Ken Clarke, the minister responsible for the Justice and Security Bill, today admitted that the secret courts it proposes could be used in cases where forces families bring claims for negligence against the government.
Responding to a question from Joan Walley MP, who asked whether legal cases brought by the families of service personnel over the death of a loved one as a result of MoD failures could see the use of secret courts – known as Closed Material Procedures (CMPs) – by the Government, Mr Clarke responded, “This could actually arise.” He added that “I can’t rule out that a CMP application would be made” by the MoD in such cases.
Mr Clarke also refused to rule out that the Government could make use of CMPs in claims where they might face embarrassment over arms deals, in response to a question from Jeremy Corbyn MP.
The Minister made the comments during today’s debate on the Justice and Security Bill, which is currently at second reading in the House of Commons.
The Bill proposes to roll out secret courts across the civil justice system. In these procedures, people bringing cases against the Government would be unable to challenge or even to see the evidence which was used against them. Legal advice taken by the Equality and Human Rights commission has found that the plans are incompatible with both English Common law and European rights to a fair trial.
Commenting, Reprieve’s Executive Director, Clare Algar said: “At last the Government has admitted the wide range of circumstances in which these dangerous plans could be used. Ken Clarke has accepted that secret courts could be used in cases where the MoD has neglected its own soldiers, or the government has been involved in dubious arms deals. Once these plans have passed, ministers will find irresistible the prospect of using a secret court to avoid embarrassing disclosures over negligence or wrongdoing. Parliament must vote against plans for secret courts, or risk putting government above the law.”
1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: 0207 553 8166 / donald.campbell [AT] reprieve.org.uk
2. Legal advice taken earlier this year by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that the Government’s plans for Closed Material Procedure were incompatible with both the Common Law right to a fair trial, and article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/legal-and-policy/parliamentary-briefings/justice-security-bill-with-advice
3. The Government’s plans for secret courts were last week criticised by the widow of a soldier killed in a ‘friendly fire’ incident in Iraq: http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/365004/Army-widow-hits-out-against-secret-justice
4. Further information on the Justice and Security Bill can be found here: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/investigations/secret_justice