One of the highlights of the year for the Friends of Dorchester Abbey is the Dorchester Lecture. For the past five years eminent speakers have spoken to us about aspects of morality connected with the area of their own expertise. So far we have kept the speakers in house –the House of Lords that is – and to date Lord Hurd, Baroness Neuberger, the Bishop of London and Lord Winston have inspired us and brought to the Abbey an audience of fascinating and fascinated people.
Last week we welcomed Lord Carlile QC. An eminent lawyer, for fifteen years a Liberal then Liberal Democrat MP and in 1999 created a Life Peer, he is now the Government’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. This is probably a subject on which not many of us have reflected overmuch but in the current climate it bears examination from all of us.
Lord Carlile asked the question ‘Terrorism: have we got the law right?’ He spoke about the balancing act required between protecting
national security and the rights of the individual. Anecdotal illustrations
of stop and search techniques by police of a top Asian
lawyer and an elderly white couple helped demonstrate the conundrum facing law-makers and enforcers in achieving that balance.
Lord Carlile welcomed the Home Secretary’s announcement that very day of the retention of the 28 day detention without charge rule for the next six months whilst a thorough review of anti terrorism legislation is undertaken. No woolly liberal he.
So timely was our lecture that both the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian used it as a focus for interviewing our speaker and running articles. After the Lecture and a hastily swallowed supper Lord Carlile was whisked off to London to appear on Newsnight with the inimitable Kirsty Wark who managed to pronounce Dorchester quite intelligibly in her introduction!
At the next meeting of the Trustees of the Friends we will be considering whom to ask to speak to us next year. Should we stay with the House of Lords or should we jump ship? All suggestions very welcome.
(Blogged by Anne Kelaart, on behalf of the Trustees of the Friends of Dorchester Abbey)