Samina Malik 2008
A former Heathrow shop assistant who called herself the “lyrical terrorist” and was the first woman sentenced under new anti-terror laws today had her conviction overturned.
Samina Malik, 24, from Southall, west London, was convicted under section 58 of the Terrorism Act in November last year after she wrote poems celebrating the beheading of non-Muslims.
Today, she won an appeal against her conviction for collecting personal information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.
The lord chief justice, Lord Phillips, sitting in the court of appeal with Justice Goldring and Justice Plender, quashed the conviction after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) conceded it was unsafe.
Phillips 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.”
Malik was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months. At her trial, the judge, Peter Beaumont QC, the recorder of London, said her offence ”was on the margin of what this crime concerns”.
One of her poems, called How to Behead, said: “It’s not messy or as hard as some may think, It’s all about the flow of the wristâ€¦ You’ll feel the knife hit the wind and food pipe, But Don’t Stop, Continue with all your might.”
She also wrote on the back of a till receipt: “The desire within me increases every day to go for martyrdom.”
Malik, who worked at Heathrow’s airside branch of WH Smith, said she chose to call herself the lyrical terrorist because she thought it was cool, and denied she was an actual terrorist.
Phillips explained in today’s judgment that in February the court of appeal gave detailed consideration to section 58 of the Terrorism Act. It ruled that an offence would be committed only if the document or record concerned was 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, he said.
In Malik’s case, the jury was told 14 documents – out of 21 â€“ that did not fall within Section 58 were also capable of founding a conviction.
Malik was acquitted of the more serious charge, under section 57 of the Act, of possessing an article for terrorist purposes.
The CPS said it had decided not to seek a retrial in the case.
Sue Hemming, the head of the CPS’s counterterrorism division, said Malik had not been prosecuted for her poetry, but for possessing documents that could provide practical assistance to terrorists.
Since Malik’s conviction the law had been clarified by the court of appeal, she said.
“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.”