UK Liberty

Eroding the rule of law

Posted in rule of law by ukliberty on January 4, 2008

One of the foundations of the rule of law is ‘due process’.

The Times:

GORDON BROWN has set himself on a collision course with the legal establishment over plans to give civil servants and government agencies the power to remove people’s passports without going through the courts.

ie avoiding due process.

Senior legal figures, including two former attorney-generals and a lord chief justice, have expressed deep concern about preparations to adopt new powers to confiscate passports. They warn the government not to use reform of prerogative powers as an excuse to force through a “serious” curtailment of long-standing freedoms.

They have attacked proposals in the child maintenance bill, now going through Parliament, to allow civil servants to prevent errant fathers who refuse to support their children from travelling abroad.

They warn that it could set a dangerous precedent, and say in a House of Lords report: “The freedom to travel to and from one’s country is a right of great significance and should only be curtailed after a rigorous decision process . . . ”

The Lords constitution committee, of which they are members, warns that it is “undesirable to extend the circumstances in which passports may be withdrawn administratively”.

Their concerns have been supported by other senior members of the judiciary, including Lord Carlile QC, a deputy high court judge, who warned against passing court powers to civil servants.

“Revoking passports is a judicial function and not an administrative function. There are judges sitting every single day, and that is the right place to deal with this,” he said. “The right to travel is a fundamental right.”

Although football hooligans and drug dealers can be forced to forfeit their passports, the decision would follow court orders.

In other cases, such as in child protection cases and cases involving serious crime, people can be forced to surrender their passports only after a court decision or as part of a police investigation.

I know what the Government thinks about expediency vs. due process – they will opt for the former (see this and this).

(hat-tip Roger Thornhill)

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