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
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Life and Style
Men with beards rejoice: Your beard probably doesn't harbour faeces-like bacteria
health
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • 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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before