Thu, Jan 18, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Third terror suspect absconds in Britain

BLUNDERS The news came shortly after the government said it was ordering a review of all criminal databases after hundreds of files were not entered into police computers


A terror suspect under police surveillance has disappeared, Britain's top law-and-order official said on Tuesday.

The suspect was being monitored under the so-called control order regime, British Home Secretary John Reid said in a written statement to parliamentarians.

Under the program, suspects who have not been charged are released from custody but remain under observation and can be electronically tagged, kept under curfew, denied the use of telephones or the Internet, and prohibited from meeting outsiders.

The control order system was created by British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government after Britain's highest court ruled in December 2004 that it was unlawful to detain terrorist suspects indefinitely without trial.

The suspect, whose identity is protected by an anonymity order, absconded earlier this month, Reid said. The man was the third terror suspect to disappear while being monitored under the control order.

"The individual is not believed to represent a direct threat to the public in the UK at this time," Reid said regarding the latest escapee. "Locating the individual is an operational matter for the police."

The government also declined to identify the other two suspects who disappeared while being held under control orders last year.

Reid's announcement came as the government faced criticism for another blunder.

On Sunday, the government said it was ordering a review of all criminal databases after acknowledging that files on hundreds of criminals were not entered into police computers. The government insists the mistake -- caused by a backlog in processing EU records at Britain's Criminal Records Bureau -- did not lead to any violent or sexual offenders being cleared to work with vulnerable people, such as children.

A government spokesman said Reid was writing to Cabinet colleagues to secure agreement for a review of British criminal databases and how information was shared between them.

An unidentified Home Office official was suspended in connection with the mistake after providing information about it to an internal inquiry.

Opposition politicians attacked the government's handling of the files.

Reid took over at the Home Office in May after former Home Secretary Charles Clarke's dismissal when it was revealed that foreign criminals were released from prisons without being considered for deportation.

On Tuesday, David Davis of the opposition Conservative Party, said: "Far from getting a grip since John Reid took over, the Home Office has been marked by murderers walking out of open prisons and suspected terrorists escaping from control orders."

"This latest failure demonstrates what we said some time ago," he said.

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