Page last updated at 13:16 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 14:16 UK

Review of control orders sought

The Scales of Justice at the Old Bailey
One man had his control order lifted after a court ruling

A wholesale review of control orders, which restrict the freedoms of some terror suspects, has been instigated by Home Secretary Alan Johnson.

Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of terror laws, will consider if the system is still "viable" following a ruling by the House of Lords.

In June, the court ruled suspects placed on control orders should be told about secret evidence against them.

One man, known as AF, had his order revoked because of the judgement.

Mr Johnson decided to lift the order rather than place more secret information in the public domain and risk national security.

'Not perfect'

The type of information that may have been subject to disclosure would have included secret material gathered by MI5.

Speaking at the Police Superintendents' annual conference in Warwickshire, Mr Johnson said: "Control orders are not perfect but for a handful of people they are the best we have."

The government's discredited and illiberal control orders scheme has been dealt so many blows by the courts that even the home secretary has realised the game is up
Chris Huhne
Lib Dem home affairs spokesman

The home secretary said his department was continually reviewing the control order regime.

"My current assessment is... that the control order regime remains viable following the House of Lords judgment and that the national security reasons for maintaining the regime have not changed.

"In addition to this ongoing review within my department, I have asked Lord Carlile of Berriew QC to review the impact of the judgement and to advise me as to whether the assessment that the regime remains viable is right."

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling welcomed the review but said action should have been taken earlier, before the court order regime "unravelled in the courts".

He said: "We have warned the government many times that control orders are not working - particularly when those under the orders seem to be able to keep in touch with their networks of suspected terrorists freely.

... Mr Johnson should be passing case files to independent prosecutors with a view to charging the guilty and freeing the innocent
Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty

"Above all, we have to be clear in our strategy to defend Britain against the threat of terrorism."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said she was "bitterly disappointed" by their continued use.

"Instead of asking Home Office reviewers to be considering how many control orders they can get away with, Mr Johnson should be passing case files to independent prosecutors with a view to charging the guilty and freeing the innocent," she said.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said the orders "undermined British justice".

"The government's discredited and illiberal control orders scheme has been dealt so many blows by the courts that even the home secretary has realised the game is up," he said.

The BBC's home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said Lord Carlile would report back early next year, and in the meantime, the courts would determine case-by-case if any more control orders should be lifted.

'House-arrest'

In June, the Law Lords said the control orders imposed against AF and two other suspects were unfair.

The court said the suspects had not been allowed to know enough of the case made against them to properly defend themselves in open court.

The Law Lords ruling was prompted by a European Court of Human Rights decision on secret evidence.

Mr Johnson said five control orders were revoked between 11 June and 10 September, including AF's. He said that order was the only one revoked as a "direct result" of the House of Lords judgment.

Three other individuals had their orders revoked because he said they were "no longer necessary". The remaining individual is being deported.

Fifteen control orders remain in place, and nine of those are on British citizens.

Control orders restrict the freedoms of some terror suspects and can include house-arrest style conditions, including curfews and restrictions on working, studying and communication.



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