UK Liberty

Control order absconders

Posted in control orders by ukliberty on May 25, 2007

I’ve been discussing whether or not the absconders escape due to human rights laws, the judiciary, help from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, or all of the above, or whether it’s a resourcing or performance problem.

The BBC linked to Lord Carlile’s report (211Kb PDF), published in February, which says that there have been three in the past year.

Here I reproduce that section verbatim – my only editing is the addition of more paragraphs, to improve readability.

In one case the person concerned was an inpatient in a locked ward in a psychiatric hospital. He disappeared via a ground floor window.

I am not in a position to comment on any responsibility of the hospital,which was aware of his status.

Given (i) the expense in manpower and money of round the clock physical surveillance, and (ii) the apparent medical condition, diagnosis and needs of the person concerned at the time, leaving him in the hands of the hospital was reasonable given the light conditions of the order (which primarily required him to report daily to the police).

However, this and other cases do commend constant reconsideration of the surveillance and observation needs of each controlee, given the risk that each might present to national security if uncontrolled.

Another disappeared immediately prior to the decision of the Court of Appeal to uphold the quashing of his control order by the High Court, and before a new order could be served.

When such circumstances may arise, in future there should be provision for this eventuality – in the sense that there should be the minimum delay between the quashing of the old and the service of the new order if that is the appropriate course in the case.

The police were ready to serve the new order as soon as they were allowed to under the terms of the judgment.

The third absconded in early January 2007. Soon after being served with a control order, he was believed to have entered a mosque. At this point he had not breached his control order.

There was no operational reason to enter the mosque and it would therefore have been inappropriate for police officers to do so. Unfortunately he disappeared, breaching his control obligations.

Whilst in this case it would have been inappropriate for the police to enter the mosque, it raises questions about how generally to approach sensitive issues such as presence in a mosque, church or other place of worship.

The straightforward approach would be to make it clear that if controlees are in breach of anything other than minor aspects of conditions, the police will pursue them wherever they are situated after allowing them a short time to emerge voluntarily.

Then of course there are the recent three who were discovered to have absconded after they failed to report in as required.

It seems to me that these are not good excuses reasons for derogating from the Convention.

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