Lords reject torture evidence use
Secret evidence which might have been obtained by torture cannot be used against terror suspects in UK courts, the law lords have ruled.
The ruling means the home secretary will have to review all cases where evidence from other countries might have been obtained in this way.
It is a victory for eight men who were previously detained without charge.
The government says it does not use evidence it knows to have been obtained by torture.
Thursday's ruling centres on how far the government must go to show improper methods have not been used.
The Court of Appeal ruled last year that such evidence could be used if UK authorities had no involvement.
But eight of the 10 foreign terror suspects who were being held without charge, backed by human rights groups, challenged that ruling.
They argued evidence obtained in US detention camps should be excluded.
The Special Immigration Appeals Court (SIAC) must now investigate whether evidence was obtained by torture, the seven law lords have said in a unanimous ruling.
In his judgement, Lord Carswell said: "The duty not to countenance the use of torture by admission of evidence in judicial proceedings must be regarded as paramount and to allow its admission would shock the conscience, abuse or degrade the proceedings and involve the state in moral defilement."
Daily Telegraph legal correspondent Joshua Rozenberg told BBC News 24 the ruling was a "very significant blow for the government".
He said it would not be enough for suspects simply to say the evidence against them had been obtained under torture - it was up to SIAC to investigate their claims.
But if the government was not prepared to say where evidence has come from, it must find other evidence to justify their continued detention.
Sir Menzies Campbell, Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, said: "This will be seen as a landmark judgement. In trenchant language the highest court in the land has rejected evidence obtained by torture."
He said it showed "an independent judiciary has once again been more effective in defending individual rights than this government".
Amnesty International described the ruling as a "momentous," saying it overturned the "tacit belief that torture can be condoned under certain circumstances".
"This ruling shreds any vestige of legality with which the UK government had attempted to defend a completely unlawful and reprehensible policy, introduced as part of its counter-terrorism measures.
"The UK judiciary must now re-examine where 'evidence' extracted under torture may have been used in previous proceedings."
Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights pressure group Liberty, said: "This is an incredibly important day, with the law lords sending a signal across the democratic world that there is to be no compromise on torture.
"This is also an important message about what distinguishes us from dictators and terrorists. We will not legitimise evidence obtained by torture by using it in our justice system."
Home Secretary Charles Clarke has previously said he would deport anyone considered a threat to national security but suspects have the right of appeal to SIAC.