Suspected terrorists will still face significant restrictions on their liberties under plans for new powers dubbed “control orders lite”, campaigners have said.
Civil rights groups accused the Government of “bottling” the decision on the future of counter-terrorism powers, saying the rebranded control orders were simply a “lower-fat form” of their predecessors and would still restrict rights to privacy, movement and expression.
Home Secretary Theresa May gave a clear signal that the restrictions on suspected terrorists against whom prosecutions cannot be brought are here to stay, saying the powers will no longer need to be reviewed every year. The term “control order” has been scrapped in favour of “terrorism prevention and investigation measures”, or Tpims.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: “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.
“Parliament must now decide whether the final flavour will be of progress, disappointment or downright betrayal.”
Tim Hancock, campaigns director of Amnesty International UK, added that while the proposals are “less drastic than the previous control orders regime”, Tpims would still impose “significant restrictions on the rights to liberty, privacy, expression, movement and association”.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper also warned that the plans are a “political fudge”, saying the review of counter-terrorism powers left gaps which raise “serious questions about security and resources”.
The new powers will be limited to two years and will only be renewed if there is new evidence that suspects have “re-engaged in terrorism-related activities”.
But the decision to scrap 16-hour curfews while bringing in overnight residence requirements, typically of between eight and 10 hours, were greeted with guffaws of laughter from MPs in the Commons. The overnight stays will be monitored by electronic tags and there will be an additional level of flexibility.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who campaigned at the General Election on a pledge to abolish control orders completely, said suspects should be able to “lead a relatively normal life”, he said, but “in a way which doesn’t allow them to cause damage to the British people”.