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Last Updated: Friday, 20 October 2006, 02:01 GMT 03:01 UK
Top judge backs Human Rights Act
Lord Phillips
Lord Phillips said there was no "strife" between judges and ministers
The Human Rights Act is a vital part of the fight against terrorism and should be strongly supported, the most senior judge in England and Wales has argued.

Resentment and support for terrorism will grow if immigrants feel their human rights are not being respected, Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips said.

Some anti-terrorism measures have been abandoned after judges ruled they were illegal under the act.

But Lord Phillips denied any "strife" with ministers over anti-terror laws.

'Limited action'

Ministers have warned the act may have to be re-examined, if it proves to have hampered the fight against terrorism.

Control orders were brought in last year to contain foreign terror suspects after the Law Lords ruled detention without trial, introduced in the wake of the 11 September attacks, was illegal under the act.

Is there an alternative solution to the imposition of restrictions on liberty based on mere suspicion and on evidence that the suspect is not permitted to see?
Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips

Lord Phillips' speech, at the University of Hertfordshire, in Hatfield, acknowledged the act has limited action that would otherwise have been "the response to the outbreak of global terrorism that we have seen over the last decade".

But he said: "It is essential that [immigrants] and their children and grandchildren should be confident that their adopted country treats them without discrimination and with due respect for their human rights.

"If they feel that they are not being fairly treated, their consequent resentment will inevitably result in the growth of those who, actively or passively, are prepared to support the terrorists who are bent on destroying the fabric of our society."

Control orders

Lord Phillips questioned whether there was an alternative to control orders, under which suspects movements are restricted based on evidence they are not allowed to see.

The orders are used when there is not enough evidence for a criminal prosecution - sometimes evidence will have been collected by bugging the suspect and is therefore inadmissible in court.

Lord Phillips raised doubts about the government's refusal to use intercept evidence in court.

"There are many who believe that this blanket embargo [on telephone intercepts] cannot be justified," he said.

There has been repeated criticism of the way in which the Human Rights Act has been interpreted in the courts.

But the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, said in September the government was "unashamed" of the Human Rights Act.

The Department of Constitutional Affairs is to publish two new guides to interpreting it.

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