But let us go back to Mr Liversidge. The Home Secretary had
ordered his arrest and imprisonment on the basis that he had “reasonable
grounds to believe” that Mr Liversidge was a person of hostile
associations. The questions at issue for the judges was a simple one.
Could the Court investigate whether or not the Minister had reasonable
grounds for his belief? Or was it sufficient if the Minister himself thought
that he had?
The case, as I said, went all the way to our supreme court, the
House of Lords. The majority of their lordships deferred to the
Government. They did not believe that the relevant defence regulation
allowed them to review the Minister’s decision. Only one judge – Lord
Atkin - dissented. But his speech is remembered when all the rest have
long been forgotten. Lord Atkin said3:
“In this country, amidst the clash of arms, the
laws are not silent. They may be changed, but
they speak the same language in war as in
peace. It has always been one of the pillars of
freedom, one of the principles of liberty for
which we are now fighting, that the judges are
Liversidge v. Anderson (op. cit.) at p. 244.