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PM May's plan to rip up human rights law would 'end' Good Friday Agreement, warns legal expert

Theresa May vows to rip up human rights laws that 'stop us from tackling terrorism'

By Jonathan Bell

A legal expert has claimed Theresa May's vow to "rip up" human rights law would mean an end to the Good Friday Agreement.

The Prime Minister has said she would change any laws that got in the way of preventing jihadis waging war on Britain if she returns to Number 10 on Friday.

Mrs May said she was looking at how to make it easier to “deport foreign terrorist suspects back to their own countries”, adding that is if she is re-elected on Thursday “we will change laws so we can do it”.

As well as longer jail terms for terrorists and a clamp down on internet companies which allow access to extremist material, Mrs May says she will extend powers of police and courts to restrict movements of those suspected of involvement in terror suspects.

It will mean suspects can be kept under curfews for longer periods each day, tighter controls on suspects associating with each other and more people being banned from using mobile phones and the internet.

The announcements have come in for criticism. Labour's Keir Starmer said there was "nothing in the human rights acts which got in the way of tackling terrorism".

"This is a diversion," he added.

The European Court of Human Rights [ECHR] is separate from the EU, meaning it will not be affected by the UK's departure from the EU, but the law allows for “derogating” from it in times of war or public emergency. Senior Tory sources said a derogation from laws could be used.

Discussing the matter on Twitter, the prominent Financial Times law and policy commentator David Allen Green said: "Human rights law does nothing to limit government dealing with terrorism.

"But human rights law demonstrates the values that need defending."

 

He added: "'Tearing up' human rights law would mean UK joining those few countries without rights protection. Countries which still have terrorism.

"'Tearing up' human rights law would mean an end to Good Friday Agreement. GFA has as a fundamental requirement that [European Court of Human Rights] is enforceable."

Speaking in Slough to supporters on Tuesday, Mrs May said: "As we see the threat changing, evolving becoming a more complex threat, we need to make sure that our police and security and intelligence agencies have the powers they need.

"I mean longer prison sentences for people convicted of terrorist offences. I mean making it easier for the authorities to deport foreign terrorist suspects back to their own countries.

"And I mean doing more to restrict the freedom and the movements of terrorist suspects when we have enough evidence to know they are a threat, but not enough evidence to prosecute them in full in court.

"And if our human rights laws stop us from doing it, we will change the laws so we can do it.

"If I am elected as Prime Minister on Thursday, that work begins on Friday."

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Mrs May said she expects police and security services to launch a review after Saturday's terrorist attack in London Bridge and Borough Market, when eight innocent victims were killed.

Security services have come under pressure after it emerged one of the attackers, Khuram Butt, 27, had been reported to the anti-terror hotline in 2015

As home secretary, Mrs May scrapped control orders, which allowed longer curfews among other tough measures, claiming they were being knocked down in the courts.

She replaced them with less restrictive T-pims.

'Nuclear arms race'

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron accused the Prime Minister of launching a "nuclear arms race" in terror laws which would reduce freedom, not terrorism.

He said: "Theresa May is simply posturing about being tough on terror as she panics that her abysmal record is coming under scrutiny.

"In her years as home secretary she was willing to offer up the police for cut after cut.

"We have been here before - a kind of nuclear arms race in terror laws.

"It might give the appearance of action, but what the security services lack is not more power, but more resources.

"And responsibility for that lies squarely with Theresa May and her dereliction of duty.

"All she would do is reduce freedom, not terrorism."

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