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Left Archive: PTA – Prevention of Terrorism Act, A Newsletter of the National Council for Civil Liberties, No. 1, Nov 1984 January 17, 2022

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This document issued by the UK National Council for Civil Liberties (now known as Liberty) examines the Prevention of Terrorism of Act in that state. As the newsletter notes:

In March this year the Government repealed the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and replaced it with a new version, the 1984 Prevention of Terrorism Act. The move came after many years of aJmost routine renewal of the Act by Parliament since the original PTA was introduced by Labour in 1974 as an “exceptional” and “temporary” measure. However in 1982 this concensus renewal broke down – when Labour abstained in the renewal debate – leading to the decision by the Conservative Government to appoint Lord Jellicoe to examine the operation of the Act. Subsequently, the Government decided to introduce some changes based largely on the Jel1icoe recomnendations.
There are some important differences between the 1976 and the 1984 Acts. However other changes are not significant in tenns of increasing the protection of individual rights and freedoms in practice. The extension of arrest powers to people suspected of involvement in political violence in any foreign country has raised concern that the new Act effectively enlarges the circle of people whose civil liberties and legitimate political activity may be constrained and threatened by the Act.

New Provisions under the Act are outlined including “The Act has a maximum life of 5 years.” and the use of exclusion orders can be made – that is excluding people from the island of Britain. And:

The sections of the PTA concerning powers of examination at ports, detention and questioning (ss. 12 and 13) have been extended to cover people suspected of involvement in political violence anywhere in the world. This extension of police powers of examination, detention and arrest is such that now a large number of foreign groups, or British groups with connections overseas, come under the net of the Act, for prolonged detention, questioning, and infonnation gathering by the police with no access to the courts.

It notes:

During the debate a nLID1ber of MPs concerned with the erosion of civil liberties objected vigorously to the renewal of the ”emergency” powers. The government majority however defeated most of the proposed amendments. During the report stage in the House of Lords, the government agreed (under pressure from the Liberal and independent peers) to appoint a single person as “Corrmissioner” to review the operation of the Act each year and report to Parliament before the annual renewal debate. S/he would not hear appeals or assess whether the powers had been used correctly in indi victual cases. The Comnissioner’s role would be to examine the use made of the powers, whether for instance any patterns had emerged which should be drawn to Parliament’s attention. This report would be published. (To date, we do not know who is to be appointed as the Comnissioner.) The Government also conceded that Parliament be given the opportunity to debate the draft renewal order each year at least one month before the date of renewal and that the government would consider how the points raised in those debates might be included in the revised order. ( Eg. Parliament could ask for one part of the Act to lapse.)

The document also notes the situation in Northern Ireland:

THE PTA IN NORTHERN IREL AND: YOUTH MALTREATED IN BELFAST

PAUL CARUANA, a 24-year-old from Derry, was arrested as he walked in the street on Saturday 11 August 1984. He was taken first to Strand Road and then to Castlereagh police station in Belfast. The next clay questioning started. Mr Caruana said later: “I was on a sitting position on the floor and one of the officers started forcing rey head between rey legs while the other held IT\Y feet.

At one point the officer pushing IT\Y head down climbed on IT\Y back and started pushing all his weight on me. The pain was so severe that I cried out ‘Oh Jesus, No!’ One of them said, “You could make this a lot easier for youself’ . “

NCCL intervened on behalf of Mr Caruana and asked a senior doctor at Derry hospital to carry out an independent medical examination. The examination was carried out less than 2 clays after Mr Caruana’ s release. Medical findings about his physical condition were consistent with the alleged treatment. A psychatric examination carried out by a consultant established that Mr Caruana was suffering from a severe anxiety state.
Mr Caruana said: “I ‘ll never get over it for the rest of my life. I’ve never been through anything like this before. I’ve never been in trouble before. I think something should be done about it.” NCCL continues tofollow the investigation. A mnnber of MPs and MEPs have also taken up the case.

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