Control orders can be placed on anyone the Home Secretary suspects of "terrorism-related" activity, whether or not the suspected activity is criminal. The control orders regime was set up under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. It is one of the extraordinary counter-terrorism powers under review by the new coalition government. The review has not yet published its findings, but it looks as if it may recommend keeping control orders.
The control orders regime is in tatters following a series of rulings against it by the Law Lords and more recently by the Supreme Court. Even in tatters, it gives the Home Secretary (and MI5, on whose advice the Home Secretary acts) breathtaking powers over people's lives and denies its victims any effective legal redress.
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Important note: SACC supports Liberty's opposition to control orders, but we do not agree with Liberty's argument that allowing wire-tap evidence in court would help end control orders. We think that the admissibility or otherwise of wire-tap evidence is irrelevant to the real issues raised by control orders. If you agree with SACC's position, you may want to remove the reference to "the use of intercept evidence in court" if you use Liberty's example letter to MPs.
SACC's submission the Government's review of counter-terrorism legislation
SACC's submission the Government's review of counter-terrorism legislation says:
"The control order regime is incompatible with the rule of law. It is built on excessive executive power, cemented with statutory provisions of bewildering scope, maintained by utterly inadequate court procedures and defended by secrecy. It lends itself to institutional abuse. It corrupts our society. It contravenes Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (guaranteeing the right to a fair trial) and the common-law principle of fairness. It would be in irreconcilable collision with inalienable human rights even if it served some useful purpose. It does no such thing. Instead, it creates a climate of fear and suspicion that will help terrorism to grow.
"The use of "light-touch" control orders does nothing to change the structural injustice of the process. It simply demonstrates the absence of any credible rationale for the control order regime. If continued, "light-touch" control orders will create from the wreckage of the old harshly punitive regime a new system of extraordinary complexity dedicated to the manufacturing of harassment."
The SACC submission recommends:
- Control orders should be abolished; the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 should be repealed.
Alternative measures are neither necessary nor desirable, except in relation to individuals reasonably suspected of posing a direct physical threat to the public.
- Where individuals are reasonably suspected of posing a direct physical threat to the public but cannot be charged with a criminal offence, the danger they pose should be managed by precautionary policing and intelligence work under existing powers.
- In view of the extremely broad terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, and of the circumstances surrounding a number of control order cases, it should not be assumed that people currently under control orders can reasonably be suspected of posing a direct physical threat to the public.
- In view of the issues discussed in part 3.4 of our submission, and of the circumstances surrounding a number of control order cases (including allegations that attempts have been made to use control orders to coerce people into working for MI5), no confidence can be placed in the capacity of the security and intelligence services to make a meaningful and fair assessment of the risk posed by individuals under circumstances of the sort covered by control orders.
- Reparations should be made to people whose human rights were violated by control orders.