry Conlon had spoken candidly about the impact the wrongful conviction had had on him and the others since their release, and wrote an autobiography, upon which the movie In the Name of the Father was based. Paul Hill’s letters to his family were donated to the Archive of the Irish in Britain.

The four IRA paramilitaries involved in the Balcombe Street Siege in December 1975, were arrested and brought to trial in 1977. During their trial, they claimed responsibility for the Guildford pub bombings, stating that “four innocent people were in prison for a crime they didn’t commit”, referring to the Guildford Four. Despite this confession, they were never charged, let alone tried, for their alleged involvement in the Guildford pub bombings.

The Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven had their convictions quashed in 1991.

A similar case is the Birmingham Six.

The Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act didn’t make the British people any safer, as evidenced by the continued IRA activity up until they declared their ceasefire.

And the legislation currently being tabled in New South Wales isn’t going to make the people of New South Wales any safer either.

“But what about the Lindt Cafe Siege?”

Let’s get this out of the way. Man Haron Monis, the gunman responsible for the siege, had no connections with any terrorist organisation (let alone the Islamic State), was on bail and awaiting trial for being an accessory before and after the fact in the murder of his wife, and for several sexual assaults. Further, ASIO dismissed Monis as a “serial pest” and didn’t take reports regarding posts on Monis’ Facebook page seriously. Muslims who were contacted to help the police comply with Monis’ request for an IS flag, felt as though they were set up. If state and federal governments and the judiciary in Australia treated violence against women as seriously as the threat of terrorism, Monis wouldn’t have been out on bail and the Lindt Cafe siege would never have happened. The last act of terrorism to happen in NSW was the Hilton Hotel bombing in 1978. That’s 38 years ago. And yet, as at 3 May 2016, 30 women have been murdered by a current or former partner in 2016.

Now, just say, hypothetically, that this bill passed into law. Replace “Irish” with “Muslim” and 25 years later, we will hear about how NSW Police tortured suspects and coerced them into signing false confessions, and these confessions were the only piece of “evidence” that the Police had to support their case. Despite having witnesses coming forward to provide evidence supporting alibis (and in this day and age, CCTV footage which proves their suspects were elsewhere at the time of any crime), they will withhold this evidence from the defence to secure convictions, or the defence will otherwise be unable to obtain this evidence to defend their case.

“But wait”, I hear you say, “the police wouldn’t do that!”

NSW Police have a history of corruption

Remember the Wood Royal Commission into Corruption in the NSW Police Service? Do you really think we will trust them to act reasonably? ‘Nuff said.

Still not convinced? I’ll leave you with this little gem:

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
– John Dalberg-Acton


About meganmasters2015

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was a child, I would create characters and write about their adventures. This continued through my teenage years. I am studying Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing. After I complete this course, I can become an editor, copywriter and freelance for writing research reports, journals and content for different media. I also have a profile on NaNoWriMo, and I achieved my 50,000 words for 2014.
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