Government move to relocate terror suspects
Thursday 01 September 2011
The Government is planning emergency powers to forcibly relocate terror suspects, months after pledging to scrap the existing measure.
The emergency legislation would enable the Home Secretary to specify more stringent restrictions on suspected terrorists in exceptional circumstances, the Home Office said.
These would include "the power to relocate the individual without their consent to a different part of the country, geographical boundaries, and tighter restrictions on association and communications", the Home Office said.
The enhanced Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (Tpim) bill will be put before parliament "should exceptional circumstances arise", the Home Office said.
Under the planned measures, the Home Secretary "may impose restrictions on the individual leaving a specified area or travelling outside that area", the draft bill said.
A suspect under such an order may also be forced to hand in their passport.
The Home Secretary could also impose "restrictions on the individual's possession or use of electronic communication devices", including both computers and telephones.
Further restrictions could also be imposed to limit who the suspect communicates or associates with, where the suspect works or what he or she studies.
Home Secretary Theresa May's decision to impose a control order on a terror suspect banned from London was upheld by the High Court in July.
Mr Justice Owen, sitting in London, ruled that the restrictions imposed on CD's freedom, including the decision to relocate him from London to a Midlands city, were a "necessary and proportionate measure for the protection of the public from the risk presented by CD and his associates".
The judge said he was satisfied that there were reasonable grounds for suspecting that CD, who cannot be named for legal reasons, "is a leading figure in a network of Islamist extremists based in north London and has been involved in planning an attack or attacks on members of the public".
The relocation powers were ditched by the coalition under the new terrorist prevention and investigation measures (Tpims), which will replace control orders from next year.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper warned MPs that plans to water down the control orders would mean that CD could no longer be stopped from living in the capital.
But, under the draft emergency legislation, such powers would be able to be brought back in exceptional circumstances.
Launching the Tpims Bill in May, the Home Office said "relocation to another part of the country without consent will be scrapped".
But today it brought back the powers, reserving them for "exceptional circumstances".
The restrictions imposed under the Tpims were an "imperfect but necessary step", the Home Office said.
It also rejected a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) that an alternative system of restrictions linked to an ongoing criminal investigation, such as that proposed by the former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald, was appropriate.
"Tpim notices, like the control orders they will replace, are intended to be used in such cases - where there is no realistic prospect of a prosecution, and there is no imminent prospect that further investigation will yield evidence that could be used to prosecute," the Home Office said.
"In such cases the Government is faced with a stark choice between taking no action at all - potentially leaving the public unprotected from a serious threat - and imposing preventative measures to protect the public.
"In such a case the purpose of the measures is not to facilitate the gathering of evidence - which process will already have been exhausted, although of course it will continue as far as is possible while restrictions are in force - but to protect the public and disrupt or prevent the individual's involvement in terrorism-related activity."
The emergency powers would only be triggered in exceptional circumstances, such as "in the event of a very serious terrorist risk that cannot be managed by any other means", according to the bill's explanatory notes.
The Home Office added that the Tpim bill, which was introduced in May and will receive its third hearing in the Commons next week, has always been clear that "more stringent measures may be required" and draft emergency legislation would be drawn up for such circumstances.
But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper warned that the Government's actions were "irresponsible, incompetent and potentially dangerous - especially for London".
"After pressure from the police, the intelligence services and the Opposition, the Government has finally admitted there is a problem with their plans to weaken counter terror legislation and remove the ability to relocate very dangerous terror suspects," she said.
"The trouble is they are refusing to solve it."
Instead of amending their original plans, the Government has produced "confused and impractical emergency legislation that won't work for the serious cases we already face", she said.
Ms Cooper added that nine of the 12 people currently on control orders were subject to relocation and the "shambolic process of draft emergency legislation" is "impractical and chaotic".
"This is simply not good enough," she said.
"It does not give the police or security services what they need to keep communities safe, especially during Olympic year when the capital may need extra protection.
"The Home Secretary is putting political deals and fudges ahead of national security."
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, added: "While politicians tinker with the deckchairs on the Titanic, community punishments without charge remain unsafe and unfair.
"You can call them 'control orders', 'Tpims' or whatever you like, but they still allow dangerous terrorists to live amongst us whilst innocent people are punished forever with no opportunity to stand trial and clear their name.
"Ten years into the war on terror, have we really learned so little?"
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