Regina v Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Ruddock: QBD 1987

The claimant sought judicial revew of arrangements made to tap his telephone. Given the importance of the point of law at issue, the court allowed an application which might otherwise not have been granted for delay. The imperative to have some degree of judicial supervision of government is manifest; to preclude judicial supervision would be a ‘draconian and dangerous step’.
Taylor J rejected an argument that the Secretary of State case could ‘invariably maintain silence’, observing: ‘I recognise there could occur a case where the issue raised was so sensitive and the revelations necessarily following its decision so damaging to national security that the court might have to take special measures (for example sitting in camera or prohibiting the mention of names). Conceivably (although I would reserve the point) in an extreme case the court might have to decline to try the issues. But in all such cases, cogent evidence of potential damage to national security flowing from the trial of the issues would have to be adduced, whether in open court or in camera, to justify any modification of the court’s normal procedure. Totally to oust the court’s supervisory jurisdiction in a field where ex hypothesi the citizen can have no right to be consulted is a draconian and dangerous step indeed. Evidence to justify the court’s declining to decide a case (if such a course is ever justified) would need to be very strong and specific.


Taylor J


[1987] 1 WLR 1482, [1987] 2 All ER 518


England and Wales

Judicial Review, Constitutional

Updated: 30 April 2022; Ref: scu.223700