Terrorism law will ban other violent groups

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ANIMAL RIGHTS fanatics are to be included in sweeping new anti- terrorist powers announced by the Government yesterday.

The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, unveiled a raft of measures to extend Northern Ireland's tough security laws to cover domestic and international terrorism.

Mr Straw published proposals to replace the temporary powers of the Prevention of Terrorism Act with permanent legislation aimed at combating the continuing threat from violent groups at home and abroad.

The new measures would allow for the first time the prosciption of any organisation that used serious violence within the UK for "political, religious or ideological ends".

The new definition will also be flexible enough to cover terrorist use of technology and outlaw acts such as an attack on a key computer system.

The consultation paper makes it easier to seize cash and assets of individuals with suspected links to terror groups and allow civil forfeiture of homes and cars of such suspects.

Many of the proposals toughen up current legislation, but Mr Straw stressed that as the powers should be "proportionate" to the threat posed, he was changing security measures to encourage the peace process in Ulster.

To meet the Government's pledges in the Good Friday Agreement, emergency powers specific to Northern Ireland will be abolished. It wants to phase out the widely-criticised Diplock Courts and end the use of exclusion orders.

Internment has been ruled out and audio-recording of interviews with suspects, currently not allowed in Northern Ireland, will be made mandatory for the whole of the UK.

Proscription or banning or terror groups would continue in the province. At the moment, Continuity IRA and Real IRA, believed to be responsible for the Omag bomb, are proscribed.

The PTA's power to arrest, stop, search and detain suspects would be retained but the maximum 7-day period of detention could be reduced.

Applications for extending detention of suspects would be passed to judges rather than the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, as at present.