Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005

Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005

The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 is a British Act of Parliament intended to deal with the Law Lords' ruling of 16 December, 2004, that the detention without trial of nine foreigners at HM Prison Belmarsh under Part IV of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 was unlawful, being incompatible with European (and, thus, domestic) human rights laws. It was given Royal Assent on March 11, 2005.

The Act allows the Home Secretary to impose "control orders" on people who are suspected of involvement in terrorism, which in some cases may derogate (opt out) from human rights laws.

In April 2006, a High Court judge issued a declaration that section 3 of the Act was incompatible with the right to a fair trial under article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The system of control orders was described by Mr Justice Sullivan as an 'affront to justice'.cite news |first=Vikram |last=Dodd |coauthors=Carlene Bailey |title=Terror law an affront to justice - judge |url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2006/apr/13/humanrights.terrorism |work=The Guardian |publisher=Guardian News and Media Limited |location=London |date=2006-04-13 |accessdate=2008-06-08]

Background

Despite having passed permanent counter-terrorism legislation only a year earlier, in the shape of the Terrorism Act 2000, the British government's response to the September 11, 2001 attacks was to rush through emergency legislation to increase powers to deal with individuals suspected of planning or assisting terrorist attacks within the UK.

A key feature of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 was that resident foreigners suspected of terrorism could be interned without trial, if they could not be deported to another country without breaching British human rights legislation (for example, if they might be subject to torture or the death penalty in their native country). Several individuals were interned, mainly in Belmarsh prison, under these powers; they were free to leave, but only if they left the country, which some did.

The Government claims that it has evidence against these individuals that is inadmissible in court — or unusable in open court due to security concerns — and is reluctant to allow this evidence to be used. However, the House of Lords ruled that the internment of these people, without trial, was contrary to the Human Rights Act 1998, mainly because the powers only extended to foreign nationals; the new act allows control orders to be issued against British citizens as well as foreign nationals.

Parliamentary passage

First stages

The Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on February 22, 2005 and allows the Home Secretary to make "control orders" for people he suspects of involvement in terrorism, including placing them under house arrest, restricting their access to mobile telephones and the internet and requiring that visitors be named in advance, so that they may be vetted by MI5.

The Bill passed the Commons, despite a substantial rebellion by backbench Labour Members of Parliament (MPs), and was sent to the House of Lords, which made several amendments, the most significant being the introduction of a sunset clause, so the Act would automatically expire in March 2006, unless it were renewed by further legislation, much like the Prevention of Terrorism Acts of 1974–89.

Other amendments included requiring the Director of Public Prosecutions to make a statement that a prosecution would be impossible before each individual control order could be issued, to require a judge to authorise each control order, requiring a review of the legislation by Privy Councillors and restoring the "normal" burden of proof ("beyond a reasonable doubt"), rather than the weaker "balance of probabilities".

The vote in the Lords was notable for being the first time Lord Irvine, friend and mentor of Tony Blair and recent Lord Chancellor, ever voted against the Labour government.

Constitutional crisis

The Commons considered the Lords' amendments on March 10 and rejected most of them. The Bill was exchanged between the two chambers several more times that parliamentary day, which extended well into March 11 and led to the longest sitting of the House of Lords in its history, of over 30 hours. (Parliamentary custom dictates that the parliamentary day continues until the House is adjourned. Therefore although it was midnight March 11 outside the House of Commons, inside it was still March 10.)

That the Bill was "ping-ponged" between both houses was evidence of an unusual constitutional crisis, notable because the urgency of the legislation — the previous powers to detain the individuals in HMP Belmarsh and elsewhere were due to expire on March 14, 2005 — meant that the Parliament Act, the usual device to handle situations where the Commons and Lords cannot agree on a measure, could not be invoked in order to acquire Royal Assent without the consent of the upper house.

Compromise

Eventually, a compromise was agreed, with both sides claiming victory: the opposition parties conceded all their amendments for the promise of a review of the legislation a year later. The Bill received Royal Assent later that day, and the first control orders, to deal with the ten suspects previously interned in HMP Belmarsh, were issued by Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, immediately.

Some critics were still unhappy with the compromise reached in the evening of March 11, pointing out that an Act that removes the 790-year-old principle of "habeas corpus", codified in Magna Carta, should not have been rushed through Parliament in the first place and that a review leaves it to the opposition to defeat the legislation, unlike a sunset clause, which would require the government to prove that these extraordinary powers were still a necessary and proportionate response to the threat of terrorism in the UK; comparisons were made with the detention provisions of South Africa's apartheid-era Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967.

Few critics claimed that the terrorist threat was not real, merely that these powers were not the best way to address that threat, that arbitrary powers are more likely to lead to a miscarriage of justice and that prosecution in a court of law would be a better solution. The most commonly-presented counter-argument was that protecting British citizens' freedom to live and go about their lives without fear of terrorism is more important than the civil liberties of suspected terrorists.

Restrictions permitted by the Act

Control orders may contain restrictions that the Home Secretary or a court "considers necessary for purposes connected with preventing or restricting involvement by that individual in terrorism-related activity", including:
* restrictions on the possession of specified articles or substances (such as a mobile telephone);
* restrictions on the use of specified services or facilities (such as internet access);
* restrictions on work and business arrangements;
* restrictions on association or communication with other individuals, specified or generally;
* restrictions on where an individual may reside and who may be admitted to that place;
* a requirement to admit specified individuals to certain locations and to allow such places to be searched and items to be removed therefrom;
* a prohibition on an individual being in specified location(s) at specified times or days;
* restrictions to an individual's freedom of movement, including giving prior notice of proposed movements;
* a requirement to surrender the individual's passport;
* a requirement to allow the individual to be photographed;
* a requirement to cooperate with surveillance of the individual's movements or communications, including electronic tagging;
* a requirement to report to a specified person and specified times and places.

Opposition to the Act

Measures in the Act were opposed by a number of human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, JUSTICE and Liberty. Criticism of the Act included complaints about the range of restrictions that could be imposed, the use of closed proceedings and special advocates to hear secret evidence against the detainee, and the possibility that evidence against detainees may include evidence obtained in other countries by torture.

Renewal

Due to the extremely swift passage of the Act through Parliament (18 days between introduction and Royal Assent), the Home Secretary Charles Clarke had agreed to table legislation in Spring 2006 in order to allow Parliament to consider amendments to the Act following the first report of the Independent Reviewer, Lord Carlile of Berriew QC.

Lord Carlile reported on 2 February but the Home Secretary announced that he would not be introducing fresh legislation, given that the Terrorism Bill was already under consideration. Instead, the government indicated that it would allow amendment to the Act in consolidating counter-terrorism legislation scheduled for 2007.

In any event, sections 1-9 of the Act are subject to annual renewal by affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament. As of March 2007 the measures were last renewed following votes of the Commons [22 Feb 2007] and the Lords [5 March 2007] . [cite web |url=http://www.counter-terrorism-law.org/control2007renewal1.htm |title=UK Parliament votes to renew Control Order Regime |accessdate=2008-06-08 |date=2007-03-05 |work=counter-terrorism-law.org]

Incompatibility with human rights

In April 2006, in his judgment in the case of Re MB, Mr Justice Sullivan issued a declaration under section 4 of the Human Rights Act 1998 that section 3 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 was incompatible with the right to fair proceedings under article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Mr Justice Sullivan held:

"To say that the Act does not give the respondent in this case, against whom a non-derogating control order has been made by the Secretary of State, a fair hearing in the determination of his rights under Article 8 of the Convention would be an understatement. The court would be failing in its duty under the 1998 Act, a duty imposed upon the court by Parliament, if it did not say, loud and clear, that the procedure under the Act whereby the court merely reviews the lawfulness of the Secretary of State's decision to make the order upon the basis of the material available to him at that earlier stage are conspicuously unfair. The thin veneer of legality which is sought to be applied by section 3 of the Act cannot disguise the reality. That controlees' rights under the Convention are being determined not by an independent court in compliance with Article 6.1, but by executive decision-making, untrammelled by any prospect of effective judicial supervision." [cite web |url=http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2006/1000.html |title=MB, Re [2006] EWHC 1000 (Admin) (12 April 2006); Section 103|accessdate=2008-06-08 |date=2006-04-12 |work=England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions]

However, on 1st August 2006, the Court of Appeal reversed this judgement (in part). They agreed that MB's Article 5 rights had been breached, but said that it did not infringe on his Article 6 rights. [cite news |first=Alan |last=Travis|title=Reid's curfew orders on six terror suspects are illegal, say judges |url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/aug/02/terrorism.humanrights |work=The Guardian |publisher=Guardian News and Media Limited |location=London |date=2006-08-02 |accessdate=2008-06-08 |quote=The appeal court judges said that Mr Justice Sullivan was mistaken in believing the review powers did not comply with the right to a fair trial under article 6 of the European convention.] (Secretary of State for the Home Department v. MB [2006] EWCA Civ 1140). [cite web |url=http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2006/1140.html |title= [2006] EWCA Civ 1140|accessdate=2008-06-09 |date=2006-08-01 |work=England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions]

ee also

*Terrorism Act 2006
*Terrorism Acts
*Human rights in the United Kingdom

References

External links

The Act itself

*UK-SLD|1414108
* [http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2005/20050002.htm Original text of the Act]
* [http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmbills/061/2005061.pdf The initial text of the Bill] , from 22 February 2005 (PDF)

Government and Parliamentary reports and debates

* [http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/terrorism/govprotect/legislation/ptb.html Home Office page about the Act]
* [http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/terrorism/govprotect/legislation/atcsa.html Home Office page about the "Part IV powers" the Act replaces]
* [http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/docs4/Part_IV_Feb_05.pdf Report on Part IV powers] by Lord Carlile of Berriew, QC (PDF)
* [http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/jt200405/jtselect/jtrights/61/6102.htm Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights' report on the Bill] , dated February 23, 2005
* [http://cryptome.org/ptb2005-briefs.htm Labour party briefing on the Bill] , dated February 22, 2005 and leaked to Cryptome
* [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2005-03-10.1761.0 First Commons debate] after the Lords' Third Reading, March 10, 2005
* [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2005-03-10.1803.0 Second Commons debate] after the Lords' Third Reading, March 11, 2005 (after midnight, but still in the March 10 Parliamentary session)
* [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2005-03-10.1854.3 Third Commons debate] after the Lords' Third Reading, March 11, 2005 (daytime on March 11, but still in the March 10 Parliamentary session)
* [http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2005-03-10&number=141 Backbench rebellion in the final Commons vote]
* [http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/2006-04-26_MW_HS-Berriew_Fi1.pdf Home office review of the Act in 2006]

News reportage

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4100481.stm BBC News article on the Law Lords' ruling] , 16 December 2004
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4341269.stm BBC article reporting the passage of the Act] , March 11, 2005
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4288407.stm BBC article explaining the controversy] , March 12, 2005
* [http://politics.guardian.co.uk/attacks/story/0,1320,1436086,00.html "The Guardian" article on the Parliamentary "ping-pong"] , March 12, 2005
* [http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=1277 Islamic Human Rights Commission - Britain: An Outpost of Tyranny]
* Jean-Claude Paye, [http://www.monthlyreview.org/1105paye.htm The End Of Habeas Corpus in Great Britain] . Monthly Review, November 2005.

Opposition groups

* [http://www.justice.org.uk/images/pdfs/preventionterrorismbill2.pdf Joint briefing paper to House of Lords] from JUSTICE and the International Commission of Jurists. (PDF)
* [http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/resources/policy-papers/2005/ptb-remaining-stages-lords.pdf Briefing paper to the House of Lords] from Liberty (PDF)
* [http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engEUR450062005?open&of=eng-GBR Amnesty International press release] , dated February 28, 2005
* [http://hrw.org/backgrounder/eca/uk0305/ Human Rights Watch commentary] , dated March 1, 2005

Legal Analysis

[http://www.counter-terrorism-law.org/2007ewhc233.htm UK Government Loses another Control Order Case - Counter-terrorism-law.org]


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