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Friday, 14 December, 2001, 09:46 GMT
Anti-terror Act at-a-glance
Sellafield
Nuclear plants will be better protected
After a prolonged parliamentary tussle that only ended with government concessions, emergency powers prompted by the 11 September attacks on the United States have now become UK law.

The main measures in the new Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act cover a number of areas including:

Tracking terrorist funds

The act allows "account monitoring orders" enabling the police to require financial institutions to provide information on accounts for up to 90 days.

The existing legal duty to report suspicion of terrorist financing is strengthened so it is an offence not to report where there were "reasonable grounds" for suspicion.

Law enforcement agencies are able to freeze assets at the start of an investigation, rather than when the person is about to be charged.

Information sharing

Government agencies such as Customs and Excise and the Inland Revenue are now able to pass on information to police and other security services where national security is an issue.

Ministers agreed a compromise where any disclosure of such data has to be proportionate to tackling terror.

Detention without trial

The home secretary gets the power to detain suspected international terrorists without trial where their deportation is not possible.

The indefinitely renewable internments required part of the Human Rights Act to be set aside, which meant the home secretary had to deem the UK to be in a state of public emergency.

Detained suspects will have their cases reviewed by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, whose status was raised as one of the government's concessions.

Weapons of mass destruction

The law is changed to punish those who help foreign groups or regimes to acquire nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

Regulations governing laboratories where "dangerous pathogens" are held are tightened and the use of biological weapons becomes a specific offence for the first time.

The police force that patrol nuclear sites, as well as military and transport police, receive extended powers and jurisdictions.

Communications monitoring

Communications companies will be able to retain information on calls and other communication made by customers such as numbers called or e-mail addresses.

They will not retain the contents of e-mails or phone calls.

Until now companies have been obliged to erase data when no longer needed for billing, which has a "severe impact on criminal investigations".

Under another last-minute concession from ministers, the scope of the power is limited to where there is suspicion of terrorist activity.

Bribery

The laws against bribery are expanded to include cases involving foreign nationals.

Anti-globalisation campaigners have previously demanded such a measure on the basis that UK-based corporations could bribe officials in developing countries with impunity.

No backdating

The legislation, drawn up in the wake of the anthrax scares across the UK that followed the 11 September attacks, means bioterror hoaxers face up to seven years in prison.

Initial plans for that new offence to be retrospective were dropped after criticism that backdating the law would break basic legal principles.

It is understood that "white powder hoaxes" tailed off after the government announced its intentions to strengthen punishment.

Other measures

The act allows law enforcement agencies to see aircraft passenger manifests and cargo details, a measure that will also help fight smuggling and drug trafficking.

GCHQ, the communications monitoring agency, has its role expanded, while new terrorist taskforces can be created more easily.

Review

Ministers refused to accept a "sunset clause" which would have meant the legislation fell after one year.

The government has, however, agreed that a Privy Council committee of "wise people" will review the measures within two years, with their report debated in Parliament.

See also:

14 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Battle ends over anti-terror bill
14 Dec 01 | Europe
Terror overshadows EU summit
13 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Anti-terror laws unveiled
12 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Terror detention move under way
12 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Law boosts terror cash crackdown
28 Sep 01 | Business
Net closes on terror cash
20 Sep 01 | UK Politics
EU must act fast on terror - Blunkett
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