Control orders branded ‘unlawful’

The use of control orders by the government has been branded “unlawful” by the high court.

Mr Justice Sullivan ruled that control orders against six men broke European human rights law.

Control orders are a key feature of the government’s anti-terror legislation. They can be imposed by the home secretary to restrict an individual’s movement if they are suspected of being involved in terrorism, without going through the normal judicial processes.

Today, Mr Justice Sullivan ruled them “incompatible” with Article Five of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which prevents indefinite detention without trial.

“It follows that the [home secretary] had no power to make the orders and they must therefore all be quashed,” he said.

The judge delivered a similar ruling in April when a terrorist suspect known as MB challenged the use of control orders on the basis that it did not allow him a fair trial.

Then, much to the annoyance of the Home Office, he described the anti-terror legislation as “conspicuously unfair”.

Following today’s ruling, a Home Office spokesman said: “The home secretary strongly disagrees with the judgement of the court that obligations in the control orders amount to a deprivation of liberty so engaging Article Five of the ECHR.

“He will seek to overturn the decision at the court of appeal.”

Shadow home secretary David Davis said his party had warned the government that precisely this might happen when control orders were first debated.

“We raised precisely this risk with them in the debate on control orders, which they ignored.”

Control orders, which were introduced by the Prevention of Terrorism Act, can be used to restrict an individual’s movement, electronically tag them and stop them using the internet, without the need for a judicial hearing.