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The case for control orders crumbles

Ben Chu

ken macdonald 006 150x150 The case for control orders crumblesThere is a powerful argument in Lord Macdonald’s long-awaited review of anti-terror legislation on the shortcomings of control orders.

“The present control order regime acts as  an impediment to prosecution. It places those suspected of  involvement in terrorist activity squarely in an evidence limbo: current control powers can relocate suspects and place them under curfews for up to 16 hours  a day, they can forbid suspects from meeting and speaking with other  named individuals, from travelling to particular places, and from using telephones and the internet. In other words, controls may be imposed that precisely prevent those very activities that are apt to result in the discovery of evidence fit for prosecution, conviction and imprisonment. In this sense, the current control order regime turns our conventional approach to the detection and prosecution of crime upon its head. We may safely assume that if the Operation Overt (airline) plotters had, in the earliest stages of their conspiracy, been placed on control orders and subjected to the full gamut of conditions available under the present legislation, they would be living amongst  us still, instead of sitting for very long years in the jail cells where they belong.”

Defenders of control orders like to present themselves as hard headed. But, as Lord Macdonald notes, they might have prevented individuals such as this from being convicted.

Lord Macdonald also confirms that he has seen all the evidence:

“I have been given full access to documents, submissions and briefings, including to all the classified material relating to those subject to control orders. I have also examined all the relevant threat assessments.  I was not refused access to any documents that I wished to see and no meetings  that I wished to convene were declined.”

Let that, therefore, be an end to the notion that only those who have not seen the raw intelligence are opposed to control orders.

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  • Richard_SM

    It just seems to me the previous arrangements have been refined and improved, and have more flexibility. Control Orders version 3.1

  • Odalchini

    Lord Macdonald doesn’t say that he’s opposed to control orders.  On the contrary, he says:

    “The evidence gathered by the Review demonstrates that there are circumstances in which individuals believed to be involved in terrorist activity cannot presently be prosecuted, because there is insufficient, or no admissible evidence against them for the time being.
    “I accept that the evidence also shows that it may be appropriate for the State to apply some restrictions upon those people, so long as those restrictions are strictly proportionate and do not impede or discourage evidence gathering with a view to conventional prosecution” (page 11 of his review).

    Control orders are obviously wrong.  Shami Chakrabarti is right, they should be scrapped.  They violate the one of most basic principles of justice, that someone accused of an offence should be shown the evidence against him and be able to challenge it.  But the trouble is, if you accept that it’s possible for the security services to have evidence against a few individuals which they cannot make public, or even reveal to those individuals, for whatever reasons, then it’s difficult to know what else can be done.  Certainly (IMHO) control orders are better than the US solution, which is to take such people to an offshore camp where no laws apply, lock them up and throw away the key.

    (Pedant moment:  I wish Lord Macdonald could spell “foreword”.)

  • Guest

    however the fact of the matter is that if you leave yourself no means of restraining and detaining those who would live among you for the avowed purpose of doing you harm, for reasons of their own which they openly admit that you will never share, you are sinmply allowing a free reign to people whose motives and actions lie wholly outwith the very “principles” whose names you supposedly act in.

    Control Orders aren’r perfect, few things are, but there needs to be some means of controlling these people short of a long-winded trial which in all likelihood, collapses after a protracted period on some technicality or due to political meddling

  • http://twitter.com/BenChu_ Ben Chu

    Macdonald is clearly opposed to the new regime that the Coalition has come up with. On p13 he states “In the circumstances, I would regard the use of curfews and tags in this context to be disproportionate, unnecessary and objectionable. They would serve no useful purpose.”


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