MPs condemn 'critically flawed' appeal system for terror suspects

Click to follow

The current appeals system for terrorism suspects is "critically flawed" and needs a radical overhaul, according to a damning report by MPs published today.

The current appeals system for terrorism suspects is "critically flawed" and needs a radical overhaul, according to a damning report by MPs published today.

Members of the constitutional affairs committee say that defendants are not getting fair hearings because special security-cleared solicitors are barred from giving them details of the evidence against them which is outlined in confidential documents.

The 53-page report urges Tony Blair to conduct an urgent review of the use of control orders, which have been brought in to restrict the liberty of those terror suspects who have been released from prison. A total of 10 suspects, including eight released last month from Belmarsh prison and Broadmoor secure hospital, are subject to these control orders under new laws passed by Parliament.

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, can impose a control order on anyone he has a "reasonable suspicion" is engaged in terror-related activities. This decision is then reviewed by a judge.

However, the Commons committee is demanding that the Government introduces a test so that Mr Clarke has to prove that the evidence in each case supports his decision to issue a control order.

The committee's report will add to the controversy surrounding the Government's treatment of those suspected of terrorist offences.

Foreign nationals who are detained on suspicion of terrorism can appeal to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC).

SIAC uses lawyers, known as special advocates, to represent terror suspects at appeal hearings and the security-vetted lawyers also take part in High Court cases involving control orders.

Special advocates are appointed by ministers and have access to classified documents from the security services. However, the special advocates are not allowed to speak with a suspect or their solicitor after looking at these top-secret papers.

Alan Beith, the Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick-on-Tweed, who chairs the constitutional affairs committee, said that the system lacks "the most basic features that make for a fair trial". "To deprive someone of their liberty without telling them the charge or the evidence is completely foreign to our system of justice," he said.

Comments