04 Jul 2007
A six-day hearing into the legality of the controversial control order scheme will begin in the House of Lords tomorrow. The Law Lords will consider if control orders, by which a suspect’s freedom is severely curtailed although he has not been charged or tried in open court, violates the right to liberty and a fair trial.
James Welch, Liberty’s Legal Director who led Liberty’s intervention in the case, said: “Punishing people and their families without trial makes a mockery of British justice. Labelling people as terrorists and leaving them in the community makes a mockery of security. Only charges, evidence and proof will protect our lives and our way of life in the long-term.” Liberty has called the control order scheme “unsafe” and “unfair” because seven of the 17 suspects on control orders have absconded and several lower court judges have deemed the scheme to be unlawful. As an alternative to control orders, Liberty suggests new measures which will make it easier for police and prosecutors to gather evidence to bring criminal prosecutions against terror suspects. These include allowing the use of intercept evidence in the criminal courts, making it a crime to withhold relevant encrypted computer data, allowing post-charge questioning and providing more resources for the intelligence and security community. Liberty’s intervention into the cases of suspects known as “E” and “S” argues that making a control order involves the determination of a criminal charge within the meaning of Article 6 of the Human Rights Act and that the standard of review, the "reasonable suspicion” standard of proof, the use of closed evidence and special advocates also violates the criminal and civil guarantees in Article 6 of the Act. If the Law Lords judgment, expected later this summer, finds that control orders violate Articles 5 and 6 of the Human Rights Act, the Government may have to issue new control orders which derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights or may have to consider new laws to replace the control order scheme altogether. Contact Jen Corlew on 0207 378 3656 or 0797 3 831 128
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. For a copy of Liberty’s intervention contact Jen Corlew on 0207 378 3656 or 0797 3 831 128
2. Control Orders were brought in by the Government under the 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act after the Law Lords ruled that indefinite detention without charge for foreign terror suspects in Belmarsh prison violated their human rights. A control order severely restricts who a person can meet, where they can go and all cases have involved electronic tagging. Restrictions have included 14-hour curfews and bans on unauthorised visitors and internet access. Control orders can last indefinitely. The person does not have to be accused of any crime and does not have to be told why he is under suspicion.
3. Latest reports indicate that seven out of 17 individuals on control orders have absconded.
4. The Government’s argument that it is impossible to prosecute terror suspects is fast unravelling. Liberty has suggested that unnecessary hurdles to prosecuting terror suspects can be overcome in the following ways: - Remove the bar on intercept (phone tap) evidence in criminal trials because its inadmissibility is a major factor in being unable to bring charges. In the last year the former Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and a former Head of MI5 have argued that it should be possible to use intercept evidence in court so that more terror suspects can be prosecuted. - Review the way in which people that have already been charged can be re-interviewed and recharged as further evidence is uncovered. The four Terror Acts brought into force since 2000 have created numerous new terror offences with which an individual can be charged. This will allow for a charge to be replaced with a more appropriate offence at a later stage. - Bring in existing powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) which enable a civil court to require an individual to hand over an encryption key (which unlocks data on seized computers). Anyone who fails to comply with such an order will be committing a serious criminal offence.
- Dismantle the controversial ID card scheme, estimated in May 2007 to cost £5.75 billion according to official Government figures, to provide more resources for police and intelligence services.