The bail conditions imposed on one of the people who have been held without trial in Belmarsh prison, and who are now being released, gives a glimpse of what the Home Office obviously has in mind with its plans for allegedly "non derogating" Control Orders.
It is striking just how many of the Home Office's list of demanded bail conditions were modified by the senior Judge, upon application from the defence lawyers, not in respect of the bailed suspect himself, but regarding the "collateral damage" that the bail conditions would have done to to the rights and privacy of family members and other people that the bailed suspect would be likely to come into contact with.
"Everyday life for the gagged and tagged
Conditions Bail judge expects similar limits in control orders
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
Friday March 11, 2005
The details of what life will be like as one of the "gagged and tagged" terror suspects being placed under partial house arrest emerged yesterday as the bail conditions were set for those who are being released from Belmarsh high security prison.
Mr Justice Ouseley set down 11 separate conditions agreed yesterday between the home secretary and the detainees' lawyers.
The judge said last night that he expected the terms of the new control orders to be very similar."
"Tagging and curfews
Premier Monitoring Services started work last night to fit the detainees being released with electronic tags which will alert the authorities if they leave their homes without permission.
The Home Office wanted the terror suspects confined to their homes for 14 hours from 5pm until 7am but the judge last night gave the detainees an extra two hours out to enable them to take care of their children. They cannot leave the house during these times unless authorised by the Home Office. They must also call the private security monitoring company and tell it every time they leave or enter their homes during the day.
The judge ruled that they could also spend time in their private garden if they have one as long as it is feasible for the monitoring equipment to cover their movements."
This implies that the old style landline te;lephone tagging is being used, rather than the mobile phone/GSM based electronic tags.
"Those with no homes to be detained in will be living in Home Office accommodation.
Out and about?
The bail order bans the terror suspect from meeting anybody while out of his house who has not already been cleared the day before with the Home Office, which means that all his meetings must be prearranged. The suspect has to provide names, dates of birth, addresses and a photograph identifying those he is to meet."
How are you meant to provide "provide names, dates of birth, addresses and a photograph" of someone you might meet tomorrow ?
What about the privacy rights of these other people, who are not, presumably terrorist suspects ? Or are they to be tarred with the same brush, merely through accidental "guilt by association" ?
This requirement presumably means that there must be an ongoing surveillance operation to enforce the bail conditions / prototype Control Order.
"After the defence counsel complained this could mean the home secretary's permission to get a takeaway pizza, have a haircut or pick up a newspaper, the judge ruled that repeated permissions will not be needed for visits to "health, welfare or educational" establishments given initial clearance. This will apply to consulting lawyers.
Permission will be needed to attend prearranged group meetings of up to 10 people, with the exception of services at a local mosque, as long as prior approval has been given a day in advance. They will be allowed to attend prayer meetings but not to lead them."
In what way is this not a breach of the Human Rights Act with respect to freedom of religion ?
"The judge said they did not have to comply with an original Home Office proposal to name all the other people in the group after hearing that one of the detainees who is an amputee would have to name all the other patients in his therapy group."
What right have the Home Office or the secret services to demand confidential medical information from other patients who just happen to attending the same clinic ?
"Who can visit the house?
The terror suspect is under an obligation not to allow anybody into his house who is not part of his immediate family or authorised by the Home Office. That ban also applies to his family and the judge said he was troubled when it was suggested that children involved would not be able to invite friends for tea without them being vetted by the home secretary. He ordered that visitors under 16 should be allowed into the house but that their parents could only come to the front door and not enter the house. Those parents have to be approved in advance.
He ruled that doctors, emergency service people such as firefighters, and "registered trades people and registered professionals" could visit the house in the course of their duties. A special exception was made in the case of 'A' for his landlord to enter the house to do repairs, such as fix a leaky tap."
This just shows that these Home Office bail conditions or prototype Control Orders, have an element of collective punishment about them.
"The judge rejected an attempt to allow family friends to visit. But after worrying about whether binmen and postmen would be banned from the house, he ruled that the front garden was not part of the designated premises."
This level of detail which needs to be considered about individual circumstances, as revealed in theses bail hearings, is yet one more reason why a Judge needs to issue any future Control Orders, rather than the Home Secretary or the Home Office bureaucracy. They have no mechanism or, it seems abilitity to respond to feedback from the accused suspect, except through the extraordinary longwinded and expensive method of "Judicial Review" , some time after the Control order has been inflicted on a family and community (remember that Control Orders would apply to British citizens, not necessarily just to suspected foreign Islamic extremist death cultists)
Those under partial house arrest must allow the police and security services to enter at any time to search and to check that they are complying with the terms of the order. After hearing that it would be a gross intrusion for an all-male search party to enter a house of Muslim women who were alone, the judge ruled that a female officer had to be present.
Phone and internet ban
The bail orders allow the suspects one fixed landline and a computer without internet. Mobile phones are banned; this also applies to the children. Faxes, pagers and any other communication technology is banned to enable the security services to monitor all calls."
This is another counterproductive punishment. Why are terrorist suspects not being encouraged to use phones and the internet, to give intelligence leads to the authorities ?
Are the legal phone and internet tapping resources available to the authorities really unable to cope with this small number of phones and internet connections ? If so, then perhaps the money which the Government plans to waste on ID Card infrastructure would be better spent on funding the necessary communications intereception infrastructure instead.
The suspects are banned from leaving the country without telling the Home Office. They will be banned from holding more than one bank account, which must be British-based with monthly statements provided to the Home Office. They are banned from transferring money or goods to any destination outside Britain without consent."
Just as when they were detained in Belmarsh, it seems that these allegedly dangerous people "accused" (according to the media leaks and briefings today) of supporting foreign terrorist groups, are free to leave the country. This really does undermine claims about how dangerous they really are.
"Abu Qatada was banned from buying or selling, or providing to anybody else any form of communication or computer equipment."
Does The Guardian really mean Abu Qatada or detainee "A" ?
The Independent reports:
"Specifically the Government claims 'A' was involved in buying telecommunications equipment for the Mujahedin fighting in Chechnya. Throughout his long detention, 'A' has consistently denied being involved in terrorism."
The Times reports:
"A: An Algerian, 37, alleged to be a member of the banned GSPC (Salafist Group for Call and Combat), was released on bail last night. He has been in Britain illegally since 1989 and was allegedly involved in the £230,000 purchase of 19 satellite phones and Sim cards for Chechen Mujahidin."
Why would these satellite phones not be a useful source of intelligence to the authorities, who presumably can tap them at will. It is inconceivable that any satellite phone company would not assist with a legal Government request to do this.
The various media reports e.g. The Times which have emerged today, are presumably based on a Home Office briefing, and give some slight details about what the Belmarsh deatinees are alleged to have been involved in.
Given that most of these detainees are still under the protection of Contempt of Court rules regarding their anonymity, will these unsubstantiated, unproven allegations trigger libel actions or even, Contempt of Court actions in the future, due to the "collective memory effect" of the Internet and Search Engines ?
We have not forgotten Attorney General Lord Goldsmith's extraordinary "advice" contemplating censorship of old online newspaper articles etc. Presumably he plans to try to censor this blog in the future as well.