Press Releases

Liberty or security: an uneasy legal balance in terrorism cases – University of Reading

Release Date : 14 May 2009

A major new research project will examine the role of the law, media, government and other parties in public perceptions of openness versus secrecy in security trials.

The ESRC/AHRC Global Uncertainties Fellowship awarded to Dr Lawrence McNamara in the University of Reading's Schoolof Law, will fund the exploration of how the public 'right to know' is balanced against the demands of national and international security.

The study will look at the impact of counter-terrorism legislation, as well as laws relating to defamation, contempt, official secrets, freedom of information, free speech rights, and the protection of journalists' sources, and the legal and ethical rules surrounding how lawyers deal with the media. It will further study how the agencies of the government, such as the police and security authorities, release information. At the core of the study 'Law, Terrorism and the Right to Know' are issues of transparency, responsibility and accountability.

Dr McNamara, said: "Concerns are continually raised about the ways that governments and courts deal with security-related matters. There is an increasing sense not only that matters are dealt with out of the public eye, but also that they are being dealt with in ways that diminish public trust in government. Most recently, this is apparent in the allegations that British security agencies were complicit in the torture of a terrorism suspect. Judicial or other inquiries into such allegations or hearings in prosecutions for terrorism offences are all too often held in closed courts or impose heavy restrictions on reporting.

"The project will examine how different parties in the processes – among them, government, the judiciary, media, human rights groups, police and security authorities, prosecution and defence representatives – see the balance between openness and secrecy. It aims to ascertain how much and in what ways access to information is closed down, what the effects of such closure might be, and how the balance of liberty and security might best be struck."

The Award for approximately £300,000 is jointly funded by the two research councils under the RCUK 'Global Uncertainties: Security for All in a Changing World' programme.

Professor Ian Diamond, Chief Executive of the ESRC commented "We are living in an uncertain world where a wide range of socio economic and demographic changes linked with the rapid rate of technological change are creating new threats to our security. These new fellowships will generate knowledge and develop understanding of these issues allowing us to produce more effective ways to prevent and mitigate threats."


Further information and interviews with Dr Lawrence McNamara from the University of Reading Press Office on 0118 378 7388

Notes to editors:

University of Reading School of Law

The School of Law at the University of Reading is one of the United Kingdom's leading law schools. It has an excellent reputation for teaching which draws its strength from its position as an internationally renowned centre of excellence in research. The high standing as a School has been confirmed by a succession of recent official appraisals and student surveys. The School is ranked in the top 12 Schools for research among sixty seven UK law schools in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), and is consistently highly rated in terms of student satisfaction by National Student Surveys and the University of Reading's own student surveys.

RCUK 'Global Uncertainties: Security for All in a Changing World' programme

How individuals, communities and nation states form their ideas and beliefs about security and insecurity will form the basis for 14 new fellowships under the Research Council's Global Uncertainties programme.

The £5.5 million investment from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is anticipated to have significant impact both within the academic community and, where appropriate, on policy and practice.

ESRC Press Office Contacts

Danielle Moore, Communications Manager, Tel 01793 413122, email: href=" ">

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest funding economic issues. It supports independent, high quality research which impacts on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2008/09 is £203 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at



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