Cabinet set to approve reforms of control orders

 

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The cabinet will today approve the wholesale reform of control orders, including the end of house arrest and a lifting of the ban on computer and mobile phone use.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, will unveil the changes to the House of Commons later this week. She finalised the proposals at a meeting last Friday with David Cameron and Nick Clegg. They will also include concessions to the Liberal Democrats on other anti-terror laws.

The time limit on holding terrorist suspects without charge will fall from 28 days to 14 days, and there will also be new curbs on police stop-and-search powers. The term "control order" itself will also disappear, being replaced with the term "terrorism prevention powers".

As part of the compromise agreement, terror suspects – who are unable to be tried in court – will be allowed to use a "designated computer", as long as they allow police to install surveillance software on it.

They will also be allowed to use a mobile phone if they consent to first provide security services with their number. Under the previous system of control orders – a stringent form of house arrest – the authorities could ban the use of computers and mobile phones, and restrict the subject's job options.

Relocation orders requiring terror suspects to leave their communities will be scrapped, as will bans on travel to entire cities or boroughs. Subjects will now only be banned from particular addresses or buildings where surveillance cannot be carried out easily.

"Derogating control orders", which allow the authorities to disregard parts of the Human Rights Act, such as placing suspects under house arrest for up to 22 hours a day, will also be removed from the statute book, although these powers have not yet been used.

Forty-five men have been subject to control orders since 2005.

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