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Peter Edwards

Solicitor and Director

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Ian Brady and Abu Qatada test our liberal values, but think before you join the lynch mob

Peter Edwards, Solicitor and Director

One of my former clients, Ian Brady, has made himself the centre of attention this year. Some people grumble about how much his public tribunal cost and whether he should be given the public platform that he so clearly revels in.

However, the principle of open public justice is one of the foundations of our liberty and our liberal values. Once you start creating exceptions this raises two important questions. Where do you draw the line and who decides if it is crossed? Another high profile case finally saw the deportation of Abu Qatada. Many people wondered how he resisted deportation for so long at such expense.

Our liberal values will be tested

There is an important principle we adhere to in relation to the fairness of trials that rely on evidence obtained under torture. This means there are times when our liberal values are tested, but we must always be careful not to give up our principles because of exceptional cases. We must fight to protect our human rights, values and principles. The Human Rights Act curtails the power of the state. It is not surprising that it is the Government and reactionary press who seek to infect the mind of the public by portraying the protections the European Convention of Human Rights provides as a threat to society.

Be very careful about what you wish for.

Many of our clients are disabled, vulnerable and easy to abuse. It is very worrying time for them. Not only are they worried about disability benefits, now if they wish to challenge unlawful or irrational decisions made by bodies like health or social services through Judicial Review the government plans to bring in new rules to make this more difficult. Many lawyers currently doing this work may well withdraw. Won’t the Government be pleased? Be very careful about what you wish for.