Trial and error

The 24 suspects arrested by the British authorities can be held for 28 days before they are charged. Their prosecution will create a politically charged debate about the trade-offs between security and liberty. Any defense lawyer worth his salt is going to challenge the evidence being used against them, claiming that suspects implicating them in ...

607501_Reid25.jpg
607501_Reid25.jpg

The 24 suspects arrested by the British authorities can be held for 28 days before they are charged. Their prosecution will create a politically charged debate about the trade-offs between security and liberty. Any defense lawyer worth his salt is going to challenge the evidence being used against them, claiming that suspects implicating them in the plot were likely tortured in Pakistan. (Information obtained in this manner is inadmissible in British courts.) Considering that Pakistan was instrumental in the arrest and the year long investigation into the 24, this could be a fertile furrow for the defense.

One can just imagine the row that would follow if the case against these men collapsed because key prosecution evidence was deemed inadmissible. In the past, members of the judiciary have shown themselves to be willfully blind to the dangers posed by terrorism, with Law Lords making glib statements about how the "real threat" comes not from terrorism, but from anti-terror laws. All of which makes one wonder if the combative Home Secretary John Reid was launching a pre-emptive strike when he lashed out on Wednesday at judges, among others, for failing to "understand the depth and magnitude" of the terrorist threat to Britain and bemoaned that we are "unable to adapt our institutions and legal orthodoxy as fast as we need to."

The 24 suspects arrested by the British authorities can be held for 28 days before they are charged. Their prosecution will create a politically charged debate about the trade-offs between security and liberty. Any defense lawyer worth his salt is going to challenge the evidence being used against them, claiming that suspects implicating them in the plot were likely tortured in Pakistan. (Information obtained in this manner is inadmissible in British courts.) Considering that Pakistan was instrumental in the arrest and the year long investigation into the 24, this could be a fertile furrow for the defense.

One can just imagine the row that would follow if the case against these men collapsed because key prosecution evidence was deemed inadmissible. In the past, members of the judiciary have shown themselves to be willfully blind to the dangers posed by terrorism, with Law Lords making glib statements about how the “real threat” comes not from terrorism, but from anti-terror laws. All of which makes one wonder if the combative Home Secretary John Reid was launching a pre-emptive strike when he lashed out on Wednesday at judges, among others, for failing to “understand the depth and magnitude” of the terrorist threat to Britain and bemoaned that we are “unable to adapt our institutions and legal orthodoxy as fast as we need to.”

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

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