In the Media

Law in need of modernisation to tackle terrorists, says Reid

PUBLISHED August 10, 2006

The Home Secretary has again threatened to revise human rights laws the week after judges ruled that the Government's anti-terrorism policy was illegal.

In a speech to centre-left think tank Demos, John Reid said opposition from judges and the media meant ?we remain unable to adapt our institutions and legal orthodoxy as fast as I believe we need to? and that it may be necessary to modify some of our own freedoms in the short term in order to prevent their misuse and abuse by those who oppose our fundamental values.? The Court of Appeal last week upheld a ruling that control orders taken under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) 2005 amounted to a deprivation of liberty prohibited by Art 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

Speaking in London, Reid said the law had failed to evolve to tackle problems such as organised crime, the social breakdown of communities and global terrorism, meaning that ?civil liberty arguments are not sop much wrong as made for another age?. ?We are in some ways trying to fight a 21st century struggle with a framework of thought, culture and international legality which was provided for the mid-20th century,? he said.

Calling the current terrorist situation ?the most sustained period of severe threat since the end of World War II? he said the ECHR, drawn over 50 years ago, was designed to protect against facist states, whereas the threat now came from ?what might be called facist individuals?. He asked the public to consider: ?How much of a price are we willing to pay for our own security? Or for the preservation of our freedom??

Reid said that since 2000 almost 1,000 people have been arrested for terrorist-related offences, with 154 of them charged, 60 still awaiting charge and four significant terrorist plots disrupted. The speech was made before today's announcement that a major plot to blow up planes flying out of London mid-flight had been foiled by British anti-terror forces. The subsequent arrest of 21 people and upgrading of the security threat to 'critical' will undoubtedly add support to Reid's campaign for greater powers to capture and prosecute terrorists.