28 January 2011
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On 26 January, the Home Office published its long-awaited review of counter terrorism and security powers: The review's findings and recommendations can be found here.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, told Parliament that control orders would be "repealed" and replaced by Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs).  They will be introduced by legislation put before Parliament "in the coming weeks." In the meantime, control orders have been renewed until December 2011. The key features of TPIMs are:
Nick Clegg told BBC News:
"It has changed in fundamental design. Firstly they cannot be kept in place, these measures, permanently, they are time limited. Secondly they are subject to complete oversight by a judge. Thirdly, house arrests, either by very, very draconian curfews or by simply relocating people to other parts of the country, go.
[Individuals] will be able to work, they will be able to study, they will be able to use mobile phones, they will be able to use the internet in a way that they weren't under the old system, whilst at all times ensuring that, of course, they can also not do anything that could do harm to the British people ...
I think people in the party will be very supportive of this package...We have always said in opposition that we need to rebalance this very important relationship between liberty and security, that is what we've done we have to show the British people we'll keep them safe." 
In reality the new system is little more than a watered-down version of control orders - critics have been quick to label it "control orders lite". Further, the Lib Dem 2010 general election manifesto did far more than call for a rebalancing of the relationship "between liberty and security." It pledged specifically to:
"Scrap control orders, which can use secret evidence to place people under house arrest."
"Make it easier to prosecute and convict terrorists by allowing intercept evidence in court and by making greater use of postcharge questioning." 
Neither of these commitments has been enacted. Control orders have been abolished in name alone: amended, not replaced. Crucially, TPIMs will retain its predecessor's most objectionable characteristic of operating outside the criminal justice system and bypassing judicial process. Under the new system individuals will continue to be punished without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence heard in closed courts that they are not permitted to hear or contest. TPIMs will restrict suspects' civil liberties less severely than control orders currently do, but the new system will continue to undermine the presumption of innocence and remains an inadequate substitute to a fair trial.
This wholly undemocratic process stems from the fact that Britain is the only country in the common law world to ban the use of intercept evidence in court, making it incredibly difficult to prosecute individuals suspected of terrorism offences. May told Parliament that she intends to publish a written statement regarding the steps that are being taken towards allowing the use of intercept evidence in court. However, in the past the UK's security services have been intransigent in their belief that the practice would pose an unacceptable risk to national security by revealing important operational practices. Given the level of deference May has been accused of showing the security services over control orders and the difficulty previous governments have had in amending the practice, there is little cause for optimism.  Indeed, though May claims that the government is intent on finding a way to prosecute terrorism suspects, the fact that TPIMs will not need to be reviewed each year - as control orders were - indicates that these powers are no longer seen as exceptional, but are here to stay.
Coverage of control orders:
 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/oct/31/andrew-rawnsley-coalition-terrorism-laws; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8405109.stm
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