UK Govt can put control orders on those who are, on balance of probability, innocent…

Update (April 9th, 12:12 am BST):

I was mistaken about this matter. House arrest will actually require the balance of probabilities, but non-derogating control orders can be imposed on the “reasonable suspicion” test. Thus I have changed the title from “UK Govt to house arrest those who are, on balance of probabilities, innocent…” to the new title above.

Anyway sorry for the error. With all the fuss it was hard to keep up with the changes and it’s only with my reading the actual Act of Parliament that I realised the mistake.

The extraodinary battles in the Houses of Parliament over the Abandonment of the Rule of LawPrevention of Terrorism Bill have done little to protect civil liberties. The main changes the Lords insisted on include:

  • judges issuing all control orders
  • the Director of Public Prosecutions declaring there’s no possibility of prosecuting
  • a sunset clause so that the legislation expires at end of November
  • use of evidence gained from torture abroad prohibited
  • the standard of proof being “balance of probabilities” instead of “reasonable suspicion”

Given that it will still be the case that suspects will not know the evidence or the charges against them, they won’t be able to defend themselves and these changes are fairly minor (despite the fuss the government is making).

The most significant change is raising the standard of proof. Although this barely touches the problems with this bill, it gives judges greater room to decide that a control order is not justified.

With the “reasonable suspicion” standard, it is hard to see how one could seriously dispute the reasonable suspicion except by claiming it is unreasonable which begs the question of whether, in law, the Home Secretary, acting on advice and secret evidence from the security agencies, can ever seriously be regarded as acting on unreasonable suspicion.

ISTM thus that this standard of “proof” is a joke, and will ensure that the Home Secretary can still apply control orders to anyone he/the security agencies choose, with the judge acting as a mere rubber stamp.

With balance of probabilities, if a suspect has a sympathetic and independent minded judge, there is room for the judge to say he’s not convinced it is more likely than not that the suspect is involved in terrorism.

Of course it is still a very subjective and arbitrary standard (unless they actually compute the probabilities, but how would one do that?) but it does give room for maneouvre.

Anyway, the government is tonight opposing this change. This has the logical implication that they want control orders imposed on people who would be judged more likely to be innocent than not

And the govt claims it is doing this for our own good.

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