In this appeal from a judgment of the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland – given by Morgan LCJ, Higgins and Girvan LJJ,  NICA 22 (7 May 2013) – Lord Neuberger (President), Lord Kerr, Lord Hughes, Lord Toulson and Lord Hodge dismissed Terence Gerard McGeough’s appeal and their Lordships held that Council Directive 2005/85/EC (the Procedures Directive) did not help him in establishing that information contained in his asylum application (August 1983) in Sweden was protected from disclosure in his criminal trial (November 2010) in the UK. This unusual case involves the activities of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and boasts quite unique facts. On 13 June 1981 McGeough was badly injured in an attack he mounted on the instructions of the IRA, along with another republican militant, in County Tyrone against Samuel Brush – a postman and also a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR). Expecting an attack on his life, Brush had been wearing a bulletproof vest. He also had a Smith and Wesson revolver for personal protection. Despite being hit by several bullets, Brush returned fire and injured McGeough who needed to have a .38 bullet surgically removed from his body.
Although in the Republic of Ireland, Monaghan is not far from Aughnacloy in the townland of Cravenny Irish, the spot near which the attack on Brush took place in a remote part of County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. McGeough’s critical condition meant that to cope with the gunshot wound to the chest, he was airlifted from Monaghan and admitted to a Dublin hospital. When he was returned to a hospital in Monaghan, despite being under police guard he managed to escape on 27 June 1981 and made his way out of the country soon thereafter. Three decades later on 18 February 2011, at Belfast Crown Court Stephens J convicted McGeough of attempted murder, possession of firearms with intent to commit an indictable offence, and two counts of membership of the IRA (a proscribed organisation) from 1 January 1975 until 14 June 1981. McGeough was sentenced to a 20-year prison term but served less than two years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement 1998, he was released in January 2013.
Arguing that the trial judge (i) erred in refusing to stay the proceedings as an abuse of the court’s process and (ii) also erred in law in admitting the evidence in the Swedish asylum application, in proceedings below McGeough appealed to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) in Northern Ireland but his appeal was dismissed as none of the grounds of appeal were made out and his convictions were not considered unsafe. Morgan LCJ held that McGeough had received legal advice as to Swedish law in Sweden that an unsuccessful asylum application could properly be revealed to the authorities in another jurisdiction and the Supreme Court concurred with this conclusion.
In 1983, McGeough claimed asylum in Sweden. His application contained documents describing the circumstances and consequences of the shooting but was refused. Subsequently, in 1988, he was arrested for offences allegedly committed in Germany. The British authorities requested the asylum application documents from Sweden. In 1991, District Inspector Cowen of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) visited McGeough in prison in Germany and informed him he was under investigation for Brush’s attempted murder. In March 1992, the Director of Public Prosecutions considered extraditing him to the UK but he was instead extradited to the United States in 1992 where he pleaded guilty and served a two-year sentence for moving weapons (including surface-to-air-missiles, heavy machine guns and Semtex from Libya) between states without a licence. Apparently, law enforcement authorities arrested McGeough in August 1988 while crossing the Dutch-German border with two AK47 rifles in his car; he was charged with attacks on the British Army of the Rhine for which he served four years in Germany in a special detention facility but his trial was superseded by events because he was extradited to the US.
Against that history, McGeough was deported from America to Ireland in 1996. The police in Northern Ireland soon became aware that he was resident there. He qualified as a teacher after studying in Dublin and accepted that during the period May 1996-July 2000 he would have expected to have been arrested in Northern Ireland. He claimed that following a conversation in 2000 with a Sinn Féin member called Gerry Kelly, who had been involved during peace negotiations in discussions about the liability of those who had committed past terrorist acts, he understood he would not be prosecuted for past crimes. In relation to the liability of “on the runs” to arrest in relation to past crimes, McGeough said that the issue had been discussed in the context of the peace process and he contended that Kelly suggested that he provide him with his name and address to be included in a list of such persons to be submitted on behalf of Sinn Féin.
Claiming that he inherited property in Northern Ireland in 1999, McGeough openly lived there subsequently. His children studied in County Tyrone, he used his name to apply for planning permission, served on a jury but bizarrely when, in 2007, police in Northern Ireland questioned him because he was urinating by the side of the road he said that he was “Terence McGeough” even though he is universally known as “Gerry McGeough”. He also provided a Dublin address saying his car was registered there and that his family members were claiming benefits in the Republic of Ireland whereas these representations conflicted with his assertion that he was openly resident in Northern Ireland. One month later, the investigation into Brush’s attempted murder was reopened. As detailed above, Stephens J convicted McGeough whose wound had been confirmed as having been caused by a bullet from Brush’s weapon. McGeough failed to account for the scarring to his torso and Stephens J drew an adverse inference from that failure and from his failure to give evidence at his trial.
When news broke in April 2014 that the Supreme Court had granted permission to appeal, McGeough’s solicitors said that the use of evidence from his “alleged” asylum application made 30 years ago in Sweden in his UK trial was a breach of common law rules and Article 6 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). They also said that the common policy of protection for asylum seekers under European Union law “was repeatedly ignored” in their client’s case. Yet, the details used in the Swedish asylum application – the name, the date of birth, the place of birth and the next of kin – matched McGeough’s and a handwriting expert opined that the handwritten letters and signatures were his. Stephens J was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that it was McGeough who made the asylum application which was supported by a handwritten letter admitting that he shot “a British Army officer” in the chest using a .45 calibre revolver (a relic from 1912) in an ambush in Ballygawley.
The Court of Appeal
Morgan LCJ, Higgins and Girvan LJJ held that the delay in McGeough’s prosecution for attempted murder was not an abuse of process because he had absconded and caused the delay. Moreover, the court also held that the materials of his rejected asylum application were admissible in evidence because these details had been lawfully obtained in accordance with international conventions applicable at the time. Furthermore, Morgan LCJ found no evidence to suggest that he was under pressure or would have declined to answer questions put to him had he been cautioned. He equally rejected the submission that, by admitting details of past asylum claims in evidence, the Refugee Convention’s sanctity would be compromised as deserving asylum claimants would not candidly disclose their full circumstances because of a “chill factor” of later being victimised by their home state in the event their application failed.
In relation to delay, the court held that time had not started to run as a result of the 1991 interview because Inspector Cowen from the RUC who conducted it had no legal power in Germany in respect of McGeough’s prosecution at the relevant time. The investigation remained at an early stage, there was no official notification of an intention to prosecute, the 1991 interview did not significantly affect the situation and if anything McGeough had substantially contributed to the delay by absconding and the argument that the authorities were at fault in not pursuing extradition proceedings earlier was rejected.
Where someone had absconded, any delay would generally be of his own making. In McGeough’s case, no deliberate decision had been communicated to him that the case against him would not be pursued and no other circumstances existed that justified a sense of security for him despite his flight from justice – thus, he could not fall within the exceptions delineated in Gomes v Trinidad and Tobago  UKHL 21. The authorities were not aware that he had returned to the jurisdiction and his encounter with the police in January 2007 had not given rise to any suggestion that he should feel secure that he would not be prosecuted. So the delay in his case coming to trial was his responsibility and did not give rise to any unfairness in conducting the trial.
In R v Abu Hamza  EWCA Crim 2918, Phillips LCJ (as he then was) held that it would only rarely offend justice to give effect to the public interest that those who are reasonably suspected of criminal conduct should be brought to trial and at para 54 his Lordship interpreted the authorities to mean that proceeding with a prosecution is not likely to constitute an abuse of process unless:
- there has been an unequivocal representation by those with the conduct of the investigation or prosecution of a case that the defendant will not be prosecuted; and
- that the defendant has acted on that representation to his detriment.
Moreover, even where these conditions were satisfied, if facts come to light which were not known when the representation was made, these may justify proceeding with the prosecution despite the representation. Applying the rationale espoused in Abu Hamza to the instant case, Morgan LCJ found no basis to conclude that Gerry Kelly was a representative of those responsible for conducting investigations or prosecutions nor did his statement contain any representation, let alone an unequivocal one, that McGeough would not be prosecuted. (McGeough, who is against abortion and gay marriage, broke with Sinn Féin in 2001 and he became an independent Irish Catholic and nationalist activist because he was disgruntled by the “liberal” views of “nouveau Sinn Féin”.)
McGeough argued that for the purposes of Article 6 of the ECHR time began to run from the date of the 1991 interview with Inspector Cowen in Germany when he was advised that he was being investigated for Brush’s attempted murder. In Attorney General’s Reference (No 2 of 2001)  UKHL 68, the House of Lords was of the view that time usually begins to run from the point at which a person is charged or summoned, and Lord Bingham found that arrest would not ordinarily mark the beginning of the period whereas an official indication that a person will be prosecuted may do so.
For Strasbourg time begins to run from the point of “charge” but as demonstrated by Eckle v Germany (1982) 5 EHRR 1, “charge” has an autonomous meaning in this context which approximates to whether the suspect has been officially notified of the allegation or the situation of the suspect has been substantially affected. The “reasonable time” limitation begins to run in criminal cases at the time a defendant is charged, which does not necessarily coincide with the trial date but may precede it. “Charged” means “when notified officially of an allegation of criminal conduct and not when the initial complaint is made or a preliminary investigation begun.” The period in question under Article 6(1) of the ECHR includes the period from when a defendant is charged until the end of the appeal process. A criminal charge terminates when the defendant is acquitted, the charges are dropped, or the sentence is definitely set.
Despite the fact the disclosure of McGeough’s file to the British authorities in 1990 was not governed by its terms, reliance was placed in Article 22 (Collection of information on individual cases) and Article 41 (Confidentiality) of the Procedures Directive (on minimum standards and procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status) to put a gloss on the provision in Article 76 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (PACE). Applying the principle in Eversley Thompson v The Queen (Saint Vincent and The Grenadines)  UKPC 6, i.e. the Court of Appeal will generally only interfere with the decision of the trial judge (in the light of all the circumstances known to him in the immediacy of the trial) where it is satisfied that he could not have reached the conclusion that he did, at paras 30-32 Morgan LCJ found that in the round the judge had taken into account all material considerations and his conclusion had undoubtedly been correct.
In particular, his Lordship remained satisfied that the trial judge rightly concluded that (i) the Swedish asylum application evidence was lawfully obtained (ii) the application had been a voluntary procedure during which McGeough had received legal advice as to Swedish law, and under Swedish law the asylum documents could be revealed to the UK authorities if the application was unsuccessful (iii) McGeough had not been put under any pressure and nothing suggested he would remain silent when questioned under caution (iv) the judge had also noted that Article 22 was intended to provide a safeguard by ensuring that those examining individual asylum cases did not make disclosure to the alleged persecutor (v) McGeough’s asylum application had been considered and rejected (vi) in the circumstances Article 22 did not prevent the use of the material for the purpose of proper criminal investigation and (vii) information had been disclosed in accordance with Swedish confidentiality law and Article 41 was therefore not in play.
The Supreme Court
McGeough did not challenge his convictions for attempted murder or possession of a firearm in his appeal to the Supreme Court. Instead, he argued that a distinct public policy imperative dictated that material in asylum applications would not be used in criminal proceedings against the asylum seeker. (For him, candour and openness hinged on the assurance that revelations made in an asylum claim would remain safe and never be disclosed.)
A twofold justification was employed to support this reasoning, namely that (i) undertakings given to asylum seekers in the UK would preclude the disclosure of that material and (ii) by analogy with provisions in the Children Act 1989, the point was aired that where an applicant for asylum was effectively compelled to give information which exposed him to the possibility of criminal sanction, that disclosure should not be used in subsequent criminal proceedings.
The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal and held that information in an asylum application is admissible as evidence in a criminal trial.
Giving the only judgment Lord Kerr noted that Mrs Helene Hedebris, a legal expert from Sweden’s Migrationsverket (migration board/agency), had testified before Stephens J. Hedebris stressed the importance of Sweden’s historic tradition of openness about public documents which could only be sidestepped by way of a specific secrecy code but that whilst the code covered asylum applications, it did not preclude disclosure of material required for a criminal investigation unless the asylum application had been successful. Since McGeough’s asylum application was unsuccessful and his appeal was dismissed, no reason existed under Swedish law for the information in the application to be withheld from the British prosecution authorities.
Lord Kerr discerned that upon considering paragraph 339IA of the Immigration Rules 1994 (which provided that information supplied in support of an application and the fact that an application had been made would not be disclosed to the alleged actors of persecution of the asylum applicant) and statement of evidence form ASL 1123 (which highlights a general undertaking on the UK to maintain confidentiality), Stephens J held that the assurance in form ASL 1123 surpassed the standard laid down in the Procedures Directive which did not restrict the disclosure of information for the purposes of embarking on criminal prosecutions.
McGeough’s asylum application and the alleged admissions were recovered from a flat in Sweden in August 1988 – these documents were sought by the UK in March 1989 and they were subsequently forwarded to the British authorities by Sweden in November 1990. The application detailed the injuries sustained by McGeough and that he was flown by helicopter to Dublin for an emergency operation. Equally, it recorded how the bullet was deep inside McGeough, that he lost his spleen and part of his left lung, that he escaped from hospital in Monaghan, that he conducted the attack under a decision of the IRA to assassinate a local unionist who was an officer in the UDR and that he was a rising figure in the IRA who was given increasing responsibility as an operative.
The Supreme Court held at para 22 that although the necessity for candour in the completion of an asylum application is self-evident, that is not the same thing as the existence of an inexorable duty of confidence that “all information thereby disclosed must be preserved in confidence in every circumstance”. Indeed, Article 22 of the Procedures Directive prohibits disclosure of information to those who persecuted the asylum seeker and McGeough accepted that nothing in the provision explicitly warrants that material disclosed by an asylum seeker should be protected from disclosure for all time and from all agencies.
Lord Kerr opined at paras 22-23 that the trigger in Article 22 had not been met and that the provision merely required that material should not be disclosed to alleged persecutors or in the course of examining the individual case. Neither of these possibilities applied to the present case and the court equally reasoned that the Procedures Directive’s overall purpose also failed to assist McGeough and did not establish a general prohibition on disclosure. If anything, Article 22 is purpose specific and deliberately precise and the court therefore emphasised:
24. … To imply into its provisions a general duty to keep confidential all material supplied in support of an asylum application would unwarrantably enlarge its scope beyond its obvious intended purpose.
Implying a general charter of confidentiality for material submitted with an asylum application was at variance with the Procedures Directive’s precise provisions about circumstances which required maintaining confidentiality and it was clear to the Supreme Court at para 25 that under Article 41 Member States must abide by the confidentiality principle as defined in national law. (Under the provision Member States must “ensure that authorities implementing this Directive are bound by the confidentiality principle as defined in national law, in relation to any information they obtain in the course of their work.”) It was undisputed that “the confidentiality principle” is undefined in Sweden’s national law whose reach does not protect from disclosure information supplied in support of an asylum application which has not been successful. On proper analysis, Article 41 was of no assistance to McGeough and in line with Mrs Helene Hedebris evidence it was abundantly clear that Sweden’s tradition of law demands that information generated by such applications should be disclosed so as to enter the public domain.
Moreover, as Lord Kerr said at para 27, implying a general charter of confidentiality for information supplied in support of an asylum application was “clearly inconsistent with the framework of the Directive” because the circumstances in which confidentiality should be maintained were very precisely provided for and therefore the points advanced by McGeough lacked force and the court held that:
28. The information which the Swedish authorities provided was properly and legally supplied. When the authorities in this country obtained that material, they had a legal obligation to make appropriate use of it, if, as it did, it revealed criminal activity on the appellant’s part.
Stephens J rightly refused the application to exclude the evidence and there was nothing intrinsic to the material or the factual situation in which it was provided to conclude that its admission would produce an adverse effect on the fairness of the proceedings for it to be excluded; nothing in the Directive or the factual matrix affected the mode Stephens J was required to follow in relation to Article 76 of PACE. Moreover, Lord Kerr observed that a large eagle tattoo on McGeough’s arm and the bullet marks and scarring also matched those of the patient who had been admitted to hospital and so the judge was right to have convicted him.
Lord Kerr went on to hold at para 30 that comparisons with other situations, such as the requirement to answer questions under section 98 (Self-incrimination) of the Children Act 1989, were not suitable. (Section 98 requires everyone giving evidence in children proceedings to answer any relevant question regardless of whether the response might incriminate him or his spouse or civil partner.) This was so because of the absence of compulsion in the case of an application for asylum which rendered a comparative approach “inapt”. In the final analysis, finding that the rule against self-incrimination does not require a prohibition on the use of evidence obtained via a non-compulsive procedure, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and said that:
There is no correlative situation of compulsion in the case of an application for asylum and, consequently, no occasion for a prohibition on the use of evidence obtained through that procedure. In any event, the need for a specific provision forbidding the use of such material in the Children Act and the absence of any corresponding provision in the law relating to asylum applications underscores the inaptness of the claimed comparison.
Be that as it may, it seems that an important point was not argued in this appeal and McGeough may have missed a trick. For example, in her cogent analysis of the Supreme Court’s judgment, Clare Montgomery QC found that the broad approach of the UNHCR in relation to the question of confidentiality was not raised by McGeough in his appeal to the apex court and the upshot was that:
The Directive was thus held to be much narrower than the broad principles of confidentiality protection that are generally held to be appropriate by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in its guidelines on the sharing of information on individual cases and when making refugee status determinations.
The Good Friday Agreement marked “a truly historic opportunity for a new beginning”. It heralded “a fresh start” and the ECHR is woven into its fabric; the historic accord that brought peace to Northern Ireland ultimately rests on the wider idea of human rights, which is under serious threat from the present Conservative government.
The Good Friday Agreement acknowledges that the majority of Northern Ireland’s population wished to remain a part of the UK but also concedes that a substantial part of Northern Ireland’s population, and the majority of the people of the island of Ireland, wanted to see a united Ireland. Both positions are legitimate; the imaginative long-run solution was to agree that Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK until a majority of both the populations of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland wished otherwise and if so then the British and Irish governments are under “a binding obligation” to implement that choice.
The equilibrium created by the Good Friday Agreement is probably best left undisturbed because peace in Northern Ireland is underpinned by “safeguards” enshrined in human rights law and fiddling with these delicate arrangements is likely to reopen a can of worms that is best left buried in history – it would be quite painful to reopen these old war wounds and even now, memories of the bloody conflict are still fresh for unionists and republicans alike. For example, the recent arrest of Lance Corporal “J” (who Lord Saville’s Inquiry in 2010 said had “lied” because he shot first) paradigmatically exposes the fragility of peace in Northern Ireland. On Bloody Sunday or 30 January 1972, along with 20 other soldiers who discharged 108 rounds in 30 minutes, Lance Corporal “J” opened fire on a civil rights march into Derry’s Bogside when British paratroopers ran amok killing 14 unarmed protesters.
The coroner who conducted the 1973 inquest into the killings, Major Hubert O’Neill, simply said: “they were shooting innocent people … I would say without hesitation that it was sheer, unadulterated murder. It was murder.” Yet the military personnel involved in the massacre reasoned that the IRA had “completely infiltrated” the crowd, threw nail bombs at soldiers and had also stationed snipers on rooftops. However, overruling Lord Widgery’s “whitewash” inquiry (1972) exonerating the army, Lord Saville concluded that the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable”. Although lawyers for seven other paratroopers (B, N, O, Q, R, U and V) are seeking a judicial review of the way police detectives are conducting their historical inquiry, family members of those killed explain that they “have been looking forward to this for nearly 44 years” because “no soldiers have ever been arrested before now.” (J has been released on bail.) Retaliating to the fatalities, former IRA members allegedly present at the historic scene such as the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness (“adjutant” to the IRA’s Derry brigade) may have returned fire with their Thompson sub-machine guns but only after British paratroopers embarked on their killing spree. Rather than being related to vengeance, forty four years on, although divided, opinion in relation to the killings remains connected to the truth being aired and wrong doing being acknowledged by those who pulled the trigger.
For example, Betty Walker, whose brother Michael McDaid (20) was shot dead on the day (for which “J” was questioned), does not want ex-servicemen responsible for the fatalities to be imprisoned if charged and found guilty so long as they “accept” they have “done wrong and apologise”. Although Michael McDaid’s other sister Bridget Gallagher wants J charged and found guilty, she stressed: “I want to see him named and shamed. That is more important than going to jail. I would like to think he would apologise out of conscience.” Equally, J was also questioned on suspicion of murdering William Nash (19) and John Young (17) and the attempted murder of Nash’s father Alexander, who was shot while tried to help him. Although he could not precisely pinpoint whose gun killed which victim, Lord Saville found that McDaid, Nash and Young were all unarmed and had been shot dead by J or one of two other soldiers known only as “E” and “P” led by Major Ted Loden. John Young’s sister Maura Young said her brother was an entirely non-violent individual who loved the Beatles. “Just tell the world that my brother was not a gunman,” she remonstrated pointing out her preference to see the paratroopers jailed if found guilty but she also said: “The main justice is the arrest and the prosecution. After that, whatever will be will be.”
Of course, the ex-servicemen under investigation and their family members are unlikely cheerleaders for the Good Friday Agreement as it allows republicans with shady pasts like McGeough to walk free whereas former soldiers – “caught up in a dirty war” – acting under orders to quell public unrest are left in an invidious position. Former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Mandelson has warned of the “perils” of dwelling on the past and politicians and top military brass want to know why ex-servicemen are under attack while terrorists are being pardoned. Equally, another former Northern Ireland secretary, Peter Hain, has called for an amnesty for the ex-servicemen but of course victims’ family members understandably want to know the identities of the men who killed their relatives. However, anonymity of the shooters aside, other types of ambiguity haunts the situation as it remains to be seen whether or not any soldier convicted of killing protesters would benefit (like McGeough) from the two-year limit on prison sentences for Troubles related terror offences brokered under the Good Friday Agreement. On the face of it, the amnesty granted to “on the runs” would not apply to army personnel guilty of causing the Bl0ody Sunday fatalities.
Notably, Sammy Brush served as councillor for Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council, Blackwater Ward from 2005-2015 for the Democratic Unionist Party (the only major political party to oppose the Good Friday Agreement) and had also held similar political office (albeit under different political colours) from 1981-1993. Moreover, when the investigation against McGeough was reopened in February 2007, he was contesting an assembly seat in Fermanagh and South Tyrone as an independent republican against Sinn Féin. He lost the election and was arrested on 8 March 2007 as he left the election count and was charged with attempted murder and possession of firearms. Even decades after their gunfight in Ballygawley, both men are still active in order to make their political messages (which may have varied over time) heard and seem to have a hard time letting go of the past.
Indeed, with terrorism and militancy rising at an exponential rate all across the world, nothing could be more shortsighted than undermining the delicate balance of peace in Northern Ireland. Shaking the foundations of peace/human rights for personal gain and political mileage, the path chosen by the present government, seems to set a rather poor example for inspiring future peace agreements elsewhere in our crazy war-torn world. Therefore some academics such as Professor Philippe Sands QC unsurprisingly argue that apart from undermining Scottish and Welsh devolution arrangements, repealing the Human Rights Act 1998 “would drive a coach and horses” through the Good Friday Agreement because it:
guarantees that Britain will incorporate the European Convention into Northern Ireland’s law.
He also predicts that the “British bill of rights could end the UK”. History shows that the wounds of war are slow to heal and ancient enmities die hard, but Europe is a great example of the triumph of democracy and human rights in the aftermath of annihilation, extermination and genocide. Having served on “the last government’s ill-fated commission on a bill of rights”, Professor Sands is frustrated that the Tories are unable to articulate the British bill’s provisions and cannot even agree on what the so-called bill of rights would contain? He maintains that “the commission found literally no one who had any objection to the current arrangements” and is equally shocked that the Tories are also totally clueless about how the British bill would work and interact with the ECHR?
Even though a “blueprint” of the British bill leaked to the press articulates plans to override “slavishly” following Strasbourg and instead champions the common law and Commonwealth jurisprudence, these key questions remain unresolved and Sands is at pains to point out “there is now considerable evidence that judgments in the UK courts influence decisions taken in Strasbourg”; rightly, he is keen to emphasise that the relationship with Strasbourg is not a one-way street. (Consultation on the so-called “blueprint” for three months looks set to occur after the consultation document is published in four weeks.) Since withdrawal is now on the agenda, Sands is eager for people not to be blindsided by irresponsible press propaganda. Coincidentally on the same day this judgment was handed down by the Supreme Court, he exhorted the public “that the government is playing a dangerous game” the consequences of which will have serious effects on international law, domestic freedoms and “Britain’s engagement with Europe”.
“Such an approach would be calamitous if you care about maintaining the union,” laments the acclaimed international law academic in expressing fear over what is likely to be quite a grim future.
Professor Sands is therefore rather agitated by anecdotes trumpeted by the government in its campaign to create the false impression that the changes produced by the bill will address “important” issues such as ensuring that foreign criminals can “be more easily deported from Britain” and making the Supreme Court the “ultimate arbiter of human rights matters in the UK” – which as its name implies is in any event supreme.