Admitting evidence got by torture: a Commonwealth view

Following my Guardian article of 12 October (see earlier blog entry) I received a thought-provoking and pithy comment on the issue of the admissibility of evidence obtained by torture, from an old friend and very distinguished citizen of an African Commonwealth country with long experience of international affairs:

"Thank you for drawing my attention to your Guardian article. It is very persuasive. I just wonder what sort of example the appeal court’s judgement would be setting for law enforcement authorities in many Commonwealth countries like mine, which have traditionally looked up to the UK in their continuing efforts to establish régimes for proper respect for human rights and civil liberties.â€?

To which I replied, in part:

"Several of the very recent media articles, not only mine, attacking the extraordinary and perverse majority opinion of the Court of Appeal on torture, have made your own telling point about the effects on Britain’s reputation overseas for the highest judicial standards if the law lords uphold it. By interesting coincidence, on the same day as that on which my Guardian article appeared (yesterday), there was an article in The Times Law pages angrily criticising the Court of Appeal judgment (from a different angle), and on the previous day a trenchant leading article in the New Statesman took the same line. It begins to look as if a sort of consensus is emerging among the bien pensants that this judgment is indefensible and needs to be reversed in the Lords. We shall see. Of course even if the law lords do come out against either the provision for detention without trial or that for admitting evidence got by torture, neither law will be invalidated and each will continue in force unless and until parliament repeals or amends it, which parliament, wholly controlled by the executive, is rather unlikely to do. Still, such a decision or decisions by our highest court would be difficult for even Messrs Blair and Blunkett to ignore altogether. Fingers crossed!â€?

By the way, does anyone know which are the nine Law Lords who are hearing the current case on the legality or otherwise of the law that allows the home secretary to imprison foreign nationals as suspected terrorists without trial and indefinitely? Even Google doesn’t seem to know.

13 October 2004

4 Responses

  1. Brian,
    According to the House of Lords website the nine are:
    Lord Bingham of Cornhill
    Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead
    Lord Hoffmann
    Lord Hope of Craighead
    Lord Scott of Foscote
    Lord Rodger of Earlsferry
    Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe
    Baroness Hale of Richmond
    Lord Carswell

  2. Brian says:

    Thanks for that, t. I did look at the HoL website but couldn’t find it there. It’s bad news, though: a friend has drawn the attention of two law lords whom he knows to my Guardian article (and to the other attacks on the Court of Appeal judgment in the Times and the New Statesman), but neither is a member of the nine! Perhaps though they will pass it on to those who are.

    14 Oct 04

  3. Since I remember one of them from schooldays I contacted the HoL “leave a message for a peer” link, expecting access to his voicemail, but instead a female, probably a “young Lady”, took my telephone number. I await his returning my call.

  4. Brian says:

    Splendid. Thanks, Ronnie. (Would you e-mail his name for my private information, perhaps?)


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