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
    -1

    Comment number 62.

    Ooh look, another "controversial" government announcement, timed perfectly to distract attention away from cash-for-access, NHS privatisation, the granny tax and 45% tax.

    How cynical.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 61.

    54 RedRebel54
    No one wants to have their freedom curtailed, I do not like the idea myself, but as a society we need to maintain social order for the greater good and we impose upon ourselves rules which we agree to abide by, we call it the Law. Our problem is that a handful of terrorists today, may become all those who like the idea of direct action tomorrow. The world is changing rapidly.

  • Comment number 60.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 59.

    Are we British just cowards? Have we really become so fearful of a skin colour?
    I am of mixed decent but born and bred here, should I now buy myself a sandwich board and write on it "Don't shoot, I'm not Muslim" ?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 58.

    Problem is that successive government have used terrorist laws to impose their own agenda on some of the 'so called' suspects, yet real terrorists are left untouched.
    When it comes to trusting governments I'm afraid I would not trust them any more than the terrorists themselves, after all, they have made lying an art-form.
    I'm not anti-government, just anti-bull.

  • Comment number 57.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 56.

    #55 Sadly that is NOT my fantasy:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/dec/11/snapshot-special-branch-terror-suspect
    'Anti terror laws' are used far too frequently including to spy on people not clearing up after their dogs or legally & peacefully protesting.

    I'm certainly not the one confusing muslims with terrorists. In fact the exact opposite is true. Try reading my post 51 again.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 55.

    46 Peter-sym
    Of course I am talking about real terrorists, and I think you confuse Muslims with terrorists. That form of terrorism abuses Islam to justify their criminality. But they are criminals and their claim to martyrdom is false and not recognised in Islamic faith. As for the law being formulated to criminalise tourists - this is your fantasy.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 54.

    violet mildred. You may wish to have your freedoms limited. I do not. and certainly not based on a handful of possible people who may be thinking of planting a bomb somewhere. But I can undestand your willingness to have your government lead you by the nose and tell you what to think.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 53.

    We should go with the most cost effective measure, whichever that one is. We spend a fortune on a variety of dubious activities but this one, protecting the citizens of this country from terrorists should not be measured on cost alone. I am not sure why "enhanced T-Pims" would only be used in extreme circumstances if they are more restrictive.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 52.

    It feels like we are all victims of terror...they have won if the views expressed by a significant majority of HYS contributors.

    The palpable fear and loathing of anyone who is "different" is scary.

    Protection from anyone willing to commit a crime against the person is vital but it comes with a price in the lack of liberty...the discussion is where do we strike a balance.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 51.

    48. helo thar
    JUST NOW
    The problem is that terrorists are islamic,
    --
    Apart from the ones that aren't like the Soho nailbomber, the acid thrower today, the animal rights firebombers, THE IRA!!!!! or any number of others. Why are these guys 'terrorists' yet Thomas Hamilton who shot 15 kids in Dunblane (or Raoul Mout) just 'a killer' ?

    #40 Franklin kept over 200 slaves. I hate that quote.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 50.

    The problem with 'beyond reasonable doubt' is that if the guy next to you has a bomb but hides it very well you may not be able to prove he has one to that standard of proof - until it detonates that is. Then it is too late for the innocent to enact the 'Right to Life' clause of the Human Rights Act.
    The EU and Human Rights industry basically support this position.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 49.

    40 RedRebe
    l"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

    Essential liberty? Does this include the freedom to murder innocent citizens. I think not. Society makes choices through government, and imposes upon itself rules which we must all adhere to. We limit our freedoms for the greater social benefit it brings.

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 47.

    If you have enough evidence to slap restrictions on a person, thereby denying their freedoms, you should have enough evidence to charge them and put them on trial. Either they have committed a crime or they haven't. Coincidentally I see the BBC has placed a London 2012 link at the top of their website. How about a permanent War In Afghanistan link? I suggested it long ago - they ignored me.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 46.

    #41 I suspect you're only talking about Al Que'da style 7/7 bomber terrorists not people convicted of taking tourist snap shots around London.

    However perhaps you can explain how the threat of hanging would deter a wannabe SUICIDE BOMBER!!!!!! You maybe want to ponder the radical Islamic meaning of 'martyr'.

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 45.

    The most cost effective way to deal with terrorists is to not let any more people into this country from "the religion of peace"

  • rate this
    -13

    Comment number 44.

    These 'terror laws' are political.

    Perhaps if we tackled state sponsored terrorism such as invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq, slaughtering thousands for regime change in Lybia and supporting the terrorising of Palestine, then overturned political 'terror' laws, we would all be in a better place.

    "Open your eyes - DON'T believe the lies."

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 43.

    The woolly minded will not be happy until one of their pet causes actually manages to set a bomb off after they have released them.

 

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