The Big Issue in Scotland talks to Gareth Peirce about her new book Dispatches from the Dark Side and her tireless work representing people from a changing suspect community, including the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, Moazzam Begg and Guantanamo Bay detainees today. Benedict Birnberg, with whom she now runs a London practice, says Peirce "transformed the criminal justice scene in this country almost single-handedly."
Peirce - still one of the most feared and respected lawyers in the country - never dwells on past victories. Her new collection of essays is a powerful reminder of just how much has changed in the 21st century. Peirce believes that the curtailment of liberties in the UK and US over the past nine years is nothing less than "the destruction and distortion of fundamental Anglo-American legal and political constitutional principles in place since the 17th century".
The list of relinquished rights she outlines is certainly distressing: the removal of habeas corpus (the right to relief from unlawful imprisonment) for British citizens at Guantanamo Bay; the creation of secret court hearings to hear classified evidence (through the Special Immigration Appeals Commission); the extension of pre-charge detention to 28 days and the imposition of control orders that keep suspects under indefinite house arrest without any right to defend themselves.
"If we derive any comprehension of what's gone on in the last nine years, it's how things we thought were absolutely solid and set like araldite [superglue] can be changed with a sleight of hand," Peirce tells The Big Issue. "These are some pretty huge alterations, but because national security is claimed, there isn't much of a squeak. The argument is, ‘This is effectively a war-time situation, take it on trust that this is what's needed, and shut up'."
Visit The Big Issue to read the interview in full.