Friday, January 7, 2011

Control orders should be replaced... with prosecution

I’m against Control orders. There I said it, now the right wing of the party can call me a Liberal Conservative, but I read Tom Clancy (whose new book
is really rather good and probably as right wing as you can get) and am very much in favour of dealing with the Terrorist threat in a way that works (but then who isn’t).

The problem with Control Orders is that they curtail civil liberties and they are just a replacement for something else, either surveillance or prosecution. The problem is that surveillance costs MI5 money, and isn’t always effective, but then neither are Control orders with 1 in 6 slipping away are you really telling me that if you’re watching someone 24/7 that more than 1 in 6 will get away from you? The other advantage with surveillance is that you can see who else they’re visiting, who else they’re communicating with and pick-up more suspects. Basic Tom Clancy spycraft 101. If the issue is cost or resources then give MI5 more money, you’ll be hard priced to find someone who will vote against more money to catch terrorists, even if it means less money for another area.

However the alternative is obviously prosecution, which is also a powerful tool for disruption. Lawyers and GCHQ have traditionally been against the use of intercept evidence and covertly gathered intelligence in courts but a way around this has to be found so that the judiciary can prosecute, if the evidence is strong enough to take away civil liberties indefinitely then it must be strong enough to prosecute in some way.

But there’s another side to prosecution that is pointed out by Dominic Raab MP on Comment is Free today. In 2007 MI5 stated that there were an estimated 4,000 terrorist suspects and we are always hearing about how many plots are foiled (a number were apparently foiled over Christmas including one which would have involved an attack on Parliament) the threat is increasing however against this are we seeing an increase in prosecutions for terrorism? Or an increase in the usage of control orders? No in the last 4 years prosecutions have reduced by 90% and at present we have only eight control orders the lowest number since their introduction.

As Dominic Raab says prosecution is something both sides of this arguement should be able to agree on. If I was Clegg I’d be announcing that Control Orders are being abolished today in favour of the creation of a new specialists court that allows the use of intercept and covertly gathered intelligence. It’s the sensible choice which can unite both sides of the coalition.

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