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Terrorism: Control Orders

Volume 687: debated on Monday 11 December 2006

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (John Reid) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Section 14(1) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (the 2005 Act) requires me 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.

On 18 October, I asked Lord Carlile to consider whether any improvements could be made to the quarterly report. I am today placing a copy of Lord Carlile’s report on this matter, together with a copy of this Statement (being my formal response to his recommendations), in the Library of the House. It will also be available on the Home Office website at Lord Carlile makes a number of sensible recommendations to increase the information that can be safely placed in the public domain through the quarterly Written Ministerial Statement. I am happy to accept them, with the caveat that we need to avoid publishing any information that could lead to the identification of an individual who is subject to an anonymity order.

The format of this and future quarterly reports has been revised in the light of Lord Carlile's review so as to include some additional information. The level of information provided will, however, always be subject to slight variations based on the operational advice of the police.

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 September to 10 December 2006, one order was made and, on 21 November 2006, served on a British citizen with the permission of the court under Section 3(l)(a) of the 2005 Act. Three further orders were made but have not yet been served, two of which were in respect of British citizens. Orders may be made but not served because they were made on a contingency basis, and the individual has been either charged and remanded in custody, or convicted and sentenced to prison, or deported. Alternatively, there may be police operational reasons for not serving an order.

Two control orders already in force at the beginning of this reporting period were revoked and new orders made and, on 12 September 2006, served in their place. This followed a review of the obligations in these control orders as a result of the Court of Appeal's judgment of 1 August in the case of Secretary of State for the Home Department v JJ, KK, GG, HH, NN & LL [2006] EWCA Civ 1141. No control orders have expired since the last report.

In total, therefore, there are 16 control orders currently in force, seven of which are in respect of British citizens. Eight of the individuals live in the Metropolitan Police area; the rest fall within other police force areas. Fifteen modifications of control order obligations were made, and four requests to modify a control order obligation were refused during the period. A right of appeal exists in Section 10(3) of the 2005 Act against a decision by the Secretary of State not to modify an obligation contained in a control order. This has not yet been exercised in respect of these refusals.

Control order obligations are tailored to the individual concerned and are based on the risk that he or she poses. Each control order is kept under review to ensure that its 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 curfew period or breaking geographical boundary restrictions on movement. During this period, two individuals were charged with breach of control order obligations. Both were charged with failure to comply with a daily reporting requirement; one was also charged with failure to notify the Home Office of a change of residence.

As Parliament will be aware, one individual subject to a control order has absconded. Another individual absconded after a control order was made (i.e. signed) against that individual, but before the order had been served. This order is therefore not in operation. Finding these individuals is an operational matter for the police, and investigations are ongoing. Anonymity orders are in place for both individuals. The anonymity order is imposed by the court and can only be lifted by the court. For operational reasons, the Government are not currently seeking to overturn the anonymity orders.

On Thursday 26 October, a hearing took place in the administrative court to consider overturning the anonymity orders in place for the individuals who absconded. On police advice, the Home Office resisted this application and the judge upheld the anonymity orders for the two individuals.

One control order review started on 23 November in the High Court and final written submissions are being served. These proceedings are pursuant to Section 3(10) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. We await the outcome.