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Lawyers attack Blunkett plan for secret trials

Clare Dyer, legal correspondent Tuesday February 3, 2004 The Guardian

Plans for a major extension of anti-terror laws floated by David Blunkett provoked widespread condemnation from lawyers and civil liberties groups yesterday.

The home secretary is considering consulting on measures which would include allowing British terror suspects to be tried at least partly in secret, with convictions reached on evidence from security and intelligence sources, rather than through traditional policing routes.

Sensitive evidence could be kept secret even from defendants and their lawyers, while state-appointed special advocates would protect defendants' interests.

The standard of proof could be lowered from the criminal standard of "beyond reasonable doubt" to "the balance of probabilities", meaning the defendant was more likely guilty than not.

"Pre-emptive" action could be taken before suicide bombers had a chance to carry out their plans.