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Anti-terror powers 'withering'

Controversial anti-terrorism powers may be "withering on the vine" and need to be reviewed, a group of MPs and peers has warned.

Terrorism prevention and investigation measures (Tpims) should be considered within a broader appraisal of counter-terrorism powers by the new Government in 2015, the joint committee on human rights said.

Ministers have also been criticised by the Committee for failing to provide enough information on an internal review of Tpims launched after two subjects disappeared.

Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed was last seen fleeing a London mosque in a burka in November last year, while fellow Tpim subject Ibrahim Magag vanished in a black cab on Boxing Day 2012. Both are still missing.

The Committee's report comes as Labour applies pressure on the Government to explain what measures have been taken to manage the risk posed by suspects whose Tpims are set to expire towards the end of this month.

Committee chair Dr Hywel Francis MP said: "We are not clear that these measures continue to be as practically useful as the Government claimed they would be when the Act was passed in 2011.

"There is no evidence that they serve any investigative function and even as preventive measures they seem to be going out of favour with the agencies.

"Very few Tpims are in operation and almost all of these are due shortly to lapse after their two year duration.

"However, we have too little information about the security situation and about the individuals on whom these measures have been imposed to make a proper judgment about whether the power to impose them is no longer required.

"The next Government will need to look again at these measures within the context of counter-terrorism powers more generally and, in the meantime, more information needs to be put before Parliament - and the public - so that well-informed judgments can be made about the necessity for and effectiveness of Tpims."

Tpim subjects face restrictions including overnight residence at a specified address, GPS tagging, reporting requirements and restrictions on travel, movement, association, communication, finances, work and study.

Earlier this week, Labour said court papers showed that Tpims on around six suspects were on the point of being lifted. As at the end of November, eight people were subject to Tpims.

They include one suspect who MI5 assessed could rapidly gain access to firearms, with a ''real risk'' that he would try to revive plans to mount a terrorist attack in the UK if he was not subjected to a Tpim.

Three others were said to be prepared to travel abroad in order to engage in terrorist-related activity while a judge found there was ''every reason'' to believe that a fifth would have killed himself along with a large number of other people if the airline bomb plot had not been foiled in 2006.

The Committee said Parliament was right to impose a two-year limit on their duration as such serious restrictions on liberty, imposed outside of the criminal justice system, cannot be indefinite.

And the group of MPs and peers has rejected calls by Labour to reintroduce the power to relocate terrorism suspects, which were available under the previous control order regime.

The Committee said a power to relocate an individual away from their community and their family by way of a civil order, outside the criminal justice system, is too intrusive.

The report also warns that the Committee intends to subject to "rigorous scrutiny" any proposal to enable terrorism suspects to be deprived of their UK citizenship even if it leaves them stateless following reports last year.

Diana Johnson, shadow crime and security minister, said: " The Human Rights Committee is right, Tpims are "withering on the vine" and this report shows that the Tpims regime has failed on its own terms.

"Theresa May promised Tpims would lead to more terrorism prosecutions, but as this report show not one individual has been prosecuted since they were introduced.

"The report also highlights how remarkably reticent the Home Secretary has been in providing information to Parliament.

"Labour's Control Orders required annual renewal by Parliament, but the only scrutiny of Tpims comes from the Independent Reviewer (of Terrorism Legislation David Anderson) and the Home Secretary hasn't even been providing adequate responses to his reports.

"This week Labour called the debate on Tpims that the Home Secretary had been avoiding.

"But still she refuses to give Parliament the answers required about what happens next and how she will manage the risk to the public.

"She is also refusing to answer the simple question of whether the six individuals she is freeing of all restrictions this week continue to pose a danger to the public - this refusal is totally unacceptable."

A Home Office spokesman said: " Tpims were introduced because control orders were not working and their powers were being struck down by the courts.

"They now provide some of the strongest possible protections that the courts will allow and the police and Security Service believe they have been effective in reducing the national security risk posed by a number of individuals.

"But Tpims are just one weapon in the considerable armoury at the disposal of the police and Security Service to disrupt terrorist activity."

Mr Anderson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Tpims are a necessary evil. I don't think anybody likes them very much.

"They have only ever been used on a few people and if they have been withering on the vine - indeed there has only been one new one over the last two years - I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing.

"One thing it shows is that police and prosecutors are doing their job. We've had a lot of convictions over the last couple of years, a lot of guilty pleas and a lot of heavy sentences.

"But I think there are other reasons as well. They don't present a long-term solution. They are limited to two years."


From Belfast Telegraph