20041007 In Hot Pursuit of Terrorist Funds

The title of this paper raises recollections of, for example, those dire television programmes that show a police car – or if filmed in the USA the dozens of police cars that are chasing a single vehicle down a highway at high speed.

But when we look at the topic, it’s clear that the image is far from the reality.

First, no matter how hard we try, we are never going to be in the position of being in hot pursuit of a single adversary.

Terrorism is difficult to counter because there is no single person, no cohesive entity that we can attack.

Legislators hope that we can starve terrorism of funds and that in doing so we can reduce the opportunity available to the terrorists. The prospect of identifying the funds is made even more difficult because of the diversity of the operational personnel and the contributors.

I’m sort of lucky in that I am unusual in this gathering: I am English and like many English lawyers, I served time in the City of London during the IRA bombing campaign.

Now is not the time to list the number of occasions that my guardian angel saved my life either by making me change my plans at the last minute or, if I didn’t listen to the warnings in my ear, frustrated me by taking all the available taxis off London’s streets so that I was late with the result that I was not where I should have been when bombs went off.

Nor is there a lot of point in explaining the fact that when I had to attend hearings in Northern Ireland, the High Court had been turned into a fortress and streets that had familiar shop-fronts were rendered bizarre as I turned corners to come face to face with soldiers in full combat uniform and anti-terrorist sub machine guns.

In the UK, especially in London, we lived with terrorism for years. London suffered in many ways that seem petty but made a huge difference to people’s lives. When the terrorist threat was deemed over, or largely so, we began to realise what we had missed: new buildings appeared sheathed in glass – the rest of the world had been able to do that but in London we dared not; waste bins appeared in the streets and on railway stations having been removed years earlier after a series of so called parcel bombs had been placed in them.