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Former head of Cobra calls for internment of terror suspects

Armed police at Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion at the venue during an Ariana Grande gig. (Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images)
Armed police at Manchester Arena after reports of an explosion at the venue during an Ariana Grande gig. (Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images)

By Sue Doherty

Col Richard Kemp, former head of the British Government's crisis response committee, has called for the deportation and internment of terror suspects.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan show on Wednesday morning, he said non-British citizens should be deported while suspects who are citizens should be jailed without a full trial.

Col Kemp stated that, according to M15, there are 3,000 people in Britain suspected of being involved in "terrorist activity".

He commented: "That's obviously far too many people for our security services ever to hope put surveillance on to prevent them from carrying out attacks. So we have to reduce the numbers.

"What I'm talking about is, those people who are not British citizens, who the intelligence services have strong intelligence to show that they are involved in terrorism, they should be subjected to a process overseen by politicians and the courts which enables them to then be deported from this country so they no longer pose a threat to us."

Recognising that innocent people would likely be affected, and that human rights would be at risk, he said: "I would rather see people deported than I would like to see more British teenagers killed on our streets because we are not prepared to protect them in that way... If we believe that they pose a threat to us then they have to be got rid of. They should not be here any longer... Some of them may be innocent but I would rather take that risk than I would risk having dead children on our streets."

Col Kemp emphasised that people should only be deported if the intelligence services have strong evidence that they may be involved in terrorist activity.

Deportation would reduce the number of suspects in the country, leaving the security services free to focus on British suspects, he said.

"There is an option for British citizens who are strongly suspected by the intelligence services of being involved in terrorism but who we can not put in front of a court because we don't have sufficient evidence to put before a court, and that is internment, which we had in Northern Ireland.

It wasn't successful in Northern Ireland. It was counterproductive in Northern Ireland but we can do it in a different way than we did it in Northern Ireland and make sure it is both productive and effective. Col Richard Kemp

New legislation is needed before the introduction of interment, Col Kemp stressed.  "The intelligence services would have to produce evidence, the state would have to endorse it and judges would have to approve the measures," he said.

"Of course it's got to be proportionate to the threat that we face and it has to be carefully controlled. I'm not suggesting that we become a police state or that we act outside the law.

"What I am suggesting is that our politicians take responsibility for protecting the people in this country in a situation that is rapidly spiralling out of control  and look at this even in Manchester as one in a series of very, very serious terrorist attacks that have taken place in Europe in the last couple of years. They are increasing and something must be done to stop it."

Col Kemp was speaking after 22 people died and scores were injured when a 22-year-old suicide bomber detonated a bomb in the foyer of the Manchester Arena on Monday night. Fans, including many teens and young girls, were leaving an Ariana Grande concert.

Salman Abedi, who was born in Manchester and carried out the attack, died in the explosion.

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