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UK control orders should not exceed 2 years: terror law ombudsman

[JURIST] Control orders [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] imposing restrictions on uncharged suspects under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 [UK Home Office materials] should not exceed two years in duration except under extraordinary circumstances, the UK's counter-terrorism law ombudsman said in his third annual report [PDF text; press release] Monday. Lord Carlile of Berriew [party profile; JURIST news archive] found that the current system of control orders is "a justifiable and proportional safety valve for the proper protection of civil society," but argued that time limits should be imposed on the length of control orders. The UK parliament is scheduled to consider legislation to extend the Act's control order program for an additional 12 months on February 22. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith [official profile] has expressed support for extending the legislation and making broader use of control orders as a counter-terrorism tool. AP has more.

Control orders allow the British government to impose house arrest and electronic surveillance on suspects and to forbid them from using mobile phones and the Internet when there is not enough evidence to prosecute. They were first introduced [JURIST report] by the government of former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2005 and, apart from being politically controversial, have already run into problems in the courts [JURIST report]. The UK Law Lords ruled [JURIST report] in a series of decisions in October that the government can continue to impose control orders on terror suspects in lieu of detention, but said that some elements of the orders issued under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 violate human rights.

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