Control Orders 20

Control Orders remain a cruel act of degradation of people who have never been convicted of anything, utterly incompatible with human rights. Parliament will today vote to renew them again – expect the parties to compete in their gravitas as they underline the threat to our very existence and way of life (sic) from terrorism.

In fact, as has been so roundly denounced by our most senior judges recently, the real threat to our way of life comes from politicians and the security services.

The arguments in this letter are extremely strong:

Open letter to Home Secretary Alan Johnson MP

Dear Home Secretary,

We write to urge you not to renew the control order provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, introduced in haste in March 2005 following the House of Lords Judicial Committee’s condemnation of indefinite detention of foreign terrorist suspects. In the five years of their operation, control orders have attracted criticism from national bodies including the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Justice, Liberty and Amnesty International UK, and eminent international bodies including the International Commission of Jurists, the UN Human Rights Committee and Human Rights Watch. This has focussed on the inherent unfairness of the orders, their reliance on secret evidence, and the devastating impact they have on those subject to them.


You will be aware (through reports presented during litigation and press coverage) of the severe impact of the orders on family and private life, and on the mental health of those subjected to them. This is acknowledged by Lord Carlile in his fifth annual review of control orders [PDF]. Partial house arrest, confinement to a restricted geographical area, wearing a tag, and the constant need to report, to seek permission, to have visitors (even medical visitors) vetted, and the stigma associated with being targeted in this way, takes a severe toll not only on controlled persons but on their families. Children’s school performance is badly affected by denial of internet access (making homework very difficult), by restriction of visitors, by fathers being unable to take their children out freely, by the disruption and fear caused by frequent house searches, and by children witnessing the humiliation and despair caused to their parents by these measures. The detrimental impact of the orders is even worse since, although in theory time-limited to a year, in reality, renewal of orders means that subjection to these draconian restrictions is endless.

The fact that there have been so few control orders in the five years of their operation ?” 44 in total according to Lord Carlile ?” gives the misleading impression that those controlled must be truly dangerous. But the small number of orders does not necessarily mean that the intelligence behind them is accurate. Not many people were hanged for murder when the UK had capital punishment ?” but a significant proportion turn out to have been innocent.


Major sources of unfairness are the use of secret evidence and the lack of real advance judicial scrutiny. Permission to make a non-derogating order can only be denied by a High Court judge if the decision to make the order, or the grounds for making it, are ‘obviously flawed’. This, and the lack of input from the proposed subject of the order, would not be such a problem if the review process was not subject to such delays, but at present the full review hearing rarely takes place within 12 months. During all this time, of course, the controlled person is subject to the full rigours of the control order.

The judge may quash the order at the full review stage, but only if there is no reasonable suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities. It is a very low threshold for the Home Office, and is frequently satisfied by evidence that neither the controlled person nor his advocate has had an opportunity to test in cross-examination. This remains the case despite the Judicial Committee’s ruling in June 2009 (in AF and another v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2009] UKHL 28) that the controlled person is entitled to enough disclosure to be able to answer allegations [this is the Law Lords’ ruling from June 2008, referred to above]; the Committee was referring to the amount of detail in the allegation, and not to the evidential foundation for the allegations, which generally remains closed. As Human Rights Watch has observed, the control order regime undermines the right to an effective defence, the principle of equality of arms, and the presumption of innocence.


Although it would be inappropriate to judge the control order regime by its cost-effectiveness as a principal criterion, it is reasonable to note that implementation of the orders has cost a fortune in litigation; the Joint Committee on Human Rights has calculated that total legal costs from 2006 to date are likely to exceed £20 million (taking into account the costs of legal aid and judicial sitting time), which is almost half a million pounds for each controlled person. Litigation has also seriously diminished the utility of the orders as a tool for controlling and disrupting terrorist activity, to the point where there must be very serious doubts as to their cost-effectiveness (compared with more targeted surveillance and effective use of the criminal justice system).


The fact that British citizens and residents can be subjected indefinitely to such extraordinary measures, with no effective means of challenge, contravening in important respects common-law guarantees of fairness as well as Article 6 of the ECHR, has damaged the reputation of the United Kingdom and done irreparable harm to the fabric of justice in this country. In addition, public trust in the security services and the government is eroded, and communities whose co-operation is vital in the fight against terrorism are intimidated and alienated. In the words of solicitor Gareth Peirce, ‘This may affect only a small group of people but in terms of its contribution to what one might call the folklore of injustice it is colossal.’

For these reasons we urge you not to renew this legislation.

Yours sincerely

Mike Mansfield QC, criminal defence barrister, Tooks Chambers

Craig Murray, writer, broadcaster, human rights activist, former British Ambassador

Sir Geoffrey Bindman, solicitor

Lord Rea

Clare Short MP

John McDonnell MP

Victoria Brittain, writer and journalist

Dafydd Iwan, LL.D., President of Plaid Cymru, Party of Wales

Bruce Kent, Vice-President, Pax Christi

Louise Christian, human rights lawyer

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP

Caroline Lucas MEP

Jean Lambert MEP

Frances Webber, human rights lawyer

Liz Fekete, Institute of Race Relation (IRR)

Carla Ferstman, Director, Redress

Ben Hayes, Statewatch

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

Prof. Chris Frost, Head of Journalism, Liverpool John Moores University

Hilary Wainright, Co-editor, Red Pepper

Cori Crider, Legal Director, Reprieve

Paddy Hillyard, Emeritus Professor, QUB

Bob Jeffrey, University of Salford

Amrit Wilson, writer

Dr Richard Wild, University of Greenwich

Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, Executive Director, Institute of Public Policy Research.

Andy Worthington, journalist and author of The Guantanamo Files

Lord Gifford QC, barrister and Vice-President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Liz Davies, barrister and Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Anna Morris, barrister and Vice-Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Professor Bill Bowring, barrister and International Secretary, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Dr Victoria Sentas, School of Law, King’s College London

Margaret Owen, Director WPD, international human rights lawyer

Phil Shiner, Public Interest Lawyers

Sam Jacobs, Public Interest Lawyers

Daniel Carey, Public Interest Lawyers

Tessa Gregory, Public Interest Lawyers

Moazzam Begg, Director, Cageprisoners

Massoud Shadjareh, Chair, Islamic Human Rights Commission

Aamer Anwar, human rights lawyer

Nick Hildyard, Sarah Sexton, Larry Lohmann, The Corner House

Desmond Fernandes, policy analyst and author

Dinah Livingstone, writer, translator, editor

Tim Gopsill, journalist, Editor of Free Press

Paul Donovan, journalist

Estelle du Boulay, The Newham Monitoring Project

Suresh Grover, Director of The Monitoring Group

George Binette, UNISON Camden

Arzu Pesmen, Kurdish Federation UK

David Morgan, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

Alex Fitch, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

Matt Foot, solicitor

Hugo Charlton, barrister

Dr Kalpana Wilson, London School of Economics

Jonathan Bloch, Lib Dem Councillor and author

Michael Seifert, solicitor and Vice-President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Kat Craig, solicitor and Vice-Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Khatchatur I. Pilikian, Professor of Music & Art

Dr Alana Lentin, Senior Lecturer, Sociology, University of Sussex

Dr Christina Pantazis, University of Bristol

Professor Steve Tombs, Liverpool John Moore University

Claire Hamilton, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin

Professor Phil Scraton, School of Law, Queen’s University, Belfast

Dr Theodore Gabriel, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham

Dr Jan Gordon, University of Lincoln, Exeter

Dr Tina Patel, University of Salford

Professor Penny Green, Kings College, London

John Moore, University of West of England, Bristol

Professor Joe Sim, Liverpool John Moore University

Dr David Whyte, University of Liverpool

Dr Stephanie Petrie, University of Liverpool

Dr Dianne Frost, University of Liverpool

Martin Ralph, (UCU Committee), University of Liverpool

Dr Anandi Ramamurthy, University of Central Lancashire

Professor Jawed Siddiqui, Sheffield Hallam University

Dr Silvia Posocco, Birkbeck College, University of London

Dr Muzammil Quraishi, University of Salford

Dr Adi Kuntsman, University of Manchester

Professor Lynne Segal, Birkbeck College, University of London

Dr Joanne Milner, University of Salford

Dr Yasmeen Narayan, Birkbeck College, University of London

Professor Scott Poynting, Manchester Metropolitan University

Dr Liam McCann, University of Lincoln

Dr Pritam Singh, Oxford Brookes University

Sophie Khan, solicitor

Simon Behrman

Owen Greenhall

Martha Jean Baker

Russell Fraser

Ripon Ray

Stephen Marsh, barrister

Declan Owens

Rheian Davies, solicitor

Richard Harvey barrister

Deborah Smith, solicitor

Alastair Lyons, solicitor, Birnberg Peirce

Hossain Zahir , barrister

Chantal Refahi , barrister

Anna Mazzola, solicitor

Zareena Mustafa, solicitor

Lochlinn Parker, solicitor

Anne Gray, CAMPACC

Saleh Mamon, CAMPACC

Estella Schmid, CAMPACC

Dr Saleyha Ahsan, No More Secrets-Respect Article 5, film maker

Mohamed Nur, Kentish Town Community Organisation

Abshir Mohamed, Kentish Town Community Organisation

Samarendra Das, filmmaker and writer

Rebecca Oliner, artist

Rebekah Carrier, solicitor

Dr Smarajit Roy, PPC Green Party Candidate for Mitcham and Morden

PM Forbes, The Green Party, Sandhurst, Berkshire

Jayne Forbes, Chair, Green Party

Adrian Cruden, Green Party PPC Newsbury

Lesley Hedges, Green Party PPC Colne Valley

Sarah Cope, Green Party PPC Stroud Green

A Bragga, Green Party PPC for Stroud Green

Graham Wroe, lecturer, Sheffield Green Parry

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20 thoughts on “Control Orders

  • mike cobley

    Oh yeah – opaque procedures, secret evidence, no prompt avenue of appeal. I believe this is what’s known as arbitrary power.

  • Jives

    Thanks Craig…that’s a good letter and list of signatures.

    I also worry about those who don’t even make the official system…just tortured or disappeared.

    Terrifying-and in my experience wholly incompetent.

  • Larry from St. Louis

    Well, Craig, I see Moazzam Begg is on the list, so it seems that you’re not the most loony signatory.

    I see you still endorse the Citizens for Legitimate Government. What a way to end a perfectly good career.

  • eddie

    The usual suspects. These round robins would have more credibility if they included some cross party names, instead of being occupied by a little paddock of people with no credibility in mainstream politics. Who exercises quality control? To be associated with some of the dodgy characters on this list should make you feel a bit queasy Craig.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Thanks here as well Craig – brilliant – and thank-you to our senior judges – British justice – world class.

    Who needs a constitution? Our system says essentially we’re free to do as we please until someone notices it’s a bad idea. I like that implied freedom.

  • mike cobley

    God, what a fudging genius that Eddie is! All this time I was thinking that having a statement supported by human rights lawyers and campaigners and others was a kinda indication of the quality of the argument and the degree of its urgency. When, in fact, its a worthless document signed by a bunch of nobodies. Well, f*ck me. Perhaps they should have got in touch with Piers Morgan or Melinda Messenger, just give it that extra special celeb sparkle. Or, dare I say, the Chuckle Brothers!

  • roderick russell

    Marc Golding says – “Who needs a constitution?…I like that implied freedom”

    There is no such thing as applied freedom, one is either free or not. If you are free it doesn’t need to be implied, it is just there. Control orders are not the mark of a society that has real freedoms, and the override of rule of law in my case is most certainly not the mark of a society that values civil liberties and basic human rights. Mark, you seem to me to be a very decent and honest chap, but I think you are maybe being unknowingly manipulated by your admitted contacts within MI6. One needs to understand that in any relationship with the intelligence services there will always be another adenda. They deal in lies and deception – that’s their hallmark. I like real freedom. That’s why I think we need a written constitution

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Although I have huge problems with control orders, for all the reasons to which the signatories allude and from the historical experience this country had of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, it might have been even better for their argument is they’d come up, in their letter, with some alternatives.

    Are they arguing that each case ought to be tried in a court of law? Yes, I agree with this course of action. If so, what kind of evidence would be admissable? What’s the thershold for prosecution? Or are these simply thought-crimes? I suspect not, otherwise, half the country would be on control-orders! (joke)

    I guess this was a protest letter, so it wasn’t the place for such detail. Nonetheless… there are people who would like to, and who have been planning to, blow up other people; they exist, they’re not figments of the hysterical imagination of the state/ media (though there is no question that both these agencies do curry hysteria for their own purposes which have been analysed in depth on this website and elsewhere).

    I also realise that internment-without-trial (again) was proving unpopular (except, of course, with respect to some asylum-seekers, where it seems very popular indeed) and so control orders were thought of as a lesser ‘evil’, less likely to reflect badly on the state’s image.

    I’m sorry, but the stuff about kids not being able to do their homework properly is bathetic and tends to detract from the essential power of the authors’ argument. If they’re old enough, the kids can visit their local library and get free wi-fi access, can’t they? If they’re younger, they can access the web at school, no? Or are they also banned from web access, from anywhere, forever-and-a-day? Anyway, a substantial number of people in this country still don’t even own a computer!

    I mean, I agree with the basic moralistic view of the authors, of course I do. And in the context of Iraq-gate. complicity with torture and all the other heinous activities the state has been getting up-to recently, there is putrescent stench about the security state. But I’m reluctant simply to leap onto bandwagons.

  • eddie

    Mike Cobley – that’s realpolitik for you. It’s no more an indication of quality than a poke in the eye. What is the point of round robins signed by a coterie of marginalised individuals? None of them are anywhere close to power. These things have been doing the rounds for years and they have no effect. None of these names have any influence upon policy, thank goodness, and some of them (Begg, Shadjareh) hold views that no self-respecting liberal should stand close to. The only person on that list I have any time for, apart from Craig, is Peter Tatchell. If you know anything about Michael Mansfield, for example, you will know that he is the legal equivalent of a hooker. He took millions from Al Fayed for Christ’s sake.

  • Polo

    Sounds like George Bush is still alive.

    But seriously, these orders are a coach and four through the Magna Carta.

    No surprise there then?

  • JimmyGiro

    Quite so Polo, Magna Carta was trashed as soon as they imposed the feminist laws into the family courts.

    But if the same letter was written, condemning the treatment of fathers, I dare say that 80% of the cosignatories above, would vanish; despite the fact that thousands of lives are ruined in these family courts each year, not just 40.

  • Jives

    @ eddie

    ” These things have no power.”

    Oh really?

    So why are you on this forum posting about it,discussing it,considering it?

  • Bert

    I believe that Control Orders are used to hide away uncomfortable details from scrutiny.

    Look at the case of Zeeshan Siddique (more here: ).

    This man was allegedly involved in the Fertiliser ‘Crevice’ case & was also in Pakistan alongside a number of the accused July 7th alleged perpetrators. No trial for him, but he was put under a Control Order, yet he escaped from a secure unit/locked ward in a psychiatric hospital in October 2006! He was also subject to torture in Pakistan.

    The fact that he is still apparently ‘on the run’ in the UK is unbelievable. Hidden agendas all round, methinks….

  • Jon

    Disappointed by your persistent neoconservatism, eddie, but it comes as no surprise. I still don’t know whether to regard you as deliberately disruptive here, in the vein of Larry et al.

    The big picture here – surely? – is that some campaigning individuals are taking a stand against illegal detention. That control orders exist at all should be an embarrassment to any Blairite that proclaims an attachment to the rule of law. There should also be no glee to be had in stating the signatories are marginalised – of course they are marginalised, when they (in the main) clearly disagree with the policies of the security state and the commercial interests behind them!

    What is the problem with Begg, though? I am re-reading his memoir, and it is excellent. I doubt any of us armchair commentators would have had his strength in Guantanamo Bay, and I include myself in that assertion.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Interesting point, Bert.

    Although the authors may have no power in terms of state power, the great mountain that is the world of information is moulded by such chisels. It doesn’t stop the UK/ USA invading Iraq (sadly), but in relation to domestic matters like Control Orders, Internment, etc. such letters can have a cumulative effect, on both legislators and the public in general. Otherwise, why would corporations waste millions of pounds on advertising? It works, that’s why. Same mechanism. Why would disinformation be propagated by the state and its agencies in relation to this, that and the other? Drip-drip… It has an effect, that’s why.

    In the case of this letter, it might be termed, the ‘manufacture of dissent’. Except that it’s not manufactured, rather it’s tapping into an enormous sense that unacceptable injustice continues to prevail through the machinations of the state.

  • anon

    A control order has also been used on someone who was allegedly involved in the August 2006 ‘liquid airline explosive plot’. This person (Mohammed Gulzar/referred to as AY – see ) was acquitted on the direction of the judge at a September 2008 trial (see paragraph 51 of this court judgement: ).

    So the judicial system was deemed not useful/suitable for this alleged ringleader, but now he is under a control order, with no case to answer?

    Verry fishy…..

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