There are divisions in the coalition government over the issue of secret courts.
This is something that I discussed last year –
The split this time is within the ranks of the Liberal Democrats. The Conservatives seem to be fully behind the proposals. That is not a party political swipe as the last Labour Government was no fan of open justice either.
This week a number of high profile lawyers have publicly quit the Lib Dems over the policy. The most well known is Philippe Sands QC who is one of the world’s leading authorities on international human rights law. I read his book Lawless World a few years ago. It is a brilliant and devastating attack on the Bush/Blair Wars on Terror. He has left the party because of its support for the Justice and Security Bill will see the development of these very worrying courts. The new style courts will deny defendants the right to see what evidence there is against them. This makes it virtually impossible to prepare a meaningful defence and could certainly lead to major injustices.
Mr. Sands said –
“It is wrong in principle, and will not deliver justice. It will be used to shield governmental wrongdoing from public and judicial scrutiny under conditions that are fair and just. The bill threatens greater corrosion of the rights of the individual in the UK, in the name of 'national security'."
The other lawyers who are leaving the party are Dinah Rose QC and Jo Shaw. The Lib Dem Party has officially opposed the bill in conference but this has not deterred its ministers from following the conservative line.
There is much rhetoric that these courts are needed for our national safety. But the truth is that they would not have prevented the few incidents which have occurred. We have a justice system of which have the right to be proud. It is a system that we have exported across the world. It is one that guarantees our freedoms and rights and proposals like this constitute a real threat.
As with other recent attacks on justice it seems that the only effective opposition will be via the ballot box. But the public statements of these well known figures should certainly make us stop and think.