Conor Gearty: This would mean internment by the back door

From a lecture by the director of the London School of Economics' Centre for the Study of Human Rights

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At the top end of the Government's proposed control orders scale will be "house arrest". But how do we police the restrictions? Are there any exceptions for illness, family bereavement? Such problems of authoritarian law enforcement have already arisen in the context of the bail conditions imposed in the one case that obtained this kind of release under the old regime.

At the top end of the Government's proposed control orders scale will be "house arrest". But how do we police the restrictions? Are there any exceptions for illness, family bereavement? Such problems of authoritarian law enforcement have already arisen in the context of the bail conditions imposed in the one case that obtained this kind of release under the old regime.

And there is the frightening prospect of an arrest and detention in what the Home Secretary calls "accommodation owned and managed by the Government" which it seems would need to be described by other than the traditional word for such a place, a prison. This looks like internment by the back door.

The alternative that dare not speak its name is... simple: charge or release.

What would make prosecutions easier would be a relaxation of the absolute prohibition on the use of intercept evidence in court, a reform now supported by a huge range of informed opinion in this country.

In an otherwise confident series of parliamentary performances on terrorism law, the Home Secretary seems invariably to descend into a kind of gibberish when forced to explain why exactly such material may never ever be used to secure the prosecution of all these dangerous terrorists he goes on about.

Not being quite on top of the technological issues seems not exactly an overwhelming argument against, apart from being embarrassing given that practically everywhere else now permits its use in court.

The issue is an important one because it flushes out who is genuinely committed to making the criminal process work, and who would prefer to operate entirely in the shadows. It is extraordinarily disappointing that the new Home Secretary has decided to side with the forces of extra-legality.

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