The Home Secretary David Blunkett still seems to be dithering about the possible use of "intercept evidence" in terrorist trials, according to his remarks in Parliament on Monday 15th November 2004:
"Patrick Mercer (Newark) (Con): My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) has argued much more eloquently than I could that the holding of those individuals is not only wrong but unjust. Does the Secretary of State accept that every day that those men are detained, they act as a focus for further unrest? One way around that might be to adopt a more thoughtful approach towards evidence. Can he tell us when it will be possible to use intercept intelligence as evidence in court?
Mr. Blunkett: The hon. Gentleman has made an excellent case as to why he should never be the homeland security tsar for Britain, because discontent regarding the individuals who are held does not exist."
No discontent ? Perhaps the Home Secretary David Blunkett has not been "in touch" with the protests from the Muslim community in the UK
"If we released them and they continued to pose a risk and colluded on attacks in this country, the unrest at that moment in time would exceed anything that we have experienced here before. Of course, we are prepared to continue examining inceptors' evidence, and we are currently taking the advice of all the security and policing services. Once we have done so, we will make an announcement to the House, but we do not have a panacea for dealing with the problem, at the root of which is admissibility and the nature of the evidence, not the question of whether supporting intercept evidence has been provided."
He originally punted the idea of relaxing the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 law which forbids the use of UK phone taps or email inccterceptions or snail mail postal interceptions as evidence in a British court, restricting such use to intelligence gathering operations, not from a sense of protecting our civil liberties, but more from a wish to prevent the methods and sources used by the security, intelligence and police authorities from being reveled in public. The notorious example of the USA authorities trumpeting of the interception Osama bin Laden's satellite phone, even publishing the actual phone number in open court, was a huge blunder.
However, presumably in order to wriggle out of the dilemma of his own making, caused by the detention without trial of some foreign born terrorist suspects in Belmarsh prison under Part 4 of the draconian Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 David Blunkett, apparently supported by both the Opposition Liberal Democrat and Conservative Home Affairs spokesmen, still seems to be thinking about the possible use of "intercept evidence" as a way of bringing these suspects to trial in the UK. This idea seems to have crytallised during his trip to India and Pakistan in February 2004, where he appeared to be announcing major changes to the legal system to the UK media, before bothering to inform Parliament of them.
David Blunkett has not initiated any discussions or consultations about the use of intercept intelligence against British citizens in extradition proceedings either to the USA under the Extradition Act 2003 or to the new European Arrest Warrant to another EU country. Why is foreign intercept intelligence permissable as evidence in a UK court, but UK intercept intelligence is not ? Or is it being allowed in extradition hearings only ? c.f. the cases of Farid Hilali, Babar Ahmad and the notorious Abu Hamza al Masri (who also now faces some different UK charges) which we have commented on.