New terror laws could be less effective, warns watchdog

Policeman with gun The government replaced control orders with the new regime of T-Pims this year

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The new system for restricting terror suspects could prove less effective than control orders, the independent reviewer of terror laws has said.

David Anderson QC warned the new two-year limit on Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (T-Pims) could "strengthen the resolve" of terrorists.

They may have compromised under previous longer restrictions, he said.

His comments came in a parliamentary report on control orders. The Home Office said it was considering them.

Mr Anderson said the two-year limit on T-Pims - unless new evidence emerges - could encourage some hardened terror suspects to try to wait out the period before resuming their activity.

He warned: "The ability to maintain restrictions for more than two years was of obvious utility in the case of a person who could still not be prosecuted or deported... and had not been de-radicalised."

The longest time someone was under a control order was almost five years.

'Untested evidence'

Control orders were the Labour government's controversial answer to targeting suspected terrorists believed to be dangerous when there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. They lasted for six years from 2005.

Fifty-two people were subject to them, almost half British nationals.

Under control orders, a person's movements and communications were severely restricted by bans, curfews and surveillance.

They cost around £17m - a figure that does not include secret details of the significant cost of surveillance by MI5 and the police.

In his final review of control orders, Mr Anderson said he had good reason to believe they fulfilled their primary functions of disrupting terrorist activity.

But he added they relied heavily on "untested evidence", and there was a "troubling feeling" of imposing orders on some people who had already been acquitted of terrorism offences.

'Just keeping an eye'

Under the new laws introduced earlier this year, there are fewer controls but greater police scrutiny of suspects.

One of the key elements of control orders - forcibly relocating suspects - has not been continued under T-Pims and was a principle part of the coalition government's reform.

Mr Anderson said relocation was "undoubtedly effective" in some cases, and its advantages were not easily replicated.

Start Quote

The primary role of any government is to keep its citizens safe and free”

End Quote Ken Clarke Justice Secretary

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Anderson acknowledged the coalition was seeking to address this: "I don't criticise the government... What they've done to try and diminish the difference, if you like, is to allocate more money to surveillance.

"Of course they are not complete substitutes. When you relocate someone you actually disrupt them, whereas when you place them under surveillance you're really just keeping an eye on them."

It is believed more than 100 extra officers were recruited in a bid to increase police security under the new regime.

'Safe and free'

A Home Office spokesperson said: "We are grateful to David Anderson for his considered report and we are currently considering the recommendations with other relevant agencies.

"T-Pims provide effective powers to deal with the risks posed by individuals we can neither prosecute nor deport, and we have made available substantial extra funding for covert surveillance and investigation."

Civil liberty campaign groups expressed frustration with Mr Anderson's report.

Sophie Farthing of Liberty said: "The reviewer's labelling of T-Pims as 'less effective' than control orders is baffling - the two are fundamentally the same, both operating outside the criminal justice system.

"Rebranding exercises and minor tweaks don't change the fact that these punitive measures are as unfair as they are unsafe.

"If these people are dangerous, why not prosecute them?"

The Justice Secretary Ken Clarke recently wrote: "The primary role of any government is to keep its citizens safe and free.

"That means both protecting them from harm and protecting their hard-won liberties."

Not ready to cope

In assessing the overall threat to the UK's national security since the change, Mr Anderson quotes the head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, who said "there should be no substantial increase in overall risk".

In the months before the change from control orders to T-Pims at the end of last year, the BBC was told of concerns among some senior counter-terror officers that they were not ready to cope with the extra demands of the new system.

The Home Office briefly delayed the transition in January.

Nine men - all British - were subject to the new measures when they were introduced at the beginning of the year.

The government has published draft proposals for "enhanced T-Pims", which are more restrictive. But they would only be used in extreme circumstances.

Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, who is in charge of counter-terrorism at the Metropolitan Police, told Parliament she thought only a credible report of "concurrent attacks" would justify using the enhanced powers.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Anyone get the feeling we're being softened up ready for the sight of armed police routinely patrolling the streets of London post Olympics?

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    33 & 34
    Yes I am talking about terrorists but we need laws which deal with them which have the effect of dissuading others from becoming involved or becoming suspected.
    Freedom has been expanded so we are more free than ever before, and it seems that the consequence is a breakdown in social order with the growth of terrorism and to some extent, direct action.
    Maybe we have to all except limits,

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    21.Violet Mildred
    Perhaps our freedom needs to be compromised?
    As Benjamin Franklin pointed out, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Government nationalises the use of terror on its own people.

    Just perhaps the place would be safer without immigrants. Who was it that let them in? Oh the political class. Who gets the top protection, oh yes, you lot politicians. Perhaps if you spent less time abusing us and more obeying us on immigrants you would solve the problems, all of them like housing and congestion, with less people!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    The terror I am most afraid of is of some state official having the power to take away my freedom without trial and without any evidence of misdemeanor just because he didn't like my face.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    18.P L E Deportation? Some or all of the people are British

    So you're saying we should discriminate against people based on where they came from? Born here you can do what you like bit over seas doctors and nurses with no criminal record should be deported?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Did anyone ever think of fighting terrorism with terrorism? I'm pretty sure we'd do a better job at it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    "They cost around £17m in all. . ."

    A third of a million quid on each of these, plus the "significant cost of surveillance". Such a shame we have to waste so much money on a bunch of blokes who just never had a girlfriend at school...

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    #31 You keep calling them "terrorists" yet none of these people have ever been convicted. 'Suspected terrorist' should be the worst you come out with. I'm male, drink and own a car. Your proposal is the equivalent of confiscating my car & removing my driving licence in case I suddenly decide to drink-drive! Innocent until proven guilty is what distinguished the UK from Nazi Germany.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    @31 - But you can't curtail freedom for people SUSPECTED of a crime without curtailing it for you, me and everyone else in the land.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Why do we go to war with a claim of anti terrorism being the theme, when we let terrorists into our country costing us millions, protect them and ensuring they live in luxury whilst telling British cancer patients we cannot afford their drugs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    #26 theskyisblue
    You seem a little hysterical, first I am insane, next you tell me I am advocating the death penalty for suspects. Perspective is called for, and if you will trouble to read what I have said then you will see that I am contemplating a range of measures for the harsh curtailment of the freedom given to terrorists, for the greater good of society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    The whole reaction of the last govt to terrorism was to be frank, bloody cowardly.

    The Terrorists want to terrorize us. The previous govt managed to be terrorized on our behalf.

    Introduced numerous illiberal laws which impact ordinary people but no difference to terrorists. Security Theatre it's called.

    Took away OUR freedoms. The terrorists won.

    This needs undoing urgently.

    400 chars inadeq.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    If these terror suspects are truely British and are actively engaged in trying to bring down this country, then put them on trial,treason is still an offence, and produce the evidence, if they are not, then do as the Australians do, send them back to their country of origin we dont want them here. The PC brigade may protest but we also have human rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    The death penalty puts us on the same level as the extremists. Also, too many people have been found guilty of murder in our courts only later to be found innocent.
    However, too many dangerous people hide behind the HRA The only Right that counts is the Right of UK citizens to go about their legal business in complete safety and without fear. The HRA must not apply to any who threatens this Right

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Another waste of time.Until we elect a government that backs the majority of British people who would like the death penalty,deportation of terrorists(and families),withdraw from the human rights act,immigration stopped etc etc,we will never be a safe country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    @23 - 2 things: 1) We don't HAVE the death penalty and 2) These are SUSPECTED terrorists. THe police do not even have enough evidence to arrest and charge them with anything and yet you are advocating putting them to death??!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The whole problem with the way we attempt to counter extremism is it is not working. The Public perception is it is not working. The perception is the majority are less safe and feel increasingly marginalised.
    The perception needs to be addressed with robust action and facts. Nothing less will do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Shame we cant extend these rules to corruption in business and political circles.

    But that would never happen incase we had to deport Nick, Dave et al.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    19 Theskyisblue
    The death penalty is a bit extreme in the case of a suspected terrorist, I'll grant you that, but terrorists themselves see causing death to innocent bystanders as acceptable. As the world changes so, it seems must we. If this requires harsh action for the greater good then society needs to act. For society to flourish it must protect itself against terrorism against the innocent.


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