Home Secretary Charles Clarke has published the very controversial Prevention of Terrorism Bill
If you read the Bill, you will be struck by its complexity, and the over broad general powers it tries to grab for the Executive branch of Government.
You will be struck by how many of the terrorist related activities written in to this Bill are already crimes under the draconian Terrorism Act 2000.
e.g. Clause 1, subsection 8:
"(8) For the purposes of this Act involvement in terrorism-related activity is any one or more of the following— (a) the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism;
(b) conduct which facilitates the commission, preparation or instigation of such acts, or which is intended to do so;
(c) conduct which gives encouragement to the commission, preparation or instigation of such acts, or which is intended to do so;
(d) conduct which gives support or assistance to individuals who are
known or believed to be involved in terrorism-related activity;
and for the purposes of this subsection it is immaterial whether the acts of terrorism in question are specific acts of terrorism or acts of terrorism generally."
c.f. the briefing by Liberty Human Rights (.pdf) published before the Bill was made public.
There are several bits missing from this Bill, which shows that the Home Office has not thought through the wider implications of this attempt to extricate themselves from the mess, which they themselves have created.
The Home Office's Frequently Asked Questions page
What will be the media restrictions on identifying those subject to Control Orders? Individuals who are subject to control order provisions will have the option of applying for an anonymity order, as is currently the case with those held under Part 4 ATCS powers.
The Belmarsh detainees were arrested under the Terrorism Act or the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act part 4. Their names were kept secret whilst in police cells and in prison. This level of security cannot, by definition, apply to "house arrest" or the lesser (but still iniquitous) Control Order restrictions.
What is there to prevent the tabloid media or vigilantes from "doorstepping" and harassing anybody who is subjected to a Control Order before a Court has had a chance to make an order protecting their anonymity ?
If the Control Orders were made by a Judge, on the basis of testable evidence, then contempt of court rules or anonymity orders could be applied right at the outset, instead of waiting for 7 days or longer before a court review of the Home Secretary's Control Order.
It also appears that this Bill would allow a Control Order to be imposed which would restrict a controlled person, under penalty of 5 years in prison, from giving interviews to journalists and the media.
For the Home Secretary to apply a Control Order either for house arrest, or even for electronic tagging or the ludicrously counterproductive restrictions on phones or computer communications (terrorist suspects should be encouraged to make use of these easily surveilled technologies, not forbidden from using them), is to advertise the fact that a person is a suspected terrorist, even though they may be innocent.
Similarly, there is no mention of a Criminal Record for those people who have been "controlled" by means of a Control Order. The Home Office simply does not seem to have bothered to think through whether or not the fact that someone who has been subjected to a Control Order, but who has not breached it and thereby committed the criminal offence of breaching a Control Order, should or should not have this data recorded on a criminal record or police intelligence database, which may then be disclosed to future potential employers via the Criminal Records Bureau Enhanced Disclosure. A Control Order is not an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO), but that is obviously where some of this legislation has been cut and pasted from.
There are mixed messages coming from the Government over just how dangerous the Belmarsh detainees actually are.
Yesterday Peter Hain's comments whilst announcing the insultingly short Parliamentary timetable for this Bill, and today's remarks by Charles Clarke and the background briefing documents imply that there is an imminent danger of suicide terrorist attacks in the UK. The implication is that the 11 Belmarsh detainees would be likely to conduct such attacks immediately after March 14th, if they are simply released.
However, the "house arrest" provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, are, apparently not going to be enacted immediately, but at some undetermined future date. This rather implies that the 11 Belmarsh detainees, who, after all have no money to fund terrorist plots, no explosives, no weapons etc. and who do not have the element of surprise, are not actually a threat to the UK.
The Explanatory Notes to the Bill reveal just how many Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights the Government's plans will potentially breach in spirit, if not in the letter of the law, if this Primary Legislation is passed unamended:
"104. Obligations imposed under control orders (clause 1) potentially interfere with the right to respect to private and family life (Article 8), freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Article 9), freedom of expression (Article 10), and freedom of assembly and association (Article 11"
"05. The power to make control orders imposing derogating obligations (clause 2) raises additional issues under Article 5 (right to liberty and security)."
"107. The procedures for making and challenging control orders (clauses 1-2 and 6-9 and Schedule) raise issues under Article 6 (right to a fair trial)"
How many of the points above which we have noticed on a first reading of the Bill, will be noticed or raised in debate, by the Members of Parliament who are going to rubber stamp this Bill tomorrow and on Monday ?
The terrorists must be laughing at us as our Government gets the balance between repressive security and our traditional freedoms amend liberties so very wrong.