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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 November, 2004, 17:07 GMT
Tougher anti-terror laws proposed
Police officer stands guard at Parliament
Anti-terror measures could be stepped up
The home secretary has outlined plans for more far-reaching measures to tackle terrorism.

The proposals include special anti-terror courts without juries and the use of phone-tap evidence in trials.

David Blunkett told ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme that any new legislation would wait until after the next general election.

But human rights group Liberty accused the government of resorting to "draconian law and order measures".

The home secretary said new civil orders were being considered which could be imposed against people suspected of "acts preparatory to terrorism" even if they had not committed an offence.

He said the breach of such orders would be a criminal offence which could result in imprisonment.

What we're trying to do is protect ourselves against new forms of threat without eroding basic human rights
Home Secretary David Blunkett

"We'd be able to use civil law, like anti-social behaviour orders, to say, 'If you step outside what we've precluded you from doing, if you, for instance, use this particular banking network... then we can move you from the civil into the criminal law', and then we can use the normal criminal justice process, " he said.

Mr Blunkett said that the introduction of special terrorism trials with judges sitting alone without a jury was being considered.

He said he was also considering allowing wire tap evidence in criminal trials - a move previously opposed by the security services who feared being forced to disclose secret operations.

Balancing act

The head of the planned new Serious and Organised Crime Agency, former MI5 chief Sir Stephen Lander, said that he was an "enthusiast" for using wire-tap evidence in court.

But he added: "When one is dealing with very serious crimes, there is a balance to be struck between the intrusion on the privacy of the majority... and the need to be able to contain the criminals.

A further eroding of the principles of justice must be avoided
Mark Oaten
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman
"The issue for any law enforcement agency is to act proportionately in the use of the laws that are available."

Mr Blunkett said: "What we're trying to do is to square an impossible circle which is to protect ourselves against new forms of threat and adapt our legal system to face it without eroding the basic human rights that people expect in a free and civilised society."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said: "Sensible measures and precautions will get Liberal Democrat backing, but a further eroding of the principles of justice must be avoided."

'Draconian'

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said the government was playing on people's legitimate fears of terrorism and crime to bring in more draconian law and order measures.

Martin Howe QC, of the Politeia think tank, said: "The harm in not dealing with the threat of terrorism is so great that you simply cannot afford to say that it is better that a 100 guilty terrorists are let out on the street, in order to save one innocent person from being locked up."

We have tough-sounding headline-grabbing statements from David Blunkett, without the substance to back it up
David Davis
Tory shadow home secretary
The government and security services have long warned that an attack on the UK is "inevitable".

The home secretary told the programme that any decision on legislation would wait until after the general election.

"It's not my intention to try and push a bill through this side of the general election whenever the prime minister calls it," he said.

It would also wait until a law lords ruling, expected in the New Year, on current anti-terror legislation under which suspects are being held without trial in Belmarsh prison in London.

'All talk'

Shadow home secretary David Davis said Mr Blunkett was "all talk" for failing to include proposals in Tuesday's Queen's Speech.

"Yet again we have tough-sounding headline-grabbing statements from David Blunkett, without the substance to back it up," Mr Davis said.

New bills that are expected to be announced in the speech will drive further crackdowns on anti-social behaviour and establish the Serious and Organised Crime Agency.

The agency, which has been called the "British FBI", will tackle people trafficking, drug smuggling and money laundering.

Agency head Sir Stephen Lander said these offences cost the UK 40bn a year.

BBC political correspondent Carole Walker said legislation will also be announced to set up a system of identity cards.

There will also be more measures to crack down on binge drinking.




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The controversial anti-terror plans explained



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