Don't Allow Use of Bug Evidence in Trials, Advises Terror Watchdog

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Byline: Martin Bentham Home Affairs Editor

ALLOWING intercept evidence in terror trials would "be wholly at odds with the national interest", the Government's terrorism watchdog said today.

Lord Carlile of Berriew said any change in the law would place a "significant" new burden on those involved in counter-terrorism and distract them from tackling crime.

He also claimed that comparisons with other countries, such as the US, Australia and France, where intercept evidence is allowed, were "ill-informed and misleading" because of their different legal systems and the stricter rules on disclosure in British courts.

Today's conclusion by Lord Carlile, the Government's independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, will dismay those -- including the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and civil liberties groups -- who argue that intercept evidence could play a key role in securing more convictions.

An official panel set up by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2007 to examine whether material such as phone-tap recordings can be used in court is still assessing the issue.

But Lord Carlile's opposition makes it likely that the review will decide against the change.

MI5 and the police are concerned that the need to transcribe hundreds of hours of conversations, often in foreign languages, would place a huge administrative burden upon them, and there are fears that monitoring techniques could be revealed if such material is made public in court.

Lord Carlile added: "I believe that this debate should now be drawn to a con-clusion against the introduction of intercept evidence."

The comments came in a report published by Lord Carlile on a major antiterrorism operation in April in which 12 men were detained at gunpoint in response to intelligence suggesting that an attack may have been imminent.

The arrests, during a series of raids across the North-West, had to be rushed forward after the Met's then top anti-terrorist officer, Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, was photographed in Downing Street with papers containing details of the operation. …