House of Lords rejects plans for secret courts
The Government's plans to allow some courts to sit in secret to hear evidence from spies were in crisis last night after the House of Lords inflicted a series of blows to the scheme.
The proposals have provoked a civil liberties storm with critics claiming they will undermine fundamental principles of open justice.
Ministers argue the moves are essential to allow the state to defend itself in civil cases - notably against accusations of being complicit in torture - without having to disclose sensitive intelligence material to claimants.
But Tories joined Labour and Liberal Democrat peers to demand a series of changes to the controversial Justice and Security Bill.
First, they voted by a majority of 100 to allow claimants - and not just the Government - to apply for cases to be heard behind closed doors if they thought secret material could help their case.
Moments later they voted by 105 to give judges greater discretion to sit behind closed doors and by 87 to require judges to balance harm caused by disclosing security information against the open administration of justice.
Lord Pannick, the crossbench peer who tabled the three amendments to the Bill, described the Government's proposals as a "departure from the principle of transparent justice". He said a party in a court case should always have the right to see the evidence against him and the chance to answer it.
Lord Pannick added: "Judicial decisions are respected precisely because all the evidence is heard in open court subject to acceptance and judges give a reasoned judgment which explains their decision."
Ministers believe they are wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on settling claims, some of which may have no merit, because it is unable to contest them as the evidence it would wish to produce is top-secret.
The move came after 16 terrorism suspects, including former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed, received a multi-million-pound payout last November after they claimed they were mistreated by US and British security and intelligence officials.
Baroness Manningham-Buller, director-general at MI5 between 2002 and 2007, told the Lords that presenting classified information in open court would put the lives of secret agents at risk, while at the same time compromising state-of-the-art technology used by the security services.
- 2 Mystery man who gave mum heart-warming note on train 'wanted to put a smile on her face'
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent answer to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Mystery man who gave mum heart-warming note on train 'wanted to put a smile on her face'
Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
Mafia's wall of silence broken: Victim of Cosa Nostra's extortion rackets in its Corleone heartland co-operates with authorities for the first time ever
Amal Clooney gives excellent answer to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Sir David Attenborough interview: The one question about life that still baffles him
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...
£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...