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UK government to review control order system

[JURIST] UK Home Secretary Alan Johnson [official profile] said Wednesday that the government will conduct a review of the control order [Guardian backgrounder; JURIST news archive] house arrest system in light of a June Law Lords ruling [judgment, PDF; JURIST report] requiring the government to let detainees know generally what charges they face so that they can mount a defense. Johnson issued a ministerial statement [text] saying that his "current assessment is ... that the control order regime remains viable," but that he would "be keeping this assessment under review." Speaking before the Police Superintendents' annual conference, Johnson said [text]:

[Control orders] are not and never were intended to be the first line of defence.

Where an individual is suspected of terrorist activity, our first objective will always be for that person to be tried and prosecuted in an open court, or deported if they are foreign nationals.

But there is a very small number of people who undoubtedly pose a substantial threat to public safety, and who for good reason, we can neither prosecute nor deport. ...

Control orders are a practical and proportionate legislative tool that can be applied in such cases. They are not perfect and one day, I hope they won't be necessary. But for a handful of people, they remain the best option we have for ensuring the public is safe and our security services are able to do their work effectively. That is why I announced in a ministerial statement issued an hour ago that I have decided to maintain the availability of control orders within the constrains of the House of Lords judgement.
Johnson also announced that he had asked the independent reviewer of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 [text], Lord Carlile of Berriew [official profile], to review the impact of the Law Lords judgment.

Johnson's announcement comes as last week, the UK Home Office [official website] released a top terrorism suspect [JURIST report] from a control order because it did not want to reveal secret evidence. In August, a control order against a suspected terrorist known as AN was overturned [judgment text; JURIST report] by the UK High Court. At that time Johnson had announced plans [BBC report] to draft a new control order against AN. The UK Law Lords ruled [JURIST report] in a series of decisions last 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 violate human rights. Control orders allow the British government to conduct surveillance and impose house arrest on suspects where there does not exist enough evidence to prosecute. The orders can also be used to forbid the use of mobile phones and the Internet.

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