How voters changed minds on Control Orders


12:30 pm - January 10th 2011

by Chris Barnyard    


      Share on Tumblr

Never mind the ‘liberal intelligensia’, is the public for or against Control Orders? Yesterday the Sunday Times published details of a poll saying that most people supported them.

But it comes down to how the question is asked, as YouGov show today.

The Sunday Times poll for YouGov asked this question:

Current laws allow the government to impose control orders on people who they suspect pose a serious terrorist threat, but who they do not have evidence to prosecute. Control orders can restrict where suspects are allowed to go, items they are not allowed to possess, and who they are allowed to see or communicate with. They do not require a trial and there are only limited rights of appeal. Do you think the Government should or should not have the power to use control orders?

A big majority, 73% say ‘should’, while 15% say ‘should not’; the rest don’t know.

They also asked:

Some people have suggested a compromise, where people subject to control orders would be allowed the freedom to leave their house, but would still be banned from going abroad and have limits on who they could meet. Which of the following best reflects your response to this suggestion?

This time, 38% said: ‘These changes would weaken control orders to an unacceptable extent and put people at greater risk from terrorism’, while 31% said ‘These changes are an acceptable compromise that would impact less on people’s freedoms while still keeping us safe from terrorism’. A further 31% said ‘neither’ or ‘don’t know’.

A clear cut case? Not necessarily.

YouGov also did a poll for the human rights group Liberty, which phrased the question differently:

Which of the following is a better way of dealing with people suspected of terrorism, when they have not been arrested or charged?

• Restricting where suspects can go and who they can meet, electronically tagging them and banning them from using telephones and the internet

• NOT imposing such restrictions, but instead placing them under intensive surveillance and monitoring their communications, in order to gather evidence with which to prosecute them

40% supported the Control Orders option, while 46% supported the second one.

YouGov’s Peter Kellner draws three conclusions from this:

First, our findings are consistent with our past surveys: that if there is a trade-off then, for most people, national security trumps civil liberties. Those who argue for civil liberties to be upheld regardless of the risk of terrorism are in a small minority.

Second, that supporters of human rights and habeas corpus need to challenge that trade-off, rather than argue that civil liberties matter more than the threat of terrorism. If they can win the argument that control orders in practice do more harm than good (for example by alienating ‘moderate’ Muslims or because some of those subject to control orders still manage to evade their restrictions), then they can win over millions of voters.

Third, public opinion is fluid. When minds are made up, then question wording matters far less. People know which side they are on, and are less prone to be swayed by specific words or assumptions underlying the different questions. But when attitudes are less fixed, different questions can produce very different results. That is the position today with control orders.

But the biggest danger to the Coalition would be that the public were convinced that the fudge over Control Orders was engineered to keep the government afloat rather than a concern for civil liberties or public safety.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Chris is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is an aspiring journalist and reports stories for LC.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Civil liberties ,News

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


What many might not understand / apprehend is that controlees are not subject to constant surveillance and that control orders do not physically restrict the controlees but only restrict them in terms of obligations. Liberty’s is the better question.

Peter Kellner says,

First, our findings are consistent with our past surveys: that if there is a trade-off then, for most people, national security trumps civil liberties.

I wonder what people would think of the real trade-off, that of money vs. national security vs. civil liberties.

If only people realised that control orders are not used against “terrorists”, but against citizens against whom the state doesn’t have any evidence – otherwise they would go for an arrest warrant or a trial.

Andreas,

If only people realised that control orders are not used against “terrorists”, but against citizens against whom the state doesn’t have any evidence – otherwise they would go for an arrest warrant or a trial.

I’m tempted to agree with your sentiment but I don’t think you’re being entirely fair to the state. The argument for control orders vs. going to trial is that the latter would involve revealing evidence to the potential defendant that would make terrorism easier for other people, it’s not that the state doesn’t have any evidence at all.

Also, it’s not as if no evidence is ever presented; the Home Secretary must eventually satisfy a court that there is reasonable suspicion. She can only do this with sufficient evidence (some of which may be withheld from the controlee).

Here is a judgement about a controlee, for example, who does not “now dispute that the Secretary of State had, and continues to have, reasonable grounds to suspect that he has been involved in terrorism-related activity and that it was and remains necessary for purposes connected with protecting members of the public from a risk of terrorism to make a control order imposing obligations upon him”.

‘If they can win the argument that control orders in practice do more harm than good (for example by alienating ‘moderate’ Muslims or because some of those subject to control orders still manage to evade their restrictions), then they can win over millions of voters.’

The second point – about those who manage to evade restrictions – isn’t persuasive if the alternative is to release them and keep them under surveillance: chances are that people would opt for locking them up and throwing away the key.

And what’s the evidence that control orders are alienating ‘moderate’ (the quotation marks are Kellner’s) muslims? The priorities seem to be cartoons, short skirts and the mass slaughter of muslims overseas – in that order.

The civil liberties arguments against control orders are strong enough in themselves. If you make special pleading on behalf of muslims what’s to stop the government using control orders on non-muslims suspected of organised crime, for instance?

Control orders are basically super-ASBOs: there’s no reason they can’t be rolled out across the country for all criminal suspects one the principle has been accepted.

‘I’m tempted to agree with your sentiment but I don’t think you’re being entirely fair to the state. The argument for control orders vs. going to trial is that the latter would involve revealing evidence to the potential defendant that would make terrorism easier for other people, it’s not that the state doesn’t have any evidence at all.’

Wouldn’t a trial against drug deelers reveal informatiin that might be of value to other drug deelers? I think that argument’s weak.

Shatterface,

Wouldn’t a trial against drug deelers reveal informatiin that might be of value to other drug deelers? I think that argument’s weak.

I’m sure you’re aware the argument is based on the premise that terrorism is a special case, the nature of terrorism is such that we can and must have these special procedures.

In an earlier thread I linked to a House of Commons briefing paper on The Use of Intercept Evidence in Terrorism Cases – it’s worth a read whether or not you agree with the government’s position.

This kind of opinion poll is notoriously worthless. If you replaced ‘they’ with ‘you’ in that description, people would not be in favour of those restrictions without trial.

im definitley with Liberty on this one, control orders and dangerous and breach peoples rights, no way I can support them.

Wasn’t it because one of the main examples against control orders used in the media ended up shipping himself out to Afghanistan and fighting and dying alongside the Taliban? I’m sure its what he would have wanted but it gave the public a change of heart over control orders didn’t it?

The web of associations between British intelligence, foreign governments who fund terrorism, and the Islamic jihadists in his country is so incestuous, ‘control orders’ are the only expedient by which known terrorists (at least some of whom will be double agents on the SIS payroll) can be dealt with without a potentially damaging public trial. The government can’t risk sensitive methods, techniques and operations being known to any law student.

John Loftus is a former prosecutor for the US Justice Department. In 2005 he revealed that the Al-Muhajiroun group based in London was actually formed by MI6 and originated in Kosovo. Even more sensationally, US officials had been pursuing the mastermind of the London bombings, Haroon Rashid Aswat, for trying to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregan – but were unable to capture him because he was working for British intelligence!

Several of those under so-called control orders have ‘absconded’. Does that really sound plausible to you? For a single person under standard surveillance to simply vanish would be an embarrassment. For a whole string of people to dematerialise whilst under effective house arrest is unbelievable. What seems more likely is that they’ve been covertly moved abroad, and that those 42-day detention periods bought time to negotiate their extradition.

Those wishing to learn more about the geopolitical context around domestic terrorism should read Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam by Mark Curtis. It’s a meticulously researched book which will destroy your illusions about the ‘War on Terror’.

Regards,
Paul.

CORRECTION: Oh right yeah, 42-day detention wasn’t introduced in the end was it? *sigh*

I should pay more attention to domestic issues. I’ve been more interested in Western global strategy of late. Oh well, the rest of the post stands.

Regards,
Paul.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    How votersc changed their minds on Control Orders depending on the question http://bit.ly/eZSgtR

  2. Police State UK

    Do voters support Control Orders? Not a clear-cut case http://bit.ly/g1YTOQ #terrorism #liberty

  3. Gareth Winchester

    How voters changed minds on Control Orders http://t.co/qCrXNFL via @libcon <- Fear leads to greater support

  4. Emily Davis

    RT @libcon: How votersc changed their minds on Control Orders depending on the question http://bit.ly/eZSgtR

  5. Noxi

    RT @sunny_hundal How voters changed their minds on Control Orders depending on question http://bit.ly/eZSgtR #terrorism #civil #liberties

  6. conspiracy theo

    How voters changed minds on Control Orders | Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/g1zBzx

  7. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    How voters changed minds on Control Orders | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/fUnwogD via @libcon

  8. Daniel Pitt

    RT @libcon: How votersc changed their minds on Control Orders depending on the question http://bit.ly/eZSgtR





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.