I have almost 10 months (and three reports) still to go in post.¬† But this short article¬†from the May 2016 edition of Counsel, published today:
- takes a personal look at more than¬†five years spent¬†reviewing the terrorism laws,
- comments on the transition from QC to Independent Reviewer, and
- makes some general points about the threat and our response – including in Europe.
One purpose of the article is to¬†encourage potential successors to come forward when the job is advertised – hopefully within the next couple of months.¬† The ad¬†will appear in mainstream and legal media, and I will tweet it @terrorwatchdog, or you can register for notification when the Cabinet Office announces the vacancy.
For the past 30 years,¬†Independent Reviewers have been practising QCs.¬†¬†But (though I¬†haven’t seen the job description), I¬†feel sure this will not be a¬†requirement.
The article¬†is based on a speech given at the recent annual dinner of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.¬† It is reproduced by¬†kind permission of Lexis Nexis and of Counsel (which circulated it anyway).
The Immigration Act 2014 revived the Home Secretary’s power to remove citizenship from UK nationals, even when they have no other citizenship.¬† Such a power existed prior to 2003, though it had not been used since 1973.
So controversial was this power (which¬†in its application to single nationals exceeds powers recently introduced or debated in Australia, Canada and France) that Parliament insisted on provision¬†being made for¬†the independent review of its operation.¬† The Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire MP, asked me to conduct the first review.
The first report on the new power was laid before Parliament on 21 April.¬† The power has not so far been used, so¬†strictly speaking¬†there was nothing to report on.¬† But I¬†took the opportunity in my report to explain the historical and comparative background to the power, and to¬†set out¬†some reasons for scepticism as to¬†its utility¬†in the global fight against terrorism.
Two bits of news about my own office, whose functioning is described here¬†and depicted in this short film.
First, the additional assistance promised¬†to the Independent Reviewer¬†last year (in lieu of the ill-fated Privacy and Civil Liberties Board, which after various twists and turns the present Government¬†decided not to establish) has materialised in the form of three special advisers.
Each has agreed to work with me on specific tasks related to my functions, as they may arise during the year.¬† The necessary security clearances are being obtained, and an additional¬†budget of up to ¬£50,000 has been allocated to my office for this purpose.
I was given a free hand over the selection of all three, and all¬†have agreed to serve for (at least) the remainder of my term as Independent Reviewer.¬† It¬†will be¬†an honour for me¬†to work with¬†such admirably qualified individuals.¬† They¬†should help increase the range and depth of the work that the Independent Reviewer is able to do in the future.
Secondly, I have notified the Home Secretary that I do not intend to ask for a third three-year term as Independent Reviewer after the expiry of my current term in February 2017.
I have found the job immensely rewarding.¬† But¬†I will soon have submitted some 20¬†reports over six years, not to mention 5,000 tweets, and expressed my opinions on the terrorism laws (and allied subjects) countless times to parliamentary committees and to media.¬†¬†I believe that from¬†early next year (by which time I aim to have published four further reports), the value I can bring to the role will begin to decline, and that it¬†will be¬†time for a new incumbent with a new set of skills.
The¬†post will be advertised in a month or two (including via @terrorwatchdog).¬† Selection will be according to the public appointments procedure, and an appointment will be made if possible¬†in the early autumn.
It would be good to have a really strong list of applicants – not limited to the white males who have done the job since the 1970s.¬† If¬† you have the necessary qualities,¬†please think about applying!