Robert Verkaik: Court of appeal has taken a welcome stand for fairness

Share
Related Topics

Judges are rarely given to hyperbole or intemperate language, even when deciding matters of huge constitutional importance. So when three members of the country's most senior judiciary say they have "taken a stand" against those who pose a threat to open justice, we should all sit up and take notice.

Yesterday's Court of Appeal judgment in favour of six former Guantanamo Bay inmates goes to the very heart of what constitutes a fair hearing in a British court.

The Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, who headed a panel of three appeal judges, comprehensively rejected arguments advanced by the Government and MI5 that the men's claims for damages should be heard behind a veil of secrecy.

It is a decision that draws a welcome line in the sand concerning ministers' increasing reliance on procedures aimed at removing embarrassing material from the public gaze.

Ever since the terror attacks in New York on 11 September the most concerted threats to open justice have emanated from the secret services and their political masters.

The most damaging example was the recent attempt by the Foreign Office to gag the courts from publishing a summary of the evidence of what MI5 knew about the unlawful detention and torture of Binyam Mohamed. After a long-running litigation, the judges reluctantly overruled ministers' objections to the publication of the now-infamous seven paragraphs in that case.

But there is no doubt that the encounter has harmed relations between the Government and the courts, and may well have unsettled the judiciary's confidence in the veracity of the evidence, secret or otherwise, being submitted on behalf of ministers.

Ministerial-judicial relations reached a new low in February, when Government lawyers wrote to one of the judges in the Binyam Mohamed case, asking him to soften his criticism of MI5.

That tactic spectacularly backfired when the letter was made public and the thrust of the judge's comments was reinstated in his later judgment. The judge in question was Lord Neuberger – who clearly decided yesterday it was time to stand up for the principles of open justice.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

PMO Manager (Portfolio Management, ExCel, Cost Benefit Analysis)

£450 - £500 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: PMO Manager - 6 month co...

Senior Fund Administrator - Edinburgh - £22 p/hr

£20 - £22 per hour + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Fund Administrator, Top Four ...

Nursery Nurse

£7 per hour: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a better wo...

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Functional Consultant

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A Microsoft Dynamics CRM...

Day In a Page

 

Naturism criminalised: Why not being able to bare all is a bummer

Simon Usborne
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on