Secret courts for terror cases

Special anti-terror courts sitting in secret to determine how long suspects should be detained without charge are now under active consideration, it emerged yesterday.

Home Office sources confirmed that ministers are considering making a French-style “security-cleared judge” responsible for assembling a pre-trial case against terrorist suspects, with in-camera access to sensitive intelligence evidence, including currently inadmissible phone-tap evidence.

The plan under consideration, which echoes elements of David Blunkett’s proposal last year for secret anti-terrorist courts, could also involve the use of security-vetted “special advocates” as legal representatives of those detained. But they would not be able to disclose the nature of the evidence under which their clients were held before being charged.

The proposal puts flesh on the point outlined by Tony Blair last Friday, when he said that part of the new anti-terror package would include “a new court procedure which would allow a pretrial process”. He said it would provide a way of meeting requests by the police and security services that detention before charge should be extended from the current 14 days up to three months.

Guardian, 9 August 2005