UCL Faculty of Laws


Aspects of National Security Law (LAWS0150)

This module examines the growth of national security law as a discipline and the various tensions with the rule of law and human rights that occur when seeking to adjudicate national security issues.

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The course is intended to be a challenging course for students that will address complex legal, jurisprudential and practical issues, often at the cutting edge of practice and academic inquiry. It is intended that at least two seminars will be devoted to scrutinising papers presented by guest speakers who have a particular expertise in or perspective on national security law. At least one of the speakers will be a special advocate who litigates national security cases on behalf of individuals who are not permitted to know all of the evidence. In the past, other speakers have included the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, a former Director of GCHQ, the Head of Law and Legal Affairs at GCHQ, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, the former Intelligence Service Commissioner and the former Interception of Communications Commissioner. 

Module syllabus

This module is subject to change.

  1. The national security apparatus, legal framework and role of course. 
  2. The work of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. 
  3. The issue of torture and other serious mistreatment (risk on return and torture evidence). 
  4. Indefinite detention, control orders and Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures. 
  5. The use of secret hearings in ordinary litigation (the Justice and Security Act 2013)
  6. Bulk interception of communications under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016
  7. Targeted interception of communications under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016
  8. Oversight of the intelligence services

Within these topics, consideration will be given to the following cross-cutting topics:

  • The tension between secrecy and fairness.
  • The tension between secrecy and accountability.
  • The tension between human rights and acquisition of intelligence.
  • The problems of deploying intelligence as evidence
  • Whether innovations such as closed material procedure can be justified.
  • The charge that increased judicialisation has been counter-productive from a rule of law perspective.

Recommended materials

Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, available at the beginning of term once students have enrolled.

Preliminary reading

  • Bradley & Ewing, Constitutional Law, Chapters 25 and 26
  • Justice Report, Secret Evidence, June 2009.

Key information

Module details
Credit value:15 credits (7.5 ECTS, 150 learning hours)
Convenor:Tom Hickman
Other Teachers:None
Teaching Delivery:10 x 2-hour weekly seminars, Term One
Who may enrol:Any UCL Master’s student
Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:LLM in Human Rights Law;
LLM in Litigation and Dispute Resolution;
LLM in Public Law
Practice Assessment:Opportunity for feedback on one optional practice essay
Final Assessment:Exam (100%)