Terror suspects could be banned from visiting any mosque under measures to tighten up the system for monitoring potentially violent Islamist extremists.
The move follows the escape of Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed who disappeared ten days ago after walking out of a mosque disguised in a burka.
He is the second suspect in less than a year to vanish despite wearing an electronic tag as he was subject to a terrorism prevention and investigation measure (Tpim).
Charles Farr, the head of counter-terrorism in the Home Office, disclosed today that a complete ban on suspects worshipping in any of Britain’s estimated 2,000 mosques was being considered by Theresa May, the Home Secretary.
He said she was examining whether “prohibition in certain or all mosques” and acknowledged that the move would be highly controversial.
“I understand the sensitivity and any step in this direction would have to be taken very carefully and the police and security services would clearly have a view on whether this was necessary and proportionate,” he told the Commons home affairs select committee.
Mr Farr argued it was difficult for the police and the security services to monitor people inside mosques.
He added: “We are facing a problem that people who have been under Tpims may have exploited attendance at mosques for purposes which that mosque would not want and would not intend and without the knowledge of the committee that governs that mosque.”
He also disclosed that Mohamed had been remanded in custody, and then released on bail, three times in the last two years, most recently in August. He faces 20 charges for violating restrictions on his movement.
The Tory MP, Michael Ellis, protested that Mohamed and his legal team had “played the system” to prevent him being locked up.
David Anderson, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, described Tpims as a “slightly unhappy compromise” between protecting national security and safeguarding the rights of individuals not convicted of a terrorism-related offence.
He told the committee that there were dangers in releasing Tpim subjects back on to the streets when the orders expired after two years.