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UK terrorism suspects maintaining contacts despite control orders: official report

[JURIST] Some terror suspects living under control orders [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] have managed to maintain contact with terror cells, the UK's counter-terrorism law ombudsman said in his fourth annual report [text, PDF] Tuesday. Lord Carlile of Berriew [JURIST news archive] found that even though in most instances a control order cannot be justified for longer than two years [JURIST report] because suspects cease to be desirable terror operatives, evidence shows that, "there are a few controlees who, despite the restrictions placed upon them, manage to maintain some contact with terrorist associates and/or groups, and a determination to become operational in the future." The report commended the efforts of the Secretary of State to explore alternatives to the orders and to seek prosecution and conviction by a jury where possible. Carlile endorsed all of the orders issued in 2008 and noted that "control orders remain a largely effective necessity for a small number of cases, in the absence of a viable alternative for those few instances." Also Tuesday, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith [official profile] introduced a draft order [press release] to parliament to renew the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 [HO materials], which is set to expire in March [JURIST report]. Smith called the control order legislation a "balance between safeguarding society from the risk of terrorism and the preservation of the rights of the individual," and said that the government will carefully review the recommendations made in Carlile's report.

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. Last March, UK Home Office minister Tony McNulty told members of Parliament that control orders are currently in force against 11 people [JURIST report] suspected of terrorist activity, though Tuesday's report put the latest number at 15.

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