Ken Clarke defends controversial plans for secret courts

 

Ken Clarke conceded that tax payers' money could have gone to terrorist organisations as he defended controversial plans for secret courts.

Facing intense questioning from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Mr Clarke argued that the government's recent rejection of amendments introduced to the Justice and Security Bill by the House of Lords were necessary. Ministers wanted to give maximum discretion to judges, the cabinet minister said, to balance matters of national security with fair justice..

The government insists that proposals for “closed material procedures”, where evidence could be heard in secret, are necessary as it has been forced to abandon cases - such as the one brought by former Guantanamo Bay detainees - and pay out compensation because it could not introduce sensitive information from intelligence sources.

“We are not naive. Some of that money quite possibly made its way to terrorist organisations,” Mr Clarke said.

Human Rights campaigners have warned that if ministers get their way then secret material, which will not even be disclosed to the opposing claimant, would be used to defend serious allegations. The only people allowed to be present would be the judge, the government itself and a government-appointed special advocate.

Yesterday shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter said: “Ken Clarke still does not understand the inherent unfairness of one side having all the facts to argue and not the other side. This is fundamentally underminding English law.”

Meanwhile the legal charity Reprieve accused the minister of showing “alarming disregard” after he rejected some of the questions from the joint committee as “legalistic hair-splitting”

Reprieve“s Executive Director, Clare Algar said: ”Secret Courts would overturn the centuries-old principle that you have the right to hear and challenge the evidence used against you in court, and that justice should be seen to be done.

“To describe concerns over the abandonment of open and equal justice as 'hair-splitting' shows a casual disregard for Britain”s hard-won legal freedoms which is frankly alarming.“

As he gave evidence before the joint committee, Mr Clarke faced claims that his plans would undermine ”the primacy of open justice“ and might deny complainants access to evidence that they had been tortured or subjected to unlawful ”rendition“ to another state.

But the minister insisted that the alternative was the current system of Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificates, under which a judge is asked to exclude from a case altogether evidence which might damage national security. If a PII is refused, it can result in the authorities conceding defeat and paying out compensation rather than revealing secrets.

”Those who oppose my Bill prefer silence - that the evidence is never taken into consideration. You just pay out and the plaintiff gets his money,“ said Mr Clarke.

Pressed over the danger that his proposals would create an ”inequality of arms“ because plaintiffs will not be able to apply for CMPs in the same way as defendants, Mr”Clarke“said he was willing to look at the issue.

But he told the committee: ”We are getting down now to slightly legalistic hair-splitting about people trying to conjure up features of the Bill as it stands which could possibly be used adversely to the plaintiff.“

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Receptionist

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A bookkeeper/receptionist posit...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£28500 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers unique corp...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Product Support Specialists

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leader in the design...

Recruitment Genius: Field Engineer

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has 30 years of ex...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat