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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Helena Kennedy on house arrest

Helena Kennedy writes in today's Observer on Government proposals to introduce 'control orders'. It is worth quoting her conclusion in full.

What we should be reaffirming is that people should be detained only pending a criminal charge. If people are suspected of terrorism, they should be investigated thoroughly and if there is evidence they should be put on trial. If not, but suspicion remains, they should be kept under surveillance. Instead we have a misconceived suggestion by some decent parliamentarians that all will be well if a judge authorises the house arrest or control order.

Sugar-coating the unpalatable by suggesting all will be well if a judge makes the order is to forget that it may not feel significantly different if it is Mr Justice Floggem or the Home Secretary who issues an order if you still don't know the nature of the allegation or the evidence on which it is based.

Sometimes, judges can be unwittingly collusive in the erosion of the rule of law by allowing themselves to be co-opted into processes where the genuine balancing of the security of the state and human-rights considerations becomes impossible. Often they, too, do not have access to all the information. By taking on the role of control-order dispenser in camera, the judges would provide a veneer of legitimacy to processes which fall short of international standards of human rights. Judicial authorisation doesn't improve bad law.
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