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Terrorism And Protest – What Are The Most Common Offences And How Can You Defend Yourself

There has been a recent increase in the number protestors who are being prosecuted for terrorism related offences, including for activity taking place online and during the course of peaceful marches.

A case that has received significant media attention is that of three individuals who displayed stickers of paragliders during a march in Central London in October 2023 concerning the conflict in Israel and Gaza. They were each charged with section 13 Terrorism Act 2000, the prosecution alleged that they displayed or wore an article in such a way or such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that they are supporters of a proscribed (terrorist) organisation. They were eventually tried at Westminster Magistrates’ Court and found guilty by a District Judge.

Section 13 Terrorism Act 2000 – Publication of images

The offence under section 13 TA is a ‘summary only’ offence, which means the trial can only take place in a Magistrates’ Court. Westminster Magistrates’ Court in Central London is the main lower Court dealing with terrorism offences. There will not be a jury determining the verdict, but a District Judge alone. Finally, the maximum sentence that can be imposed for a summary only offence in the Magistrates’ Court is six months in prison.

This offence is also called a ‘strict liability offence’, which means the prosecution is not required to prove any form of intent. Instead, all the prosecution needs to prove is that the defendant

i. wears an item of clothing, or

ii. wears, carries o displays an article

iii. in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that they are a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation.

Therefore, it does not matter what the defendant intended to do by displaying such articles or if in fact they do not support the prescribed organisation.

Under s13(1A) TA 2000, it is also an offence if a person publishes an image of an item of clothing or any other article. This is intended to apply to offending behaviour online, such as when sharing images or videos on social media.

Section 12 Terrorism Act 2000 – Support for a proscribed organisation

This offence concerns the expression of support for a proscribed organisation. It is more serious than s13 TA 2000, it can be tried by a jury in the Crown Court and it attracts a maximum sentence of fourteen years in prison.

It applies when an individual invites support for a proscribed organisation, or expresses an opinion or belief that is supportive of a proscribed organisation, for example when making a speech at a protest. The prosecution would need to prove that in doing so, they were reckless as to whether a person to whom the expression is directed will be encouraged to support a proscribed organisation.

It is also an offence under s12 to arrange, manage or assist in arranging or managing a meeting (the meeting has to be of at least three people, in private or public) which they know is to either:

i. Support a proscribed organisation,

ii. To further the activities of a proscribed organisation or

iii. To be addressed by a person who belongs or professes to belong to a proscribed organisation.

Section 1 Terrorism Act 2006 – Encouragement of terrorism

This is another offence relating to statements made in public or published, or which someone causes another person to publish, online or otherwise. The maximum sentence is fifteen years in prison and it is usually tried by jury in the Crown Court.

The prosecution also has to prove that at the time the statement is published, the individual either:

i. intends members of the public to be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate acts of terrorism or Convention offences; or

ii. is reckless as to whether members of the public will be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate such acts or offences.

Where recklessness alone is proved, it is a defence to say that:

(a) that the statement neither expressed their views nor had their endorsement and

(b) that it was clear, in all the circumstances of the statement’s publication, that it did not express his views and (apart from the possibility of his having been given and failed to comply with a notice under subsection (3) of that section) did not have his endorsement.

For the purposes of this offence, the statements that are likely to be understood, by a reasonable person, as indirectly encouraging the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism offences include every statement which:

(a) Glorifies the commission or preparation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of such acts or offences; and

(b) Is a statement from which members of the public could reasonably be expected to infer that what is being glorified is being glorified as conduct that should be emulated by them in existing circumstances.


There are circumstances in which issues of human rights will arise, in particular the right to freedom of speech under Article 10 ECHR and freedom to assembly, Article 11 ECHR, which together form the right to protest.

The specialist protest and terrorism lawyers at Hodge Jones & Allen will be able to advise you in relation to how your terrorism charge can be defended at Court, including by way of arguing any human rights-based defences.

Facing criminal proceedings for terrorism offences is particularly daunting given the stigma that comes with a terrorism conviction on your criminal records, and the other serious implication it can have on employment, travel and other aspects of life.

You should get in touch with a solicitor as early as possible in your proceedings to ensure you receive the most accurate advice in relation to your right in this complex area of law, and so that an effective strategy for your defence is in place from the very beginning. To speak to one of our criminal defence experts call 0330 822 3451 or request a callback online.

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