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Counter terrorism review

Counter terrorism review

Home Secretary Theresa May went to the House of Commons on Wednesday to announce the results of the counter terrorism review which was one of the main commitments of the coalition government. The headline announcement was the proposal to scrap the very controversial control order regime.

Control orders are to be replaced by “a new package of measures that is better focused and has more targeted restrictions,” to be known officially as terrorism prevention and investigation measures (T-PIMs for short). There will be the removal of those aspects of control orders that most resemble house arrest. Curfews will be replaced by an overnight residence requirement. Forcible relocation will be ended and replaced with the power to order more tightly defined exclusions from particular areas. There will be the power to prevent foreign travel. Individuals will have greater access to communications, including to a mobile phone and to a home computer with internet access. They will have greater freedom to associate and will be free to work and study, subject again to restrictions.

The review accepts that the normal maximum period of pre-charge detention should be 14 days but recognises that in exceptional circumstances this might need to be temporarily increased to 28 days. Draft primary legislation will be drawn up to be introduced for parliamentary consideration only in such circumstances. On the use of section 44 stop-and-search powers, the Home Secretary said: “I have concluded that the current provisions, which were found unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights, represented an unacceptable intrusion on an individual’s human rights and must be repealed. We therefore propose to repeal section 44 and to replace it with a tightly defined power that would allow a senior police officer to make an authorisation of much more limited scope and duration for no-suspicion stop-and-search powers to prevent a terrorist attack where there is a specific threat. This targeted measure will also prevent the misuse of these powers against photographers.”

On the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, Mrs May promised implementation of the commitment to prevent the use of these powers by local authorities unless for the purpose of preventing serious crime and unless authorised by a magistrate. She expressed concern at “the use of counter-terrorism legislation by local authorities in respect of matters that clearly had nothing to do with counter-terrorism, such as dog fouling and whether or not children had the right to go to a particular school in a particular catchment area.” Surveillance will only be authorised for offences that carry a custodial sentence of at least six months.
Writing in the ‘Guardian’, Lib Dem MP Tim Farron said: “The ridiculous, heavy handed and easily abused powers brought in by the last Labour regime trampled over centuries of British tradition and liberty. That’s why the Liberal Democrats and other civil liberties campaigners fought to prevent them and railed against them once they were imposed. And that’s why we should all be proud of the steps taken by the coalition government today.” Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, was less fulsome. She said: “We welcome movement on stop and search, 28-day detention and council snooping, but when it comes to ending punishment without trial, the Government appears to have bottled it. Spin and semantics aside, control orders are retained and rebranded, if in a slightly lower fat form. As before, the innocent may be punished without a fair hearing and the guilty will escape the full force of criminal law.” On ‘This Week’ last night, former Home Secretary Charles Clarke called it “a complete fudge” that endangered national security.

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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