Is it a criminal offence to watch a video?

The Metropolitan Police put out an alarmist statement this week that, in certain circumstances, merely viewing a video could constitute a criminal offence under terrorist legislation.

 

This is, of course, false.

 

There is no such terrorism offence for viewing a video, and the Met could not substantiate their claim when challenged.  It seems to me that the Met press office simply invented a “viewing” offence.

 

My full post on the Met’s alarmist and false statement is at the FT (free to access, but registration required).  The conclusion of my FT post (which should be read in full for context) reads:

It would appear that the [Met] press office, which had produced and promoted the bold statement that that “viewing” a video could itself be a criminal act under terrorism legislation, could not substantiate it when challenged.

This was worrying. People need reliable and accurate public information, and they have the right to expect it from the well-funded PR departments of UK police forces. If a police force tells people something is against the law then it should be able to instantly say on demand what that law is. The law should not be made up by press officers as they go along, especially in respect of matters such as terrorism where confidence in law enforcement agencies is crucial.

It cannot be the role of any police force to publish alarmist and false statements about the criminal law.

 

There is also a detailed storify-style timeline of my tweets recording my conversation with the Met press office.

 

Even though what the Met said was not true, almost every news media outlet published the assertion without challenging it.  Not really their fault, though: one would think that the press office of Scotland Yard could be relied upon to correctly state the criminal law of the land.

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Is it a criminal offence to watch a video?”

  1. Without disagreeing with you I rather like Bingham’s comment in A(FC) and others v Secretary of State (2004) where he refers to the appellants being able to draw on ‘the long libertarian tradition of English law’ in the form of the charter. The fact that a concept is so fundamental that it does not usually need to be pleaded does not mean that it is without effect.

    Other interesting observations can be found in Halliday (1917), Bancoult (2008) and Brandenburg (2003).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *