The Kaffirs believed that all kinds of misfortunes came upon them through wizards and witches, and every tribe had a “witch-finder,” whose duty it was to “smell out” these witches. When any misfortune came upon them, the tribe was called together. Then the witch doctor, fearfully painted and adorned with all kinds of terrible savage grandeur, rushed about among them. Trembling and anxious, the people stood waiting, each man knowing that his life was unsafe, until the witch doctor, pointing to one among them, accused him of being the cause of all the trouble. Then the poor wretch, who had no more to do with it than you or I, was seized, tortured, and killed without more ado.
– H.E. Marshall in Our Empire Story (1908)
Procedural aspects of trials for political offences (such as espionage, subversion, terrorist acts, and treason) leave even more to be desired. The court may try the case in camera, may refuse to call witnesses for the accused, may receive the testimony of witnesses not present in court, may use unpublished evidence in reaching its verdict, and may cut off argument for the accused or deny him counsel entirely. Explicit provision is made for trial without the participation of the accused” and with no right of appeal. Procedural norms in such cases are observed only in “demonstration trials” where the fate of the accused is decided beforehand and the trial is held exclusively for propaganda purposes.
– Robert M Weiss reviewing Soviet Millitary Law and Administration by HM Berner & M Kerner (1957)
So the fault is not with our services or, in this instance, with the Home Office. We have chosen as a society to put the civil liberties of the suspect, even if a foreign national, first.
I happen to believe this is misguided and wrong. If a foreign national comes here, and may be at risk in his own country, we should treat him well. But if he then abuses our hospitality and threatens us, I feel he should take his chance back in his own home country.
As for British nationals who pose a threat to us, we need to be able to monitor them carefully and limit their activities. It is true that the police and security services can engage in surveillance in any event. But this is incredibly time-consuming and expensive, and even with the huge investment we have made since 2001, they simply cannot do it for all suspects. Over the past five or six years, we have decided as a country that except in the most limited of ways, the threat to our public safety does not justify changing radically the legal basis on which we confront this extremism.
Their right to traditional civil liberties comes first. I believe this is a dangerous misjudgement. This extremism, operating the world over, is not like anything we have faced before. It needs to be confronted with every means at our disposal. Tougher laws in themselves help, but just as crucial is the signal they send out: that Britain is an inhospitable place to practise this extremism.
– Tony Blair, in The Sunday Times (2007)
The Prime Minister read jurisprudence at the University of Oxford. What do you mean, you can