Constitutional Affairs Committee

Press notice 15 of Session 2004-05                         1 April 2005

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) and the use of Special Advocates

Publication of report Sunday 3 April 2005 

The Constitutional Affairs Committee will be publishing its Report into The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) and the use of Special Advocates on Sunday 3 April 2005 at 00:01.

Advance embargoed copies of the Report will be made available electronically to witnesses and the media at 09.00 on Saturday 2 April. Copies of the report and supporting evidence will be posted to witnesses to arrive on Saturday 2 April.

The Report will also be available on the Reports and Publications page of the Committee's Website on Monday 4 April:

Alternatively, copies may be purchased from The Stationery Office (tel: 0845 702 3474).

1. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission was established in 1997 to hear appeals from foreign nationals detained on suspicion of terrorism. It introduced to Britain the use of Special Advocates (security-cleared lawyers) for cases involving classified material. The system has now been imported into the new Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, with the use of Special Advocate procedures being transferred to the High Court for cases involving control orders
2. The inquiry aimed to: examine the workings of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission; consider how the operation of SIAC impacts upon the legal and human rights of appellants; question whether it offers appropriate safeguards against inappropriate detention or deportation; investigate whether procedures established to deal with immigration rights are adequate for decisions involving lengthy periods of custody
3. Oral evidence was taken from one former and two current Special Advocates, a solicitor representing some of the detainees who have appeared before SIAC and representatives of JUSTICE, Liberty and Amnesty International. The Committee also heard from the Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Lord Falconer of Thoroton QC and, in his first appearance before the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee, the Attorney General, Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith QC. A number of written submissions were received including two statements signed by the majority of the Special Advocates currently acting before SIAC.
4. During the course of the inquiry (which coincided with parliamentary consideration of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005), the Committee gained two important concessions from the Government. The Attorney General gave an undertaking that some support (logistical and professional) would be provided to Special Advocates and that their appointment would be through open competition in the future. The Lord Chancellor indicated that the schedule to the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 was changed as a result of our inquiry in respect of the disclosure of exculpatory material.
5. Constitutional Affairs Committee Membership: Rt Hon Alan Beith (Chairman), Peter Bottomley, Mr Hilton Dawson, Mr James Clappison, Ross Cranston QC, Mr Andrew Rosindell, Mr Clive Soley, Mrs Ann Cryer, Keith Vaz, Mr Jim Cunningham, Dr Alan Whitehead
6. Press notice: 15

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