30/01/2004

More leeway needed to act against terror suspects: Blunkett

The Home Secretary has called for a closer look at the "evidential threshold" so that authorities can take pre-emptive action against suspected terrorists.

Speaking before he is due to address the British Council in New Delhi tomorrow, David Blunkett said that the prospect of prosecution was not sufficient to deter suicide bombers or the modern, loosely connected international terrorist networks.

Modern governments must therefore have the powers to act to "prevent and disrupt terrorism" as democratic civilised values can be used by terrorists "as the Achilles heel to destroy us", he said.

However, that governments must "strike the right balance" between civil liberties and the ability to prevent terrorism – but such measures should not be at the cost of intervention which is may be so restrictive as "we do the terrorists' job for them".

Commenting ahead of the speech, Mr Blunkett said: "The challenge in the UK, as in India, is to find the right balance between security and freedom. We must ensure our citizens are protected while avoiding taking measures that are so restrictive we do the terrorists' job for them. We must strike a balance between ensuring the public has the information they need for protection and reassurance while avoiding causing unnecessary panic."

Globalisation has brought many new opportunities for governments – but terrorists seeking to "destroy our way of life" are also operating more efficiently in a new, globalised world, he warned.

"Groups connected together in a way not seen before - the informal and loose networks of Al Qaeda - are able to exploit technology, use sophisticated communication, financial networks, and the ability to take advantage of democracy itself, to destroy democracy," the Home Secretary said.

(gmcg)

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