Conor Gearty

It is easy to loathe Michael Howard. It is less easy – because more intimidating in its implications – to loathe him for the right reasons. His record as Home Secretary before Her Majesty’s judges is appalling. He has lost a succession of cases to do with prisoners, immigrants and criminal injuries compensation. But his litany of defeats hides more than it reveals. Howard’s tenure at the Home Office has coincided both with the growing sloppiness of a Whitehall exhausted by perpetual Tory rule and with the emergence for the first time of a muscular, interventionist judiciary. In such circumstances, whoever was in charge of the Government’s determined effort to wreck the lives of our prisoners, our aspiring immigrants and our hapless asylum-seekers was bound to get sued more than, say, the Secretary of State for National Heritage.

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