In regard to the quote from the Metropolitan Police warning, is it an offence specifically under the terrorism legislation to watch a video?

A Met police spokesperson

"We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under Terrorism legislation. " Huffington Post


1 Answer 1


is it an offence specifically under the terrorism legislation to watch a video?

Viewing a video is not, by itself, a criminal offense.
Viewing a video that was produced to promote terrorism is not, by itself, a criminal offense.
Viewing a terrorist training video with the intent to commit terrorist acts is a criminal offence.

According to legal commentator David Allan Green, the relevant act is the Terrorism Act 2006 sections 1 and 2

The Terrorism Act 2006 has three parts, the contents of parts 1 and 2 are

Part 1 Offences
  Encouragement etc. of terrorism
    1.Encouragement of terrorism
    2.Dissemination of terrorist publications
    3.Application of ss. 1 and 2 to internet activity etc.
    4.Giving of notices under s. 3
  Preparation of terrorist acts and terrorist training
    5.Preparation of terrorist acts
    6.Training for terrorism
    7.Powers of forfeiture in respect of offences under s. 6
    8.Attendance at a place used for terrorist training
  Offences involving radioactive devices and materials and nuclear facilities and sites
    9.Making and possession of devices or materials
    10.Misuse of devices or material and misuse and damage of facilities
    11.Terrorist threats relating to devices, materials or facilities
    12.Trespassing etc. on nuclear sites
  Increases of penalties
    13.Maximum penalty for possessing for terrorist purposes
    14.Maximum penalty for certain offences relating to nuclear material
    15.Maximum penalty for contravening notice relating to encrypted information
  Incidental provisions about offences
    16.Preparatory hearings in terrorism cases
    17.Commission of offences abroad
    18.Liability of company directors etc.
    19.Consents to prosecutions
  Interpretation of Part 1
    20.Interpretation of Part 1
Part 2 Miscellaneous provisions
  Proscription of terrorist organisations
    21.Grounds of proscription
    22.Name changes by proscribed organisations
  Detention of terrorist suspects
    23.Extension of period of detention of terrorist suspects
    24.Grounds for extending detention
    25.Expiry or renewal of extended maximum detention period
  Searches etc.
    26.All premises warrants: England and Wales and Northern Ireland
    27.All premises warrants: Scotland
    28.Search, seizure and forfeiture of terrorist publications
    29.Power to search vehicles under Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000
    30.Extension to internal waters of authorisations to stop and search
  Other investigatory powers
    31.Amendment of the Intelligence Services Act 1994
    32.Interception warrants
    33.Disclosure notices for the purposes of terrorist investigations
  Definition of terrorism etc.
    34.Amendment of the definition of “terrorism” etc.
  Other amendments
    35.Applications for extended detention of seized cash

Section 6 Training is

(2)A person commits an offence if—   
  (a)he receives instruction or training in any of the skills mentioned in
     subsection (3); and   
  (b)at the time of the instruction or training, he intends to use the skills
     in which he is being instructed or trained—
     (i)for or in connection with the commission or preparation of acts of 
        terrorism or Convention offences; or
     (ii)for assisting the commission or preparation by others of such acts 
         or offences. 
(3)The skills are—   
  (a)the making, handling or use of a noxious substance, or of substances of 
     a description of such substances;   
  (b)the use of any method or technique for doing anything else that is capable 
     of being done for the purposes of terrorism, in connection with the commission 
     or preparation of an act of terrorism or Convention offence or in connection 
     with assisting the commission or preparation by another of such an act or 
     offence; and   
  (c)the design or adaptation for the purposes of terrorism, or in connection 
     with the commission or preparation of an act of terrorism or Convention 
      offence, of any method or technique for doing anything.

It seems questionable that a judge and jury are likely to be persuaded that viewing any video of a beheading constitutes receiving training and unless there is evidence of intent to use this training, no conviction could result. There are other sections but I see no explicit suggestion in the text that viewing a video of a beheading is itself a terrorist offence under this act. Obviously, interpretation of law is a matter for courts.

According to The Register

Watching the video could be used to build a case against us, we were told, but this act alone did not give plods enough evidence to lock the viewer in Belmarsh.

"Distribution is the issue," the spokesman said. "Viewing the video could be taken into consideration if any other information comes to light."

So merely viewing the video is unlikely to lead to arrest. Unless you have already committed other acts that can be construed as evidence of disseminating materials that promote terrorism.

  • Isn't <insert any action> with intent to commit a terrorist act a criminal office though?
    – Mark Price
    Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 8:13
  • @Mark: So far as I can tell, not under this act. Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 8:34

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