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.“

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
voicesBy the man who has
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
newsFloyd 'Creeky' Creekmore still performed regularly to raise money for local hospitals
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Real Estate Solicitor 2+PQE - City

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGH VALUE REAL ESTATE / RESID...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?