Sir David Omand backs coalition's plans for 'secret courts'


One of Britain's most senior intelligence figures has joined the Government's campaign to force through controversial reforms that critics claim will allow cases to be decided in a new generation of "secret courts".

Sir David Omand, the former Intelligence & Security Co-ordinator, has spoken out in favour of the Justice and Security Bill as ministers prepare to bring it back before MPs this week.

A chorus of critics, including hundreds of lawyers and MPs from all parties, have condemned the proposed legislation, particularly plans for "closed material procedures" (CMPs), where cases would be conducted entirely in private, in civil hearings.

But in an article for The Independent on Sunday, Sir David says CMPs would be "a huge improvement". He adds: "The principle of open justice is an important one. But so is accountability. The real prize in the Bill is to increase the ability of the courts to get to the bottom of serious allegations made against the Security and Intelligence Agencies... we can have confidence that the truth will out."

But the Tory MP Andrew Tyrie, a veteran opponent of the Bill, insisted that the proposed changes would make it harder to get to the truth about key issues of national security, including extraordinary rendition and torture.

He said: "It is regrettable that the shape of this Bill changes from week to week. Substantial changes to the Bill are being driven at the 11th hour. This remains a poorly made Bill and it would amount to poor legislation."