Belfast Telegraph

Review over terror laws on way

By Brian Walker, London Editor
17 December 2004

A rapid and wholesale review of anti-terrorist law since the 9/11 al-Qaida attacks has been forced on the Government by the law lords' devastating ruling that detention without trial of foreign suspects is contrary to basic human rights.

Pressure is now mounting on them to allow evidence obtained by bugging to be accepted in some trials and to create a new offence of "being connected with terrorism" that could be subject to trial.

The Government is faced with the conundrum of framing workable new laws to prevent terrorist acts, relying on intelligence evidence that can't be disclosed.

Within hours of taking over from David Blunkett, the new Home Secretary Charles Clarke found himself temporarily defying the highest court on the land, declaring that although the Act under which 11 men are held is now contrary to human rights law, they would continue to be detained until Parliament reviews the ruling early in the New Year.

In a written Commons statement, he said: "I will not be releasing the detainees, whom I have reason to believe are a significant threat to our security."

Speaking for an 8-1 majority in a panel extended from the normal five, the senior law lord Lord Bingham of Cornhill ruled that detention discriminated against foreign nationals because domestic suspects could remain free.

Despite the "catastrophe" of 9/11, detention was "disproportionate to the international terrorist threat."

Lord Hoffman declared: " The real threat to the life of the nation comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these."

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