Greene, A.- 2017
The UK uses the same legal definition for every situation in which ‘terrorism’ is a legally-relevant category.1 This definition, in s. 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000, is vague, broad, and widely criticised by experts, courts and academics. Yet the decision to take a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to defining terrorism was taken without much consideration of alternatives and there has been little appetite for questioning this approach since. In this article I outline the wide-ranging difficulties with both the current definition as it stands and the notion of a single definition for terrorism that can be applied across multiple, highly varied, legal contexts. Preferable, I argue, is a multi-definitional approach to the concept of terrorism in legal terms, with the definition used being determined by the powers exercisable in respect of it. This would work as a sliding scale: the more intrusive, repressive and oppressive the powers the narrower the definition. Such an approach is entirely consistent with the idea that the greater the exercise of state power the clearer, tighter and more limited the definition that empowers the state should be. This is, as Lord Bingham has observed, key to limiting discretion and thus maintaining the rule of law and stands in sharp contrast to the status quo.