Useless and unjust control orders must be voted out, says Liberty

21 February 2007

Ahead of Parliament’s second annual debate on the renewal of control orders tomorrow, Liberty reminded MPs that control orders have failed to promote public safety yet undermine basic rights by punishing individuals without charge or trial using secret evidence.

Since Parliament’s last debate to renew the anti-terror powers in February 2006, the Government has lost two of three legal challenges to control orders while three individuals issued with control orders have absconded.

Jago Russell, Liberty’s Policy Officer said:

“Control orders were introduced as a quick fix two years ago with terrible results for our freedoms as well as public safety. It is time for the sun to set on the control orders fiasco.”

Liberty has called on the Government to remove the bar on intercept evidence in criminal trials because its inadmissibility is a major factor in being unable to bring terror charges.

Jen Corlew on 0207 378 3656 or 0797 3 831 128


• Liberty’s Parliamentary Briefing on the Prevention of Terror Act 2005 Renewal is available on the policy pages of Liberty's website.

• Three of the eighteen men on control orders have now absconded showing that proper criminal trials and custodial sentences for the guilty would be far more effective at protecting the public.

• Independent Reviewer Lord Carlile’s report on the control order regime, released on 19 February 2007, points to serious problems with how the regime has operated: the constant surveillance needed to prevent people absconding; the use of control orders as an indefinite solution rather than a short-term measure; and failure to give proper consideration to the option of criminal prosecutions and to continue the investigations that would make these possible.

• The High Court determined on 16 February 2007 that the Home Secretary had not given proper consideration to the possibility of a criminal prosecution before resorting to a control order. The PTA 2005 specifically requires him to do this.

• On August 1 2006 the Court of Appeal found that control orders deny an individual’s right to liberty but not his right to a fair trial. Significantly, the Court found that making people subject to curfews and restricting where they can live amounts to imprisonment.

• In June 2006, the High Court declared control orders to be incompatible with Article 5 (the right to liberty) of the European Convention on Human Rights and quashes the control orders of six foreign nationals. Fifteen people, both British and foreign nationals, are believed to be on control orders.

• In April 2006, the High Court found in the control order case “MB” that he was denied the right to a fair trial (Article 6 of the Human Rights Act).

• The Government’s argument that it is impossible to prosecute terror suspects is fast unravelling. In the last year the 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.

• It emerged that the Home Office has relied on flawed and inconsistent intelligence in the kind of secret proceedings used in control orders and the High Court has dismissed the judicial oversight of control orders as a “thin veneer of legality”.

• Control orders are fast becoming an international embarrassment criticised by, among others, the European Commissioner on Human Rights and the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture.

• Control orders were brought in by the Government under the 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act. So far 18 control orders have been served on people suspected of involvement in terrorism. A control order severely restricts who a person can meet, where they can go and all cases so far have involved electronic tagging. They can potentially 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.