The Truth About IPP Sentences

Control Orders review is purely cosmetic and very political

The Home Secretary, Theresa May has announced that the much criticised Terrorism Control Orders introduced by New Labour are to be revised, though to, it seems that the proposals on offer are window dressing and not much more.

For example, a ‘curfew’ is replaced by an ‘overnight residency requirement‘. Sounds like the same thing to us.

The proposed orders are to be ‘similar to those orders passed to prevent sexual offending and domestic violence‘ yet whereas the minimum period for a Sex Offender Prevention Order is 5 years, the order imposed on someone who is suspected of planning to blow up and kill hundreds of people is to last a maximum of 2 years.

It would seem therefore that killing hundreds of people is not as bad as indecent assault, downloading child pornography or hitting someone. Bad as these other activities are, mass murder is something different.

The opposition leader, Yvette Cooper rightly points out that May’s proposals to not get rid of control orders but simply review them. This also causes problems for the Liberal Democrats who pledged to get rid of control orders at the election but have once again caved in to the Conservatives.

May says that the aim of the government will always be to ‘prosecute, convict and imprison’ those suspected of terrorist offences’ but then goes on to admit that it will not always be possible to bring suspects to court.

If they cannot be brought before a court and be subjected to due process where evidence can be tested, there should be no order at all. To do otherwise makes a mockery of the criminal justice system.

Furthermore, given the current state of undercover police operations as illustrated by the Mark Kennedy case, it would be hard indeed to believe anything the police say on this matter.

The ‘stop and search‘ powers of the police are to be based on ‘reasonable belief‘ as opposed to ‘reasonable suspicion‘. According to the Home Secretary, ‘belief’ is a more severe test on police but to it seems just a different set of words that have no meaning in law.

There are now so many different ‘Civil Orders’, all of which carry criminal penalties that it could be argued that one more won’t make much difference. The problem though is that all of these orders are available from a Magistrate’s Court – the lowest court in the land – and are always granted if a senior police officer requests one.

The government always states that all these measures and orders represent a balance between public protection and civil liberties. The truth though is somewhat different.

Governments love to impose state control on people and they hate it when they have to produce evidence that such controls are necessary. It comes as no surprise therefore that the one issue that the proposed changes do not address is the fact that anyone subject to a control order will still not have the right to know why they are subject to it.

Every measure that May proposes could be achieved by using police bail. The reason why this is not used in such cases is because police bail requires arrest which then requires that the arrested person has a legal right to know why they have been arrested.

The current overpowering civil orders imposed on citizens of the UK and all of which are issued at the request of the police, all share one thing in common: they are all issued on the basis of what someone might do, not what they have done. Such measures support authoritarianism and state control and damage both the rule of law and democracy.

One Response to Control Orders review is purely cosmetic and very political

  1. paul
    January 27, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    No big surprise here then. After all, Cameron and Clegg, Clegg especially, have gone back on just about everything they said before the election. It feels like Blair all over again

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