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Monday, February 11, 2008

Who is bugging who?

It seems that Labour's obsession with surveillance may come back to bite them if stories alleging that conversations between suspects and their lawyers in Woodhill Prison have been routinely bugged turn out to be true.

The Guardian states that a legal precedent has established that the deliberate bugging of conversations with lawyers constitutes such an affront to the rule of law that trials should be halted and any convictions obtained overturned. They speculate that if the story stands up then this ruling, in the court of appeal in 2005, may mean that dozens of terrorist trials could be aborted and the Soham murderer, Ian Huntley, go free.

The source, who spoke to the Daily Telegraph, may have communicated with Mark Kearney, the former detective sergeant who exposed the bugging of the Labour MP Sadiq Khan on a prison visit to a constituent. Kearney is due to appear at Kingston crown court today on unrelated charges of leaking information to the media. At least 10 solicitors were bugged at Woodhill, where Huntley was held in the run-up to his trial in 2003, the source has alleged.

A retrial would be ruled out because the whole prosecution would be tainted. If deliberate police bugging of Huntley's conversations with his lawyer were proved, he would almost certainly be freed by the appeal court and escape a retrial, according to criminal lawyers.

The whistleblower has claimed that solicitors including Gareth Peirce and Mudassar Arani, who act for a number of terrorist suspects, had their conversations with their clients recorded by police.

Last night Peirce, also the solicitor for Babar Ahmed, the constituent Khan was visiting, said she had written to the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, and the justice minister, Jack Straw, demanding to know whether any of her visits to clients in prison had been bugged. She has also written to the chief surveillance commissioner, Sir Christopher Rose, who is inquiring into the bugging of the MP.

The seriousness of this situation cannot be overstated. If the Government has crossed the line then they may well pay a very high price. Even if such bugging turns out to be the work of a loner I doubt if the responsible Government Ministers could survive the resulting scandal. The consequences for our justice system and society are just too great.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne, writes on this subject on Liberal Democrat Voice.
I'm interested in what Guido Fawkes makes of this. If the government legislates to regularise bugging of lawyers and MPs, could the confessional be next?
"They" started to bug confessionals a few months before bugging lawyers!
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