Imagine you have a dog eared copy of an old book that told you various pranks, how to make fireworks and home made bombs and cheat credit card companies. Or you have recently bought one off Amazon.
You would not expect owners of The Anarchists Cookbook to be front line terrorists in the age of Isis. Yet this precisely what the Crown Prosecution Service and a Birmingham high court judge thought when they tried 27 year old Josh Walker, a University College, Aberystwyth student for borrowing a copy of it for a student role playing game.
He was charged under the Terrorism Act, 2000, which when MPs challenged the then home secretary, Jack Straw, about the breadth of the act – he told them
” we can all invent hypothetical circumstances—fantastic circumstances—in which any of us, according to the criminal code, could be charged and subject to conviction; but there is no point in our doing so.”
…”Such circumstances therefore do not arise, and I do not believe that they ever will”
Not so Mr Straw. As it is the jury decided to acquit him after three days. But one wonders if the person – given the current climate had been a Muslim rather than white British it would have gone so easily.
And no doubt people wanting to reinvent Reds under the Beds will soon start asking how many members of Momentum have such books or ordered them from Amazon. For those wanting to relive the 70s entryism I expect they will take it is as their litmus test and ring the Daily Mail.
The full story of this tale is on the excellent Inforrm’s Blog and the link is https://inforrm.org/2017/12/02/is-your-library-criminal-joel-bennathan-qc/