Group of chambers convince law lords that control orders breach human rights

A group of bar heavyweights have won a major victory in the House of Lords, which today unanimously ruled that the use of control orders breaches the fundamental right to a fair hearing.

A number of leading counsel went before the House of Lords to challenge the decision to charge three terror suspects with offences without first allowing them to see the evidence against them.

In a rare move nine Law Lords presided over the  case instead of the usual five because it was seen as an issue of national importance.

Lord Pannick QC and Timothy Otty QC appeared for one of the three suspects, instructed by partner Carl Richmond of Manchester-based firm Middleweeks.

Matrix Chambers’s Tim Owen QC represented the two other suspects, instructed by Chambers for one and by civil liberties firm Birnberg Peirce & Partners for the other.

The ruling is a major blow for the Government, which was represented by Blackstone Chambers’s James Eady QC, instructed by the Treasury Solicitors. The Government had attempted to use control orders to restrict the human rights of terror suspects by imposing home curfews and controlling where they go and who they meet.

This ruling will mean that the Home Office will be forced to reopen the cases against the suspects.

In handing down his judgment, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers said: “There are strong policy considerations that support a rule that a trial procedure can never be considered fair if a party to it is kept in ignorance of the case against him.”

Lord Hope of Craighead agreed, adding: “The fundamental principle is that everyone is entitled to the disclosure of sufficient material to enable him to answer effectively the case that is made against him.”

The ruling is expected to have a major impact on the use of control orders, which have been imposed against 17 men since March this year.