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Control Orders

Volume 461: debated on Thursday 21 June 2007

Section 14(1) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (the 2005 Act) requires the Secretary of State to report to Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of every relevant three-month period on the exercise of the control order powers during that period.

The level of information provided will always be subject to slight variations based on operational advice.

Control orders continue to be an essential tool to protect the public from terrorism, particularly where it is not possible to prosecute individuals for terrorist-related activity and, in the case of foreign nationals, where they cannot be removed from the UK.

During the period 11 March 2007 to 10 June 2007, one new control order was made with the permission of the court under section 3(1 )(a) of the 2005 Act and, on 30 March 2007, served on a British citizen. This replaced an order, relating to an individual referred to as AF, that was quashed by the High Court.

During this reporting period, no control orders were renewed in accordance with section 2(4)(b) of the 2005 Act.

One control order has expired since the last report.

In total, therefore, there are seventeen control orders currently in force, eight of which are in respect of British citizens. Seven of the individuals live in the Metropolitan Police Service area; the rest fall within other police force areas.

As Parliament will be aware, four of the seventeen individuals currently subject to a control order have absconded—one in January 2007 and three in May 2007. Details in relation to the three absconds that took place during this reporting period were given in my statement of 24 May. Parliament has also previously been informed of two other absconds: the individual who absconded in August 2006, after a control order was made, for example, signed against that individual, but before it had been served on him (this order has therefore never been in operation); and the individual who absconded in September 2006, who is no longer subject to a control order, as the order expired during this reporting period.

The High Court anonymity orders for the August and September 2006 absconders were lifted at a High Court hearing on 25 May. However, an extant anonymity order remained in place with regard to criminal proceedings in relation to the September 2006 absconder, so his identity was not made public at that time. For police operational and legal reasons, the Government are not currently seeking to lift the anonymity of the other (January 2007) absconder. Finding individuals who have absconded is an operational matter for the police, and investigations are ongoing.

During the period, sixteen modifications of control order obligations were made and fourteen requests to modify a control order obligation were refused. A right of appeal exists in section 10(3) of the 2005 Act against a decision by the Secretary of State in relation to an application by an individual subject to a non-derogating control order to revoke such an order or modify an obligation imposed by such an order. An appeal has been made in respect of one modification request that was refused.

Control order obligations are tailored to the individual concerned, and are based on the risk that individual poses. Each control order is kept under review to ensure their continuance and obligations remain necessary and proportionate. Specifically, as Lord Carlile recommended in his February 2006 report on the operation of the control order system, the Home Office has established a review group, with representation from law enforcement and intelligence agencies, to keep the obligations in every control order under regular (quarterly), formal and audited review.

Breaches of control orders could arise from any obligation, and could include arriving home after commencement of a curfew period or breaking geographical boundary restrictions on movement. During this period, one individual has been charged with breach of control order obligations relating to curfew. This individual is currently on bail.

During this reporting period, three court judgments relating to control orders were handed down. Two were in the High Court. In both Secretary of State for the Home Department v AF [2007] EWHC 651 (Admin) and Secretary of State for the Home Department v Mahmoud Abu Rideh [2007] EWHC 804 (Admin), the High Court quashed the control order in question as it found that the control order obligations cumulatively amounted to a deprivation of the individual’s liberty under article 5(1) ECHR. In both cases, the court accepted that the Secretary of State had reasonable grounds for suspecting that the individual was involved in terrorism-related activity. The Secretary of State is appealing these judgments.

Judgment was also handed down by the Court of Appeal in the case of Secretary of State for the Home Department v E and S [2007] EWCA Civ 459. The Court of Appeal concluded that the obligations in E’s control order did not cumulatively amount to a deprivation of liberty. It also judged that while there was a breach of the obligation to keep prosecution under review, the quashing of the order was not the appropriate remedy for this failure. Consequently the Court of Appeal allowed the Secretary of State’s appeal against the High Court judgment, and upheld the control order.

The Secretary of State’s appeal in relation to the AF judgment has leapfrogged the Court of Appeal, and will be heard together with the JJ and others and MB cases in the House of Lords, which are now scheduled to be heard in early July. E’s appeal against the Court of Appeal’s judgment will also be heard together with these cases. However, the Rideh case will not be heard by the Lords at that time.