How Courts Keep Control

An appeal by a suspected terrorist challenging a 16-hour curfew ended yesterday afternoon, a day earlier than intended. The man, known as AP, argued that his control order amounted to deprivation of liberty – rather than just restriction of movement – when taken together with a requirement that he should live in a town some 150 miles from his family home in London.

I was not in court during the afternoon so I cannot tell you whether the shorter-than-expected hearing means that AP is likely to win or likely to lose. But perhaps it is academic, since I understand he is to be deported anyway.

However, I was in court for half-an-hour during the morning, a fact that I mention because it had curious consequences.

After I had left, one of the judges referred to the town where AP was living in internal exile. As I understand it, his lawyers then applied successfully for an order preventing reporters from publishing this information.

I had not heard any of this. But Lord Phillips, president of the court, noticed that I had been in earlier. As I understand it, he mentioned this fact in court.

During lunch, when I was not taking calls, I received a series of increasingly urgent messages via various intermediaries to call AP’s solicitor. When I rang him back, he told me I was not allowed to report the fact that AP was living in [location deleted].

I pointed out that until he named the location I had not known where it was.

There is a broader point here. It would have been perfectly possible for a broadcaster to have been transmitting the proceedings live. The Supreme Court, unlike various international criminal courts, does not have a delay incorporated into the audio and video feed it provides to radio and television companies. What would have happened if the name of the town had been broadcast? It would have been too late to ban further publication.

And there is an even broader point. Why should we not know AP’s name and the place where he was held if he is to be deported anyway? When someone is flown out of Britain in these circumstances, the receiving state is always told who he is.

I hope the Supreme Court will rule in due course that we can report this information – not least because I am finding it increasingly difficult to forget that AP is living in… [location still deleted].

Underrated: Abroad

The ravenous longing for the infinite possibilities of “otherwhere”

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