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Closed Material Procedures

Closed Material Procedures

On Monday the Justice and Security bill comes to the Commons at Report stage, trailing unprecedented clouds of opposition from the length and breadth of the legal profession.

The bill extends the secret hearings, known as closed material procedures (CMPs), into the main civil courts in England and Wales. It would restrict access to some sensitive intelligence to the trial judge. Defendants or claimants will not be allowed to be present, to know, or to challenge the case against them, and must be represented by a security-cleared special advocate rather than by their own lawyer.

The proposals to expand secret courts suffered a series of hefty defeats in the House of Lords last November. During a lengthy debate in a packed Lords, the government came under ferocious assault from many of the country’s most senior retired judges and politicians. By margins of more than a hundred votes peers opposed to the bill limited the government’s power to control the deployment of secret intelligence in civil courts and gave judges greater independence.

But most of these amendments were thrown out or neutralised by a single vote in a subsequent Commons committee, with the help of the Democratic Unionist party’s Ian Paisley Junior. This went largely unnoticed by the media because of the vote on gay marriage on the same day. Ken Clarke said that the bill now mostly conforms to the Lords amendments. He added: “There are few Governments in the world who would go to these lengths to ensure that we will uphold justice and the rule of law in the process of securely safeguarding the safety of our citizens and the national interest.”

But arguably the bill has just reverted to its original form, and opposition is undiminished. A letter to the ‘Daily Mail’, signed by 702 lawyers, says: “As a lawyer, I believe the changes set out in the Justice and Security Bill are contrary to the Rule of Law and should not be brought into force. The plans for secret courts erode core principles of our civil justice system including the right to a fair trial, equality of arms and open justice. They will fatally undermine the court room as an independent and objective forum in which allegations of wrongdoing can be fairly tested and where the Government can be transparently held to account.”

The Rev Nicholas Mercer, a lieutenant colonel who was the army’s most senior lawyer during the last Iraq war, told the ‘Daily Mail’: “The Justice and Security bill has one principle aim and that is to cover up UK complicity in rendition and torture. The Bill is an affront to the open justice on which this country rightly prides itself and, above all, it is an affront to human dignity.”

At an earlier stage, Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, and Michael Todd QC, then chairman of the Bar Council, had joined forces to protest that: “Secret trials and non-disclosure of evidence are potential characteristics of repressive regimes and undemocratic societies,” adding that “all parties are entitled to see and challenge all of the evidence relied upon before the court, and to combat that evidence by calling evidence of their own.”

Nicholas Mercer again: “The fact that some of those individuals who are complicit in rendition and torture can not only assist in the drafting of the Bill but also vote to cover their tracks is a constitutional scandal.”

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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2 Responses to “Closed Material Procedures”

  1. Pat Wilson says:

    The Justice and Security Bill 2013 is a UK charter of cover-up so that MI5 (British Security Service), the British Government (including its corrupt Home Office) can conceal their own wrong doing. How do we know this? The latest news paper reports concerning former British Agent Martin McGartland has confirmed that MI5 is going to apply for a closed hearing, a secret hearing in the McGartland case. The McGartland case, as the the reports confirm, have nothing at all to do with ‘National Security’. The case relates only to MI5 case officers incompetence, those MI5 case officers withdrew medical support from Martin McGartland after he was blasted up to 7 times by PIRA terrorists. MI5 recklessness withdrew the treatment even after they had received 2 separate medical reports stating that McGartland required between 3 and 5 years further treatment. MI5 ignored the medical advice and Martin McGartland was left for 9 years without any type of treatment or medication. Both of witch MI5 stopped (withdrew) overnight. The end result was that McGartland’s health seriously deteriorated during that period. This is an important case because it relates to nothing at all more that a very straightforward case of negligent, a failure by MI5, Security Service, a breach of duty of care. MI5 are now going to use closed material proceedings (CMP) in the Martin McGartland case so that they can Lie to the court (in secret of course) and so that they can cover-up their own wrongdoing;

    MI5 allegedly applies for secret court session after informant sues for being denied protection::

  2. Phil Mills, Bedford says:

    British Security Service, Mi5, have hung former Agents out to dry. Why should anyone trust MI5. Just look at the Martin McGartland case. Home Office have applied for secret hearing in the Martin McGartland case. State coverup in the Martin McGartland case. Anyone who knows of that case will know that the State has hounded the guy for over 20 years. Here is some interesting videos , t.v footage on the case;


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