Defend our rights

Deplorable though the recent terrorist attacks are, politicians and others should be very careful not to choose the wrong response in seeking to prevent a recurrence.

There was a strong reaction, not least in legal circles, to the Prime Minister's comment at an election rally, “if our human rights laws get in the way of [tackling terrorism], we will change the law so we can do it”. As one cartoonist put it, “In order to preserve your civil liberties we are going to have to suspend your civil liberties.”

The point has already been made that if we start restricting civil rights, we are effectively handing victory to the terrorists. Nor could it be achieved under the Human Rights Convention, and the rule of law is one of our highest values that deserve protection. And the challenge should be made, does the Convention really prevent us taking effective action?

Of equal relevance is the question, are more repressive measures likely to have the desired effect? Unduly broad restrictions may be as likely to turn some members of the community against the legal order as to reduce any threat. Some claim this is happening with the Government's “Prevent” anti-radicalisation strategy.

As it is evident that most members of the Muslim community are shocked and appalled by the acts committed supposedly in name of their religion, and many are willing to identify those who appear to be becoming radicalised, the better course by far would be to attempt to deepen engagement with that community in order to isolate the extremists.

Seat of the court

We should not let the occasion pass without welcoming the initiative of the UK Supreme Court in coming to Edinburgh this month for three appeal hearings. Even if the cases do not generate the drama of the article 50 appeal, the very fact of the visit is certain to raise public awareness of the court and its role in the legal order.

In the eight years since its creation, the court has made great strides in making itself accessible, through its user-friendly website, its internet streaming of its hearings, and its welcoming atmosphere for those able to visit its London seat. But there is nothing like a bit of theatre to arouse public interest, and the significance of the court reaching out to the Scottish jurisdiction should not be lost on those who recall a unfortunate political spat a few years ago when one or two decisions were handed down that were not to the liking of Scottish ministers of the day.