Theresa May has signalled she is ready to rip up some human rights laws in order to crack down on the terrorist threat while doubling the time suspects can be held without charge.
With two days to polling, the Prime Minister said she was determined to ensure the police and security services had the powers they needed to deal with violent extremists plotting attacks on Britain.
Addressing supporters at a rally in Slough, she said they could include new measures to restrict the movements of suspects who have not been convicted of any offence as well as making it easier to deport foreign suspects.
Senior Conservative sources indicated they were ready to opt out of the relevant provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) if powers to stop suspects using mobile phones and computers or to impose curfews needed to be toughened up.
In an interview with The Sun, Mrs May said she would also consider extending the time suspects can be held without charge to 28 days after it was reduced to 14 days in 2011 under the coalition.
“We said there may be circumstances where it is necessary to do this. I will listen to what they think is necessary for us to do,” she said.
The move came as Mrs May faced intense pressure over her record on security in the wake of the London Bridge and Borough Market terror attack.
Theresa May will rip up some human rights laws if they “stop us" from tackling terrorism.— Sam Lister (@sam_lister_) June 6, 2017
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron accused her of “simply posturing”, having been prepared to offer up the police for “cut after cut” when she was home secretary.
In her speech to supporters, Mrs May said she would change any laws that prevented the police and security services from dealing effectively with the extremist threat.
“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,” she said.
“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.
Husband Philip and Boris Johnson have joined the Prime Minister as she rallies the party faithful in Slough pic.twitter.com/ipGEnmrhB3— Sam Lister (@sam_lister_) June 6, 2017
“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.”
The Conservative manifesto says the party will not repeal the ECHR – which is enshrined in British law through the Human Rights Act – while Brexit is under way but will “consider our human rights legal framework when the process of leaving the EU concludes”.
However, Mr Farron said that while she was talking tough, her measures would simply lead to a reduction in freedom, not terrorism.
“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,” he said.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mrs May’s plans would not deter further attacks.
“We will always keep the law under review, but don’t believe would-be terrorists and suicide bombers will be deterred by longer sentences or restricting our rights at home,” he said.