UK top prosecutor denies 'war' on terror, warns against 'fear-driven' abuse of rights

[JURIST] UK Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald [official profile] said Tuesday that there is no "war on terror" in Britain and warned that inappropriate measures driven by fear threaten an accused's right to a fair trial. In a speech [excerpts, via the Guardian] delivered to the UK Criminal Bar Association, Macdonald, who also heads the Crown Prosecution Service [official website], stressed that anti-terror efforts were properly a criminal matter and cautioned against the "fear-driven" temptation "to abandon our values" due to fear of terrorism. Macdonald said:

The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement...

We wouldn't get far in promoting a civilising culture of respect for rights amongst and between citizens if we set about undermining fair trials in the simple pursuit of greater numbers of inevitably less safe convictions. On the contrary, it is obvious that the process of winning convictions ought to be in keeping with a consensual rule of law and not detached from it. Otherwise we sacrifice fundamental values critical to the maintenance of the rule of law - upon which everything else depends.
Macdonald stressed that the response to the threat of terrorism should be "proportionate and grounded in due process and the rule of law," and urged that Britain's "traditions of freedom" not be abandoned.

Last week, former UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke [BBC profile] took a different tone than Macdonald when he criticized Britain's judges for rulings that he said undermined the fight against terrorism [JURIST report], telling a House of Lords committee that the judges could not see the implications of their rulings on national security. AFP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

 

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