New Judgment: R v Gul  UKSC 64
23 Wednesday Oct 2013
On appeal from:  EWCA Crim 280
This appeal concerned the publication of videos showing attacks by al-Qaeda and the Taliban, with commentary encouraging others to emulate the attacks. The issue for the Supreme Court was whether the definition of ‘terrorism’ in the Terrorism Act 2000, s 1 includes military attacks by non-state armed groups against national or international armed groups in a non-international armed conflict.
The appeal was unanimously dismissed. The Court first considered the application of domestic law principles to the definition of ‘terrorism’, and then considered whether that resulted in a conclusion which has to be adapted to meet the requirements of international law that are incorporated into domestic law.
There is no basis on which the very wide meaning of s 1 could be read restrictively. The definition had been drafted in deliberately wide terms in order to take account of the various and unpredictable forms terrorism might take. It was observed that creating an offence with a broad reach and then invoking prosecutorial discretion as a means of mitigation is undesirable and should only be adopted if it is unavoidable.
In terms of international law, there had been UN resolutions referring to the activities of al-Qaeda and the Taliban as ‘terrorism’, and the international law of armed conflict does not give any immunity to combatants in non-international armed conflicts.