'Lyrical terrorist' wins appeal

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The Independent Online

The woman who called herself the "lyrical terrorist" won her appeal today against conviction for collecting information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Former Heathrow shop assistant Samina Malik, 24, who was given a nine-month jail sentence suspended for 18 months at the Old Bailey last December, was the first women convicted under Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Today, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, sitting in the Court of Appeal with Mr Justice Goldring and Mr Justice Plender, quashed the conviction after the Crown conceded that it was unsafe.

He said: "We consider that there is a very real danger that the jury became confused and that the prosecution have rightly conceded that this conviction is unsafe."

Afterwards, the Crown Prosecution Service said it has decided not to seek a retrial in the case.

Malik, who was not in court, adopted her nickname because of the extremist lyrics which she wrote on till receipts at work.

Sue Hemming, head of the CPS's counter terrorism division, said: "Since Ms Malik's conviction, the law has been clarified by the Court of Appeal.

"The result is that some of the 21 documents we relied on in Ms Malik's trial would no longer be held capable of giving practical assistance to terrorists.

"However, other documents in her possession, including the al Qaida Manual, the Terrorist's Handbook, the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook and several military manuals, clearly retain that potential. We therefore have no doubt that it was right to bring this prosecution.

"Nevertheless, taking into account the time Ms Malik spent on remand before her first trial, and the likely non-custodial sentence she would receive upon conviction in a retrial, we have decided not to seek a retrial on those manuals.

"Ms Malik was not prosecuted for her poetry. She was prosecuted for possessing documents that could provide practical assistance to terrorists."

Giving judgment today, Lord Phillips said that in February this year, the Court of Appeal gave detailed consideration to Section 58 of the Act and decided that an offence would be committed only if the document or record concerned was of a kind likely to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Propagandist or theological material did not fall within the Section.

The problem in Malik's case was that it went to the jury on the basis that the 14 documents - out of the 21 - which did not fall within Section 58 were also capable of founding a conviction.

"The jury was required to consider not only documents which were capable of being of practical utility for a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, but a large number of documents that were not.

"We consider that there was scope for the jury to have become confused."

Had the test of practical utility been appreciated, the prosecution would no doubt have founded their case on the small quantity of documents satisfying that test.

As it was, he added, the trial judge, who did not have the benefit of the appeal court's judgment, simply left it to the jury to decide in the case of each document whether it was likely to be useful to a terrorist.

At her trial, Malik was acquitted of the more serious charge, under Section 57 of the Act, of possessing an article for terrorist purposes.