UCL Faculty of Laws


Aspects of National Security Law (LAWS0292)

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.


The course addresses the fascinating legal, jurisprudential and practical issues in national security law, at the cutting edge of practice and academic inquiry. The course is intended to have a practical focus and is taught by teachers with extensive experience litigating national security issues and addressing such issues in a professional context.

The UK has been at the cutting-edge of developing mechanisms for litigating national security issues as well as innovative national security powers, such as control orders, citizenship deprivation and terrorism investigation measures. This course therefore has a relevance to overseas students interested in national security and many former students have reported on the benefits of the course to their professional activities in other countries and jurisdictions

Generally, two seminars are 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 secret parts of national security cases on behalf of individuals who are not permitted to know all of the evidence that is before the court. In the past, speakers have included senior lawyers working with the intelligence agencies or armed forces as well those working with oversight, such as the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, a former Director of GCHQ and the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. There has often been a presentation from a Canadian special advocate or other official with experience working in another jurisdiction.

Whilst the backbone of the course remains focused on the use of closed material procedures as a mechanism for litigating national security cases, the substantive areas of inquiry change to reflect contemporary topics and cases of controversy. Recent years have focused on terrorism measures and deprivation of British citizenship.

Module Syllabus

The syllabus will be adapted each year to topical issues but will draw from the following topics:

  1. The national security apparatus, legal framework and role of courts.
  2. The work of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.
  3. Reconciling protections from torture and other serious mistreatment with national security imperatives (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. Deprivation of British citizenship
  7. 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.

Recommened 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.

A basic knowledge of judicial review and the Human Rights Act 1998 is recommended.

Preliminary Reading

  • Bradley & Ewing, Constitutional Law, Chs 25 and 26
  • Ward & Jones, National Security – Law, practice and procedure, Chs 1-3

Key information

Module details
Credit value:22.5 credits (225 learning hours)
Convenor:Professor Tom Hickman
Other Teachers:Ewan Smith
Teaching Delivery:10 x 2 Hour weekly seminars, Term One
Who may enrol:LLM Students Only
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 practice essay 
Final Assessment:Exam (100%)