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Monday, February 14, 2005

Clark bows to the inevitable

The sound of brakes being applied in the Home Office over the last few days must have been quite palpable as Charles Clarke rowed back from his illiberal and frankly, dangerous proposals to introduce house arrest for suspected terrorists. Such measures are of course the tools of totaliarianism and have no place in a democratic British society.

The Home Secretary is now saying that he has "never actually used the phrase house arrest". Strictly speaking he is correct. However what he did say about these control orders is a matter of record and amounts to the same thing:

"There would be a range of controls restricting movement and association or other communication with named individuals; the imposition of curfews and/or tagging; and restrictions on access to telecommunications, the internet and other technology. At the top end, control orders would include a requirement to remain at their premises. The controls to be imposed under the new scheme will not include detention in prison, although I intend that breach of a control order should be a criminal offence, triable in the usual way through the criminal courts and punishable by imprisonment."

The proposals were, of course, unworkable and impracticable and this has been demonstrated by the fears of the security services that suspects' homes could become recruiting centres for Islamist fundamentalists.

The Home Secretary is now to hold talks with the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats on a way forward. Charles Kennedy's view on this matter are also a matter of record. He is quoted as saying: "We must never have the position in this country where a politician can decide whether you walk free or are put under house arrest. That must be a judicial decision." Civil liberty and security are not mutually exclusive and once you try fighting the latter by compromising the former then you are capitulating to terrorism.
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