'Historic' ruling on secret evidence

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The Independent Online

Two men suspected of terrorist-related activities have won a landmark High Court battle against the use of secret evidence by the Government to deny them bail.

In what human rights lawyers are describing as a "historic" victory, two judges ruled yesterday that a person cannot be denied bail solely on the basis of secret evidence. They ruled that bail applications should be treated in the same as control order cases, where terror suspects must be given an "irreducible minimum" of information about the case against them.

Lord Justice Laws, sitting with Mr Justice Owen, said it was "impossible" to conclude "that in bail cases a less stringent procedural standard is required". The judges also rejected government claims that decisions by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac), which deals with terror suspect cases, are immune from judicial review.

Lord Justice Laws said: "The court's ingrained reluctance to countenance the statutory exclusion of judicial review has its genesis in the fact that judicial review is a principal engine of the rule of law."

The ruling was a victory for a Pakistani student facing removal from the UK who was refused bail on the basis of secret evidence, and an Algerian national, "U", whose bail was revoked. The student, referred to as Xc, aged 23, was one of 10 students arrested in April in north-west England.

Jonathan Glasson, appearing for Siac, applied for permission to appeal, saying the case raised an "important point of principle". He said the ruling meant that Xc and U, who were both considered to be risks to national security, were now "potentially to be released on bail, notwithstanding the existence of closed evidence indicating that they might abscond".

The judges refused permission to appeal, but delayed the release of both men to give Siac time to ask the Court of Appeal itself to hear the case. Solicitor Gareth Peirce said it was "a historic judgment" which meant the state could not use secret evidence to imprison people.