A Non-Derogating Control Order. “Section 1 PTA allows the Home Secretary to impose any obligation that she, or a Court, “considers necessary for purposes connected with preventing or restricting involvement by that individual in terrorism related activity.” The section gives examples of permissible obligations eg prohibiting/restricting the use of specified articles, the use of specified services, restrictions on types of work, association etc. In practice the restrictions can be almost unlimited and allow for house arrest in all but name.”- Terrorism Legislation Resource.
My husband is one of the few British men issued a control order lasting 20 months, known only as CA for anonymity purposes. The experience of living under a Government control order has had a traumatic and lasting effect on us not only as individuals, but also as a young family. This is a slight insight into what our lives have been like during this time and an important reminder about all the families that are still struggling with such an ordeal.
What has failed to be mentioned in regards to the information provided about control orders is how it does not simply restrict and confiscate the liberty-until further notice-of the individual ‘suspected’ of being some kind of threat, but it does the same for the family involved. From the moment my husband was handed the paper outlining the control order and his relocation over a hundred miles away from our family home (expected to take place in only seven days), the only thing that became increasingly clear was just how unclear the whole system was. This makes the entire experience enormously frustrating, exhausting and unpromising. No factual or comprehensible reason is given except that the Home Office ‘suspects’ this individual to be a threat to National Security. The majority of the information held is secret evidence, addressed and argued in a secret hearing at the High Court with a secret advocate employed for your defence. The advocate cannot discuss anything attended to during the hearing. The court process itself can be extensive not to mention tremendously tense. It appears incredibly surreal to be asked to leave the court room as the doors are locked behind you and your fate is deliberated whilst you and your legal representatives wait outside, unaware of the allegations. Unhopeful seems to be an understatement with regards to the feelings experienced by all those involved.
In our particular case, the control order followed four years of yearly Metropolitan Police raids and arrests, all of which have never amounted to anything other than CA’s release without charge. So one can imagine our delight to be told that finally all our belongings would be returned (after two years) on the morning of 16th February 2010 and our absolute disbelief and horror at what actually came to pass. As if the disturbance and ordeal of constant raids with young children wasn’t enough to contend with, my husband was, effective immediately, under a complicated and tough Government control order and would be relocated to Ipswich (over a hundred miles away from our home address) in seven days. The shock and dismay of something so major was far too testing to come to terms with in such a short space of time. Before you know it once again you have officers in and out of your property, formal paper work to go through and digest and the entire modification of your home and lifestyle.
Some restrictions of the control order consisted of a tag around my husband’s ankle, calls to the monitoring company when leaving and upon returning to the residence, a curfew, signing on at the police station everyday between 12pm and 1pm, this later changed to two signings on at the police station at 12pm-1pm and again between 4pm-5pm every day. There was also a geographical boundary which he was not permitted to leave; there was no internet access whatsoever including entering any premises with computers, internet access and money transfer facilities. In addition, all bank statements had to be sent to the Home Office, no more than £150 cash could be kept at the home address; there were unannounced as well as arranged visits from police officers and searches to the property and our vehicle at any given time.
My husband was relocated to Ipswich where we were subjected to a great deal of racial abuse both verbal and physical and CA was attacked in a racially motivated assault by two men one afternoon as he walked back to his residence from signing on at the police station. I find this time in my life particularly difficult to relive and talk about. It is still raw and brings back the hurt and suffering. This was extremely strenuous on our marriage and our parenting abilities. It is difficult to explain the feeling of being forced out of your home and town. It leaves one feeling full of anger, yet with no outlet and unquestionably no hope in sight, all I could do was argue or shut off totally from everything and everyone around me. I felt the situation consumed and drained every last bit of energy I had because it is so intensely emotionally stressful, as well as physically demanding with driving to and from CA’s new residence and managing two young children who were also struggling to come to terms with the new circumstances. After three appearances’ at the High Court and six months our appeal was successful and CA was granted permission to return back home.
One of the most testing and strenuous effects of living with someone under virtual house arrest is, the lack of privacy. Police officers retain the right to come and go as they please and unannounced. They are free to search your property whenever they visit and the restrictions on the detainees freedom results in an entire restructure of your life. Life becomes a constant set of reminders, deadlines and fear of what may come next? What may happen if you accidentally forget to call in or run late? The fear of what tomorrow may bring makes sleeping virtually impossible and the nights endless. On many occasions I looked out the window in the early hours of the morning after morning prayers just to calm myself. Any shuffling outside our front door, any slight movement fill me with dread, that heart sinking feeling experienced during three previous early morning raids. This is something our first-born struggles with. If he hears a police car, if he sees men in suits and officers in the house he begins to get upset and frightened that they will “take daddy away”. To this day he finds it difficult to be separated from CA, he constantly needs reassurance that “daddy will be back home”. We do worry he may take his animosity towards the police into his teens and adult life and therefore we make much effort to ensure that he understands the police are here to help and we must treat them with respect.
There is so much fear and misunderstanding surrounding the control order that friends and people of the community tend to stay away from families like ours. To a certain degree it is understandable, however for families who are totally innocent this immense isolation can lead to further difficulties such as, anxiety, depression and even the ultimate breakdown of their marriage. In my experience, there were many occasions where I could not drag myself out of bed to face the day. I felt I could not cope, manage or live in this hopeless situation anymore and other than my trust and faith in Allaah (swt) the thing that offered me some degree of comfort was my loved ones who were there to talk to, who helped with the financial responsibility and most importantly helped to take the children away from the testing situation. The restrictions and monitoring of who may and may not enter your home, as well as times and places the detainee can leave their residence and what can and cannot be kept at their location results in the majority of time being spent alone in the home and this pressure is immense on a marriage and the home life. You literally feel as though you are fighting a ghost and there never seems to be any light at the end of the tunnel. This hopelessness, anguish and extreme anxiety manifests itself in constant arguments, loneliness and in the case of our eldest child, who had just turned four, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. His fears are all very real and we are still working tirelessly to make him feel at ease, secure and confident, aiming to ensure he can leave his experience behind him and move forward to fulfil his potential.
It is extremely painful and disheartening to read and hear such negative and hateful remarks and comments towards individuals and families on control orders. What must be emphasised is that my husband has never been charged with any criminal offence, despite being raided and arrested time and again and having our property and vehicle seized. We have been treated like criminals, even though we are not. If this is to protect the public, then we should also be protected from drug dealers, pimps, paedophiles, murderers or those ‘suspected’ to be because they too are an enormous threat to our society.
Approaching the end of our second year on a Government control order we were preparing to go to the High Court on October 10th and 11th 2011. However, one dull, late October afternoon CA’s assigned officers came around for what we thought was a routine visit, although you cannot help but feel anxious whenever they visit because you just never know what may be the nature of their call. They handed CA a piece of headed paper from the Home Office stating that the Home Secretary no longer considers CA a threat to National Security and would like to revoke his control order as effective immediately. Just like that…..no fuss, no paperwork, no extra officers and drama just as straight forward as that and our nightmare was over.
It has yet to wholly sink in, shock and disbelief are our only sentiments at the moment and we often find ourselves rushing to make curfew times, planning our days around a boundary and not forgetting to remind CA to call monitoring! It seems weird to have the freedom and flexibility to do and go anywhere you want and we appreciate every liberty even more. We are excited to finally be looking forward to settling down and truly getting on with our normal day to day lives.
We must take a moment to thank all the people in our lives that have helped us significantly. All our families, friends and neighbours, our legal representatives who have worked so hard on our behalf and CA’s local assigned officers but furthermore, thank you to HHUGS, for all the hard work and support they offer. It goes without saying how massively important and appreciated it is for individuals and families like ours. Thank you to every person who wrote to my husband, especially the children who sent us Eid cards and notes to boost our faith-we could never say thank you enough and although it may not seem much to you, these little gestures make a huge difference to us during such lonely times. As a final point, I would just like to remember all the individuals and families still going through such a test. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all and we pray your ordeal comes to an end soon by the Will of Allaah.