New laws with echoes of Labour’s anti-social behaviour orders will be used to bring radical preachers under control, the Home Secretary has revealed.
Theresa May said Britain must use ‘all the legal powers we need to prevail’ after American journalist James Foley was beheaded by a masked ‘British’ extremist dubbed Jihadi John.
They would include new civil powers to target radical preachers whose outbursts fall short of breaking the law, and similar Asbo-style ‘banning orders’ to outlaw groups communicating extreme views.
New powers: Theresa May said Britain must introduce all the legal powers necessary to win the struggle against terror. These are set to include civil orders for those whose activities fall short of breaking the law
Neither would be criminal proceedings but breaching them could be a crime.
This aspect is similar to Asbos, which have largely fallen out of use since they launched in 1998 amid widespread controversy.
The laws also follow on from control orders, which were declared a breach of human rights in 2011 and turned into less stringent Terrorism Investigation and Prevention Measures (Tpims).
But these orders are targeted at those directly suspected of terrorism, whereas Mrs May indicated the new laws would focus on those spreading or preaching extremist views.
Writing in the Telegraph, Mrs May added the government was already using powers to to strip citizenship from British jihadists fighting in Iraq and Syria – of which there are more than 500.
Since the coalition came to power in 2010 more than 150 people have already been excluded from Britain for ‘unacceptable behaviour’, including foreign hate preachers.
Horror: A still from the brutal video released by Islamic State militants who beheaded journalist James Foley
CONTROL ORDERS TO TPIMS: HOW THE STATE COMBATS EXTREMISTS
The new laws would target those who slip through the cracks between what is unacceptable and what is illegal, but this is nothing new.
The government introduced control orders in 2005 for terror suspects who did not meet the threshold to be prosecuted, putting heavy restrictions on their freedom of movement.
Home Office sources argued the suspects could only not be prosecuted because the evidence against them was inadmissable in court – for example, wiretaps by security agents or sources who could not go on the record.
Nonetheless the orders were declared a breach of human rights – including the right to a fair trial – and replaced in 2011 by Terrorism Investigation and Prevention Measures (Tpims).
The new Tpims meant the state had to have a ‘reasonable belief’ of terrorist activity, more than the ‘suspicion’ of the previous law.
The Home Office has not set out any more detail about the new laws, including how they would differ from their predecessors.
But Mrs May indicated they will focus more on preachers – in other words, anyone who wishes to spread extremism to others – rather than those directly planning a terror attack.
Mrs May said the powers applied to Britons with dual citizenship and those who have been naturalised, but not those who have life-long sole British nationality as it is illegal to make citizens ‘stateless’.
However, she insisted those jihadists would be prosecuted when they return home
‘We will be engaged in this struggle for many years, probably decades’, the Home Secretary wrote. ‘We must give ourselves all the legal powers we need to prevail.
‘I am looking again at the case for new banning orders for extremist groups that fall short of the legal threshold for terrorist proscription, as well as for new civil powers to target extremists who seek to radicalise others.’
She added: ‘People who insist on travelling to fight in Syria and Iraq will be investigated by the police and security services.
‘For those who have dual nationality, I have the power to strip them of their citizenship and exclude them from the country.
‘Following the recent Immigration Act, I can, in certain circumstances, remove citizenship from naturalised Britons who are fighting overseas and exclude them too.
‘And while it is illegal for any country to make its citizens stateless, any British national who returns from Syria and Iraq faces prosecution here for participating in terrorist activities abroad.’
Since 2010 police have secured the removal of 28,000 pieces of terrorist material from the internet, she added.
Mrs May wrote: ‘The cowardly murder this week of James Foley, a man who was working to highlight the suffering of the Syrian people to the world, has demonstrated once again the very deadly threat we face from terrorism at home and abroad.’
A Home Office spokesman told MailOnline she was unable to provide any detail on the proposed new powers.
Killed: Mr Foley (pictured) was abducted while reporting on Syria in 2012 and is believed to have died recently
Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said: ‘More action is needed to respond to the serious problem of people travelling to fight with Isil (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).
‘The Home Secretary’s confirmation that she is continuing to look at the recommendations of the Prime Minister’s Taskforce, announced last December, is welcome.
‘Though there remains no detail on things like civil powers to tackle extremists or extremist groups for people to consider.
‘However I remain concerned that the Government is not addressing the gaps in the Prevent programme – especially the lack of support for community led approaches to preventing radicalisation.
‘And the Home Secretary also needs to respond to the concerns raised by the current and previous Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation about the decision to weaken control orders, where they have advised that stronger measures should be put in place.’
Terror: Islamic State militants have swept through Iraq and Syria, flying their flag near Aleppo (pictured)
The government has come under pressure from Lord Dannatt, the former head of the Army, to build bridges with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to tackle the militants operating in Syria and Iraq.
But Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said an alliance with Assad would not be ‘practical, sensible or helpful’, and the government has called for Assad to be removed over his actions during the country’s bloody civil war.
Asked if Britain would have to collaborate with the Assad regime, Mr Hammond told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One: ‘No. We may very well find that we are fighting, on some occasions, the same people that he is but that doesn’t make us his ally.’