Law lords ban use of secret evidence

Blow to anti-terror control orders as lords rule process breaches human rights

The controversial use of control orders to limit the freedom of terrorist suspects without a trial has been dealt a serious legal blow after law lords ruled the use of secret evidence breached human rights legislation.

In a unanimous decision, a panel of nine law lords found in favour of three Libyan men, who argued that the Government's refusal to give any details of the evidence against them made a fair hearing impossible. The men have not been named for legal reasons.

While the control orders against the men have not been quashed, their cases will have to be heard again. But the Government now faces having to lift orders granted using secret evidence. Suspects can be banned from meeting certain people, stopped from using mobile phones or computers, or even forced to adhere to a strict 16-hour home curfew under the orders.

They were introduced in 2005 after the law lords ruled that the previous practice of locking up foreign terrorist suspects who had not been charged with an offence breached their human rights. There are 17 terrorist suspects who are currently subjected to control orders, six of whom are British citizens.

Lord Philips of Worth Matravers, the senior law lord, said: "A trial procedure can never be considered fair if a party to it is kept in ignorance of the case against him." Alan Johnson, the newly installed Home Secretary, called the ruling "extremely disappointing", adding that it would make it more difficult to protect the public from terrorism.

"All control orders will remain in force for the time being and we will continue to seek to uphold them in the courts. In the meantime, we will consider this judgment and our options carefully," he said.

The control orders have had a troubled existence since being introduced in 2005. An original power to impose an 18-hour home curfew on suspects was ruled to breach the Human Rights Act by the law lords in 2007. Human rights campaigners said yesterday's ruling was a major victory. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, called for an end to the orders. "I can think of no better way for the Prime Minister to make a fresh start for his Government than to abandon the cruel and counter-productive punishments without trial instituted by his predecessor," she said.

The ruling has also increased the pressure on the Government to allow the use of intercept evidence, including information obtained by monitoring phone calls and email accounts, in British courts.

"It is now a matter of extreme urgency that the British Government makes it possible to use intercept evidence in terrorism cases," said David Davis, the former shadow home secretary. "This will allow conventional British courts to lock up those people who are real terrorists on the basis of real evidence after a proper trial, rather than continue with a system that has failed both legally and practically."

Chris Huhne, the home affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, also called for intercept evidence to be made permissible, calling the use of control orders a "fundamental infringement of human rights".

But Mr Johnson said: "We have put strong measures in place to try to ensure that our reliance on sensitive material does not prejudice the right of individuals subject to control orders to a fair trial."

How does a control order restrict a suspect's life?

Q. What are control orders, and what are they designed to do?

A. They allow the imposition of restrictions on any person suspected of involvement in any terrorism-related activity.

Q. How do the restrictions work, and what do they stop people doing?

A. House curfews for up to 16 hours a day; control of internet and telephone access; electronic tagging; bans on foreign travel; daily reporting to police; bans on associating with certain people.

Q. When were control orders brought in?

A. In March 2005 after a House of Lords ruling that holding terror suspects without charge or trial was in breach of their human rights. The Lords ruled against a provision of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 – introduced following 9/11 – which allowed foreign terror suspects to be detained indefinitely. Ministers had claimed that such detainees could not be prosecuted because a trial would put secret intelligence at risk, so control orders were introduced to restrict their movements.

Q. Do all control orders work in the same way?

A. No, there are two types. Non-derogating control orders do not require the Government to opt out of article five of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to liberty. These last for 12 months and can be renewed each year. Derogating orders infringe the right to liberty and require an opt-out. They have never been used.

Q. How many people are under control orders?

A. At least 35 people have been made the subject of non-derogating control orders.

Q. What do critics of the orders say about them?

A. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, says: "Control orders constitute permanent punishment without trial and one of the worst legacies of the 'war on terror'. The innocent can be placed under permanent house arrest on the basis of secret intelligence, possibly flowing from torture – the guilty may easily remove their plastic tags, disappear and do their worst."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high