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Theresa May Needs to Swallow Her Pride and Work With Us to fight Terrorism

Diana Johnson MP had the article below published on the Huffington Post website on 26 December 2013. Full text below or see

Boxing Day marks one year since Ibrahim Magag - one of the UK's most closely monitored terrorist suspects - absconded from his Terrorism Prevention Order (TPIM). While Londoners were busy heading to the sales, Magag simply jumped into a black cab, never to be seen again.

A year on, we are no closer to knowing where he is or how he was able to abscond.

TPIMs are used when a person is suspected of involvement in high-level terrorist activities but cannot be convicted because the evidence against them is not admissible in court. Those on TPIMs include AY, believed to have plotted to blow-up transatlantic airlines with liquid bombs and CD who is thought to have trained alongside the 7/7 bombers with the aim of committing mass murder in London.

These people should be closely monitored. When Theresa May introduced TPIMs she promised Parliament 24hr surveillance provided by specially trained police officers. Ministers recently told me this surveillance had cost 'tens of millions of pounds'. But all Mr Magag did was hail a cab. When, in September, Ahmed Mohammed also absconded, he simply donned a burkha.

Is this how easy it is to evade the Metropolitan Police's finest? No, because it now seems that neither Ibrahim Magag nor Ahmed Mohammed were under direct police surveillance. Instead, they were simply given a G4S tag. Theresa May hasn't said why this cost so much, or why she thought that G4S - with their record of failure at the Olympics and on other tagging contracts - should be given responsibility for monitoring the UK's most sensitive terrorist suspects.

Magag's escape was made much easier because he was in London and again this was May's decision. She brought in TPIMs to replace Labour's Control Orders. There is one key difference here - with Control Orders you could relocate an individual. When Magag was on a Control Order he was moved to the West Country - away from the networks in which he could facilitate and organise terrorist activities.

Given that the chances of finding Magag now seem remote we all want to know how dangerous he is. May told Parliament that "Magag is not considered to represent a direct threat to the British public" but that's not what the Courts have said. Lord Justice Collins ruled that Magag was "too dangerous to permit ... to be in London even for a short period". Magag, like Ahmed Mohammed, had travelled to Somalia to take part in terrorist activities. They are both linked to Al-Shaabab, of which Woolwich killer Michael Adebolajo is also associated and who are believed to be behind the attack on the Westgate Centre in Kenya. This is not a group we should be complacent about.

All this begs the question what happens next. There are currently eight people in the UK on a TPIM order. But TPIM orders only last two years and therefore from the 26 January five more suspects will be free from all restrictions, regardless of the danger they are believed to pose. This risk is unacceptable. My colleague Yvette Cooper has made it clear that Labour will work with the government to bring in emergency legislation. Theresa May needs to swallow her pride and work with us to get terrorism powers that work.



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