Local Time

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Blunder over terror suspect's disappearance before police arrived to serve control order

· Missing man legally free of curbs, Home Office admits
· Details not revealed to MPs in written statement

Vikram Dodd and Will Woodward
Wednesday October 18, 2006

The Guardian


The government has been accused of fresh blunders over the disappearance of two terror suspects, after it emerged that one of the men disappeared before police had served him with a control order.
The man, who the government says is Iraqi, is suspected of being part of a terror cell. He should have had restrictions on his movement renewed on August 1 when a previous order ended, but police did not get to him in time, the Guardian learned.

The revelation adds to the government's embarrassment over the control orders after it was confirmed this week that the authorities have no idea of the whereabouts of the two men, said by the government to be dangerous.

One of the two, a British citizen, escaped two weeks ago from a secure psychiatric unit. But the foreign national has not been seen since August. Police failed to physically hand him the control order, as required by law. That means he is legally not subject to any restrictions, officials admitted last night.

The opposition said the revelation was further evidence of government incompetence. Yesterday Tony Blair defended the government's record on control orders amid signs that ministers may use the row to seek tougher powers.

In a second controversy, the security minister was accused of keeping news of the disappearance of the foreign national from MPs in a written statement he made to them six weeks after the authorities lost track of him.

The man had been under a control order, but that was quashed by the court of appeal at 4.30pm on August 1, with immediate effect. Three senior judges upheld an earlier court ruling in April striking down the control order regime.

According to sources with knowledge of the case, police found the man missing from his Manchester home when they went round to serve him with the new order. The Home Office says police went "at the earliest opportunity", but he had already disappeared.

The security services claim the man was part of an Iraqi terror cell. He claims to be Iranian.

Last night David Davis, the Tory home affairs spokesman, said the man's disappearance was another example of Home Office incompetence: "You would have thought they would have foreseen this. They were warned enough times they could lose, and they ought to have considered what they needed to do to keep track of people they said were terrorists who were a danger to the public. It's an act of incompetence."

Last night the Home Office said the man, who cannot be named and is known as LL, could not be prosecuted for what they claim is his breaching of the first control order against him. A spokeswoman said: "Both individuals absconded from the control orders that were in force against them at the time that they absconded. Only one of those control orders is still in force - but both individuals breached their control orders. The police and CPS cannot prosecute LL for breach because the original control order in question was quashed by the court of appeal."

The row blew up on Monday after it emerged that the British man had escaped from a psychiatric secure unit a fortnight ago. It later emerged that the Home Office minister Tony McNulty had made no mention of the Iraqi's disappearance in a written answer to MPs on September 11 updating them on the use of control order powers. The Home Office said the statement was intended to update merely on how many control orders had been issued.

The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Nick Clegg, said: "It adds insult to injury. For a government concerned about public relations it isn't good enough to duck any meaningful scrutiny when the going gets tough. It's hardly an example of new leadership if they choose to play dumb on an issue of great concern to the public."

Yesterday, at a press conference in Downing Street, Mr Blair brushed off the claim that the control orders fiasco showed that John Reid was losing control of the Home Office. "We, of course, wanted far tougher laws against terrorism. We were prevented by the opposition in parliament and then by the courts in ensuring that that was done. Of course, we will do everything we can to make sure that control orders - which are not the same as house arrest, which we have tremendous difficulties with; which are not the same as detention, which is what we originally wanted - of course they are not as effective.

"I think people have got to be careful of forgetting completely the history of this. I wanted to make sure that the original anti-terrorist legislation was maintained in full. Control orders were never going to be as effective as detention. But of course if someone breaches their control order, then they are properly sought after, and that is a job for the police.

"The reason it's difficult is that the legislation we have in place and we wanted to maintain was then overturned. Some of the same people who are criticising us on control orders today were leading the charge against the legislation that would have allowed us to continue with this."

Dictionary

English to Arabic to English Dictionary
Find word:
Exact Word / Starting Word Sub Word
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
www.SearchTruth.com

Please Feel Free to Donate