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Grieve: Counter-terrorism measures “probably getting to the right place”

The former Attorney General Dominic Grieve appeared on Radio 4’s World at One Today to discuss the government’s new plan to “regulate” the return to the UK of those who, for instance, have gone to Syria to fight for the “Islamic State”.

Grieve said his impression was that the new proposals – announced by the Prime Minister overnight in a speech to the Australian Parliament – do not seem aimed at “banning” UK citizens from returning to the UK, which they have a legal right to do, and which would risk breaching international law by making them stateless.

My understanding of the proposals is the same as Grieve’s: the plan is to force people to arrange their return to the UK with British authorities, rather than in any sense to “ban” them from coming back. On that basis, I think there’s a good chance the new regime would be legally defensible.

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  1. It may be legally defensible (just), but it’s surely not ethically defensible nor defensible in terms of civil rights. To impose such draconian conditions on the ability of UK citizens to return to their own country, on the basis of mere suspicion and presumably with no right of appeal, strikes me as monstrous. There’s also Shami Chakrabarti’s important point that in practice it will involve dumping suspected or potential terrorists with UK nationality and the right of abode here in other countries like toxic waste. What if other countries follow our noxious example and lumber us with a lot of terrorism suspects who can’t go home unless they agree to be either prosecuted or put under what amounts to house arrest when and if they do? Presumably (unless they are EU citizens) we’d deport them to their own countries whether they like it or not — and I guess that is what will happen to UK citizens abroad if they (understandably) refuse to accept our conditions for being allowed back in.

    This is political theatre provoked by irrational panic. There’s no reason whatever to depart from ordinary criminal procedures. If a suspected jihadi returns to the UK and there’s evidence that he has committed an offence under UK law while abroad, or is planning to commit one here on his return, arrest and charge him and put him on trial. If there is no such evidence, or not enough to convict, follow and bug him until there is. We should not be wrecking people’s lives on mere suspicion.

  2. I’m not sure how this sort of order in itself would wreck someone’s life, Brian. A successful prosecution could wreck a life (or even an unsuccessful one). A TPIM could wreck your life. Not being able to return to the UK might wreck your life. But these orders wouldn’t prevent anyone returning to the UK, and the “regulated return” aspect of them would be separate from any prosecution or TPIM or other restrictions.