In 2005 the House of Lords ruled that the practice of holding foreign terror suspects in Belmarsh prison without charge or trial was unlawful. Rather than charge and prosecute these individuals within the criminal justice system, the government brought in the unsafe and unfair Control Orders scheme.

Control Orders enabled the Home Secretary to impose an almost unlimited range of restrictions on any person they suspect of involvement in terrorism. Parliament had to vote every year to continue the control order scheme.

Almost immediately after coming to power in 2010, the Government announced that it would review the counter-terror laws and policies adopted by the former Government (read our consultation response). As a result of that review, the Government scrapped Control Orders – but replaced them in January 2012 with Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs).

TPIMs are simply a ‘control order-lite’, replicating the worst aspects of the control order regime. These new measures are still outside of the criminal justice system – potentially punishing the innocent while the truly dangerous may remain at large in the community.

Even though the Government claims TPIMs are fairer than control orders, in reality they are just the same. The new system:

  • Can still include electronic tagging and an overnight residence requirement;
  • Make it easier for ‘controlees’ to use the internet, but still allows for restrictions to be imposed on who they can meet and where they can go, including foreign travel bans;
  • Will be limited to two years – an illusory constraint, as it's possible to make a new order as soon as the existing one expires (if there's new evidence to do so).

Crucially, TPIMs will still be initiated by the Home Secretary – and the regime will continue to run outside the criminal justice system of investigation, arrest, charge and conviction.


If you are subject to the TPIMs regime, you might not be able to:

  • Leave your house overnight;
  • Go beyond the geographical boundaries decided by the Home Office;
  • Take off your electronic monitoring tag;
  • Talk to or meet with whoever you wanted;
  • Stop the police or staff from the monitoring company entering and searching your home without a warrant;
  • Have friends or family to your home unless approved by the Home Office, approval which can be removed at any time;
  • Travel overseas.

If you do any of these things, in breach of the TPIMs notice, you could be put in jail for up to five years.

This unfairness is compounded by the fact that someone subject to a TPIMs notice is not likely to know the substance of the case against them and is powerless to dispute it or show their innocence. The use of this secret evidence was ruled by the House of Lords in June 2009 to be a breach of the right to a fair trial for three men under control orders. Find out more about control orders in this brief introduction (PDF).

The real cost of control orders/TPIMs

Before being allowed to follow his family to Jordan in July 2009, Mahmoud Abu Rideh was punished without charge in Belmarsh prison for three years and then under a control order for four and a half years. His subsequent breakdown and stay in Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, as well as suicide attempts have been devastating to his wife and small children. Read more of Abu Rideh's story.

You can also read Cerie Bullivant's moving account of what life is like under a control order

Our objections to TPIMs:

  1. TPIMs are unsafe. Dangerous terrorists should not be in their living rooms but convicted and imprisoned. A genuine terrorist can easily remove plastic tags and disappear, as some controlees have in the past.
  2. TPIMs are unfair. Innocent people should not be subjected to years and years of punishment without trial. TPIMs place dehumanizing sanctions on people based on suspicion rather than evidence.
  3. TPIMs go against the British traditions of justice and liberty. They undermine the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial.
  4. There are alternatives to TPIMs which better ensure public safety and respect for civil liberties. Liberty urges the government to use criminal law and the courts to lock up dangerous terrorists, and to allow the use of intercept evidence in court.

The Coalition Government included control orders in their 2010 Review of Counter Terror and Security Powers - read our response to the Counter Terror Review consultation (PDF).