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The News Line: Editorial Tory police state plans alive and well! PLANS for more secret court hearings, in the Justice and Security Bill, will create a ‘statutory straitjacket’ for judges, Martin Chamberlain, one of the special advocates due to be involved in such cases, warned Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights on Tuesday.

He said if the justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, wanted to hold a hearing in private, a judge would have no power to object or to halt it.

Chamberlain insisted that a key safeguard that had been promised – enabling a judge to have final say on when secret proceedings were needed – was missing from the draft bill.

He added that ‘In fact, the position is that the judge is required to accede to the secretary of state’s application for a closed material procedure – the word “must” is used – if there is any evidence at all whose disclosure would be contrary to the interests of national security,’ he told the committee.

He continued: ‘So there is no ability for a judge to say, “I think this is the type of case which could perfectly fairly be tried using normal public interest immunity rules”.’

Another special advocate, Angus McCullough, QC, told the committee: ‘In reality there is no discretion provided for the role of the judge in relation to determining what the fairest way for determining any particular case is.’

Clare Algar, executive director of human rights charity Reprieve, said the lawyers’ comments ‘must surely sink once and for all the government’s claims that judges will have the final decision on secret courts’.

She added: ‘The reality is that ministers will be able to push cases into secret whenever it suits them, leaving judges as little more than a glorified rubber stamp.’

The Bill in fact proposes to roll out ‘Closed Material Procedures’ (CMPs) across the civil justice system, which would see the citizen excluded from their own case while the government is able to present evidence against them which they cannot even see, let alone challenge.

Reprieve commented that among the key proposals are ‘Limiting “Norwich Pharmacal” applications. This obscure legal term refers to the mechanism by which we first found out about the torture of British resident Binyam Mohamed. The Bill basically aims to get rid of it. Had this been in place at the time, we would never have known about UK involvement in torture.’

Another is ‘Expanding “Closed Material Procedures” across civil courts. This risks creating a parallel system of secret justice, operating in the shadows and undermining Britain’s centuries-old tradition of open justice. It will replace the current system, under which the government’s national security concerns are balanced against the rights and liberties of the individual, with one in which proceedings are strongly skewed in favour of the state.

‘Those who have been victims of wrongdoing by the government will be denied access to closed proceedings, and represented only by a security-cleared lawyer, with whom they will be allowed little or no contact. In this sense, it flies in the face of the central principle in British law: that you should be able to know what the accusations are which are being made against you, and to challenge the evidence produced to support them.’

The situation is crystal clear.

In a situation of capitalist crisis the state already has the power to use live rounds, water cannon and rubber bullets against those who it claims are on the streets to foment riots.

The state is seeking to gain access to every electronic communication that is made in the UK.
Now it is bringing in closed secret trials, which can be activated by politicians and which judges cannot prevent happening, where the accused will not know what he is accused of, will not be attending his own trial and will be told only what his sentence is.

The sooner this plan is thrown out and the capitalist state apparatus that has dreamt it up is shattered and destroyed by a socialist revolution, the better off we shall all be.


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