Law Society backs Lib Dems on secret courts

Legal News | 31 January 2013


Closed material procedures undermine essential principle

The Law Society is backing Lib Dem amendments in advance of today’s Commons debate on ‘closed material procedures’ or secret courts.

Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, the society’s president said the procedures, which the government wants to introduce across the civil justice system, undermined an “essential principle of justice”.

She said that all parties should be entitled to see and challenge all of the evidence relied on by the court, and to combat that evidence by calling evidence of their own.

Scott-Moncrieff went on: “If parliament deems these procedures to be necessary we would like to see the government accepting, as a bare acceptable minimum, Liberal Democrat amendments to the bill which would oblige the relevant party (i.e. the party withholding the evidence) to provide a summary to the other party sufficient to enable the party to give effective instructions on the undisclosed material to their legal representatives.”

The president called on the government to support another Lib Dem amendment, ensuring that there was an annual vote in both houses of parliament to approve the continued application of the plans, as with other national security related legislation.

“Legislation with constitutional and human rights implications of this magnitude should be kept under constant review,” she said.

Earlier this week former justice secretary Ken Clarke and Home Office minister James Brokenshire announced government concessions on the bill.

Requests for closed material procedures would be at the discretion of a judge, rather than the secretary of state, and both parties would be able to make an application.

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