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Terror suspects could have movements restricted indefinitely under new laws

The new law comes in the wake of an attack in London Bridge late last year.

3 min read

Terror suspects could have their movement restricted indefinitely under new laws put forward by ministers.

The Government is calling for an expansion in the use of controversial terrorism prevention orders which could see some suspects facing round-the-clock surveillance and tight restrictions on their movements.

The Counter Terrorism and Sentencing Bill, set to be introduced to parliament on Wednesday, comes after Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed to crackdown on terrorism following attacks at Fishmonger's Hall and in Streatham last year.

Under the proposals, more terror suspects would be subject to Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (Tpims), which can involve enforced curfews, restrictions on overseas travel and the registration of all electronic devices.

The new legislation would also see the burden of proof required to impose a Tpim being slackened, while also giving courts the powers to renew the orders indefinitely, rather than the current two-year maximum.

Only five released terrorists are currently subject to Tpims due to the estimated £200,000 per person cost, with the Home Office insisting they would only impose the orders where "necessary and proportionate".

The Bill would also introduce a requirement for the most serious offenders to be handed a minimum 14 year jail sentence, with Judges given the powers to impose an extended licence period of up to 25 years.

Announcing the plans, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, said: "Terrorists and their hateful ideologies have no place on our streets. They can now expect to go to prison for longer and face tougher controls on release.  

"From introducing a 14-year minimum for the most dangerous offenders, to putting in place stricter monitoring measures, this government is pursuing every option available to tackle this threat and keep communities safe."

The Bill, which comes after emergency legislation passed in February to end the automatic early release for terrorist offenders, will also require convicted offenders to face lie-detector tests after their release.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, added: "The shocking attacks at Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham revealed serious flaws in the way terrorist offenders are dealt with.  We promised to act and today we are delivering on that promise.  

"Those who senselessly seek to damage and destroy lives need to know we will do whatever it takes to stop them."

But the move has been criticised by Jonathan Hall QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, who said he was "uncomfortable" with the changes.

"I think what parliament will want to consider is: what is the operational case for these changes?" he said.

"I’m going to release some technical analysis of the changes over the coming days, but overall, I am uncomfortable with getting rid of protections for individual rights that don’t appear to have caused any real problems for the authorities to date."

Meanwhile, Rachel Logan, Amnesty International UK’s legal expert, said: "It was never right to drastically curtail people’s liberty on the basis of secret, untested evidence using control orders or Tpims – and we seem to be diving headlong into that territory where the standard of proof is extremely flimsy and people’s liberties can be curtailed on an indefinite basis.

"Rushing this bill out while parliament is still operating under Covid-19 constraints suggests the government could be trying to minimise scrutiny for significant legal changes."

Labour meanwhile promised to “work constructively” with the Government on the proposals.

Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy said: “The horrific terrorist attacks on British soil in recent years demonstrate the need to update terrorism sentencing legislation.

“Labour will look in detail at the changes proposed in this Bill. We will work constructively with the Government on measures that reduce the chances of those who commit terrorist offences from re-offending.

“Those who seek to terrorise our communities with savage acts of violence must be stopped.”

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