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Last Updated: Friday, 12 August 2005, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Judges face human rights shake-up
Lord Falconer
Lord Falconer is considering putting guidance in a new bill
Lord Falconer is considering new laws forcing judges to take more account of national security when deciding whether to deport terror suspects.

The lord chancellor said the proposed changes would allow Britain to deport undesirable foreigners while abiding by the Human Rights Act.

He denied it would put the government on a collision course with judges.

Ministers face a legal battle to deport ten foreign nationals to countries with poor human rights records.

Lord Falconer said he wanted the same weight to be given to national security concerns as a suspect's human rights.

He denied he was seeking to tell the judiciary how to interpret the law.

'Correct interpretation'

He told BBC Radio 4 Today's programme: "I want a law which says the home secretary, supervised by the courts, has got to balance the rights of the individual deportee against the risk to national security.

"That may involve an act which says this is the correct interpretation of the European [human rights] convention."

He said he was not seeking conflict with judges and that it was for Parliament to decide the right response.

"Nobody suggests for one moment that that would remove from the judges any degree of discretion in determining individual cases," he said.

"It would provide the basis with which that discretion was exercised."

'National security'

Gareth Peirce, the solicitor representing seven of the 10 terror suspects detained on Thursday, condemned Lord Falconer's suggestion, describing it as "a constitutional challenge of the highest order".

The 10 men were arrested and detained on Thursday after ministers finalised agreements which could allow them to be deported to countries with poor human rights records.

Announcing the detentions, Home Secretary Charles Clarke said: "The circumstances of our national security have changed. It is vital that we act against those who threaten it."

The government says it has drawn up an agreement with Jordan - and is in negotiation with 10 other countries - so that any deportees from Britain will not be persecuted.

But the government's actions have come under fire from human rights lawyers, while immigration experts warn the deportation process could take several years.


Ms Peirce said the 10 men had "deliberately" been put out of reach of their legal representatives, and there was a "strong suspicion" they were being separated to make access more problematic.

"At the end of the day, we are subject to the European Court of Human Rights.

"Fine if we want to leave the Council of Europe in disgrace, fine if we want to banish ourselves, but that's what it would mean," Ms Peirce said.

Meanwhile, human rights groups and the UN's Special Rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak dismissed the memorandum of understanding with Jordan as worthless.

And after news of the plans for judges, Mr Nowak said people understood that every country in difficult circumstances felt it had to take tough anti-terrorism measures.

But he said: "I think we have to be extremely careful that democratic states such as the United Kingdom (are) acting within the limits of international human rights law."

He urged states not to give in to terrorists who wanted to undermine the international rule of law.

Listen to Lord Falconer on the Today programme

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