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Daily View: Control orders

Clare Spencer | 09:31 UK time, Friday, 7 January 2011

Armed police officer outside the Houses of Parliament


Nick Clegg is expected to use a speech today to underline the government's intention to replace the current control orders system, which puts terrorist suspects who have not been charged under a virtual house arrest. Commentators explain their likes and dislikes of control orders.

In the Telegraph Benedict Brogan defends Nick Clegg who he predicts will climb down from wanting to scrap control orders:

"The moment Nick Clegg became Deputy Prime Minister, the political certainties he nursed about civil liberties collided with the information that came with his new job. He became one of those who knows what we don't. And since then he has grappled with the difficulty of reconciling his opposition to control orders with the grubby reality of national security... It is worth recalling what Mr Clegg knows. Or rather, the bits we know that he knows about control orders. He and Mr Cameron, as well as Lords Carlile and Macdonald and the Home Secretary, know all of it, whereas we - the media - know only snippets. And some of what we know we are not allowed to report for legal reasons."

Douglas Murray argues in the Spectator that scrapping control orders would show that politicians aren't serious about security:

"[I]t will be the clearest possible evidence that the coalition government, like the Labour government before it, remains unwilling to deal with the problem which made control orders necessary in the first place: the fact that this country has been systematically failed by its legal, political and immigration systems. Once, foreign nationals who posed a threat could be deported. The European Convention on Human Rights has put a stop to that."

Director of pressure group Liberty Shami Chakrabarti expresses surprise in the Times that former Home Secretary Michael Howard is defending control orders:

"Contrary to much of this week's chatter, far from being a bleeding-heart Lib Dem foible, the original and most dramatic opposition to the control orders legislation in 2005 came from none other than Lord Howard's Conservative Party.
'We believe in the rule of law,' he told the assembled television cameras, flanked by David Davis, his Shadow Home Secretary, before keeping parliamentary colleagues in both Houses up for many days and nights to oppose such an unBritish scheme. A precursor to the rows over 90 and 42-days' detention, it was one of the more titanic battles of modern political history."

Conservative MP Dominic Raab argues in the Guardian that control orders are ineffective and spells out what he would do instead:

"All sides of the coalition should relish tackling this head on. First, by using prosecution as a tactical weapon to proactively disrupt and deter terrorist networks - the way the US and others have done aggressively since 9/11. Second, by lifting the ban on intercept evidence (we are virtually alone in the world in retaining it) and expanding plea-bargaining. Having worked in The Hague on international war crimes and liaised with US and Australian officials on counter-terrorism, I have seen how they use these tools as part of a wider strategy to imprison, co-opt and deter members of 'joint criminal enterprises' - starting with the minnows and leading to the bigger fish. It works."

The Economist says the political fight that had erupted around control orders is not worth it:

"[S]ome of the harshest features have been worn down by the courts. A judgment by the European Court of Human Rights in 2009, backed up by the House of Lords, limited permissible restrictions and insisted the suspect be given sufficient access to the "gist" of the allegations against him to instruct counsel. The number of control orders in force has fallen from 20 in March 2009 to just eight. Of those, according to some who have seen the relevant evidence, only between three and five apply to suspects considered a 'hard-core' terrorist threat. Given that the security services keep hundreds of people under surveillance, the importance of control orders is arguably more symbolic than real."

Links in full

Benedict Brogan | Telegraph | Nick Clegg's agonies over control orders show how far he has come
Douglas Murray | Spectator | Jihad against justice
Shami Chakrabarti | Times | This injustice over control orders must stop
Dominic Raab | Guardian | Control orders are a sideshow

Economist | Last orders?

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