Control orders include a range of special measures designed to aid prosecution of terrorism suspects, including the prohibition of certain services such as the Internet or a telephone and can be used to restrict a person's movements to within a specified area. Introduced in 2005, there are two types; non-derogatory and derogratory, the latter having been deemed to infringe on the subject's right to liberty and as such have required the UK to opt out of article 5 of the European convention on human rights. The former have been applied in a total of 38 cases, of which 15 still apply. The second type have not yet been used. Most controversially, the orders mean that subjects are prevented from seeing secret evidence that will be used against them, making it extremely difficult for them to mount a legal challenge that is likely to have any degree of success - this can create a situation by which evidence gathered through phone tapping, otherwise deemed inadmissable in British courts, can be used.
Lord Phillips has stated that, "A trial procedure can never be considered fair if a party to it is kept in ignorance of the case against him." Lord Hope of Craighead, also involved in the ruling, said that, "The consequences of a successful terrorist attack are likely to be so appalling that there is an understandable wish to support the system that keeps those who are considered to be most dangerous out of circulation for as long as possible."
Lord Hope added: "The consequences of a successful terrorist attack are likely to be so appalling that there is an understandable wish to support the system that keeps those who are considered to be most dangerous out of circulation for as long as possible." However, he claimed, "If the rule of law is to mean anything, it is in cases such as these that the court must stand by principle."Meanwhile, Eric Metcalfe, speaking for the pro-human rights legal group Justice, says, "The government can decide to limp on with the use of secret evidence for the sake of ever-diminishing returns. Or Parliament can act to end its use once and for all. Either way, the unfairness of secret evidence is clear."
Lord Hope is right in saying that we need to do all we can to prevent terrorist atrocities, both here and abroad, and for that reason some form of control order remains necessary in our current society - nobody wants to see more attacks such as those which took place in London in 2005, in which many innocent civilians were murdered. However, any infringement of the democratic rights of any person prior to a guilty verdict is too serious in its implications to be considered, and so the current orders need to be closely investigated and reformed. Without the right to a fair trial - and the right to launch an appeal, for which it is necessary to be made fully aware of the evidence that may either convict or absolve the accused - our justice system is worthless.