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ANTI-TERRORIST LEGISLATION MUST BALANCE PUBLIC PROTECTION WITH INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS

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A discussion document exploring how best to protect society from terrorism ...
A discussion document exploring how best to protect society from terrorism

while retaining personal freedoms and rights was published by home secretary

David Blunkett today.

The paper, Counter Terrorism Powers: Reconciling Security and Liberty in an

Open Society, sets out the following:

*An explanation of the threat we face and the way in which Al Qaida

organise their activities;

*An examination of the part 4 powers of the Anti Terrorism Crime and

Security Act 2001 (ATCSA) and a defence of their use;

*The need for a wider debate on how to strike an effective balance

between security and liberty;

*An analysis of the recommendations of Lord Newton and Lord Carlile,

who have reviewed existing legislation, and of powers used in foreign

countries as a starting point for a discussion.

Mr Blunkett will also announce today additional funding for the security

service, which will see their numbers increase by up to 50 per cent in the

next few years and£3m to set up a regional network of Special Branch

intelligence cells.

He said:

'As home secretary, I am the custodian of civil liberties,

but I do not own them. How we balance them with security is a matter for the

country, not just for government. The paper I am publishing on future terror

laws today does not set out answers to the issues it raises, but aims to

start a debate.

'The issues raised are put forward for discussion by

parliament and the public so we can reach an informed judgement on the way

forward. I hope this discussion will encourage a focus on answers, not just

criticism. Rather than putting forward government ideas for future terrorism

laws, we are starting off the debate with a summary of how different

countries handle terrorism, together with the recommendations of the Lord

Newton and Lord Carlile reviews.

'We recognise that under current legislation these powers

will lapse in November 2006. My responsibility is to se t out the reasoning

for the powers as we consider how to proceed beyond that point.

'It is the government's ultimate responsibility to find a

fair and effective balance between security and liberty. The rights we must

balance belong to everyone. Ensuring a successful fight against

international terrorism demands we all play our part in getting that balance

right.

'But we also need to consider whether adequate powers are

available to deal with all terror suspects irrespective of their

nationality. This is one of the issues I raise in the paper published for

discussion today.

'The paper also raises the question of whether we might

further define the range of terrorism offences and the difficulties of using

intercept material within our existing criminal justice system. We are

currently reviewing whether some intercept evidence could be made available

to support a prosecution in certain cases.

'I am in no doubt that the terrorism threat remains and the

need to have the right legislation in place is greater than ever. The recent

attacks in Riyadh, Jakarta and Istanbul and continuing threats against

airline security illustrate the need to address these difficult issues now

and debate how best to protect our country from these genuine dangers.'

Responding to Lord Newton's review, Mr Blunkett said:

'I am convinced that the current threat leaves us with no

option but to continue to use these powers. I have limited their use to the

terrorist threat posed from Al Qaida and the network of terrorist groups

associated with it.

'That is why I am seeking to renew the part 4 powers for

another year and have vigorously and successfully upheld them in the face of

any legal challenge. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), a

superior court of record chaired by a high court judge, and the court of

appeal have upheld my conclusions that there is a state of public emergency.

There have been 13 individual appeals against certification and the 11

decisions so far handed down have all dismissed the appeals and confirmed my

decision to certify the individuals as suspect international terrorists.

'The nature of that threat means that it was right to target

those powers at foreign nationals. Because of that the specific powers we

introduced were only used when an individual could not be prosecuted through

the normal procedures and could not be removed from the UK because of our

international obligations under human rights.

'Nonetheless all of those detained are entitled to leave the

United Kingdom at any time they choose, provided a country is prepared to

countenance their presence, as two of those certified have already done.

'These were not powers I assumed lightly. I have never

pretended that they are ideal, but I firmly believe that they are currently

the best and most workable way to address the particular problems we face. I

believe that I would be failing in my duty of public protection if the part

4 powers were removed from the armoury of measures available to protect the

United Kingdom from specific terrorist threats.'

The home secretary today pays tribute to the work of the people in the front

line in the efforts to counter the threat from terrorism.

'I am grateful to the invaluable, brave and painstaking work

done by security and intelligence and police and law enforcement agencies in

protecting us from threats by groups of people engaged in long term,

sophisticated planning, using every means of science and technology to evade

surveillance and detection. They present a severe challenge to the security

services, who need to disrupt them at the early stages of their planning.

'That is why I am today announcing that the government is to

provide additional funding to the security service. We have also committed

£3m to set up a regional network of Special Branch intelligence cells

and appointed a nat ional co-ordinator to promote better oganisation of their

activities. This work will complement the role of police in forming

relationships with communities, whose support is vital to strengthening our

defence against terrorism.'

Notes

1.The Discussion Paper Counter-Terrorism Powers: Reconciling Security

and Liberty in an Open Society is available at

www.homeoffice.gov.uk/terrorism

2.The government's formal response to the report by Lord Newton's

Committee on the operation of the ATCSA is also published today as part two

of the Discussion Paper.

3.Under the terms of the Act, the legislation is subject to review two

years after enactment. This review reported in December 2003. The Act would

expire within six months unless both Houses consider the report.

4.Part 4 of the Act provides the home secretary with powers to detain

suspected international terrorists, pending deportation, who could not be

returned to their own countries for fear that they face torture, inhuman or

degrading treatment or punishment.

5.There are currently 14 suspects detained under ATCS Act. They can

apply for bail, have rights of appeal to the special immigration appeals

commission and access to special advocates. Their cases are regularly

reviewed and they are subject to anonymity orders imposed by the court.

Anyone detained under this power is free to leave the UK at any time and two

detainees have exercised this right so far.

6.Part 4 of the ATCSA has a sunset clause, which means that the part 4

powers contained in the Act will expire in 2006.

7.The Home Office also laid a Written Ministerial Statement today

setting out updated resilience and contingency planning arrangements. The

paper is available at www.homeoffice.gov.uk/terror

8.The Home Office has appointed Bryan Bell, formerly assistant chief

constable of Cleveland police, to co-ordinate activity between special

branches on behalf of ACPO.

9.The£3m provided to set up regional special branch intelligence

cells follows HMCIC's thematic report on future organisation of special

branches.

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