On Liberal Conspiracy, a member of the legal charity Reprieve flags up a quite astonishing government proposal: to deny criminal suspects the right to hear the evidence against them. Under the proposed expansion to “Closed Material Procedures” (CMPs):
once the minister has made the call that there is ‘sensitive’ material involved, the court goes into lockdown, and the citizen (along with the media) is excluded — as a result, they will simply not know what claims the Government is making about them.
Through this secret process, the only person putting forward the defense case would be a “Special Advocate” — who would not be allowed to commuicate with their client.
Liberty argue, reasonably enough, that:
Being able to present evidence to a judge without the other side having the chance to refute it or even know what it is obviously gives the Government a huge advantage in legal proceedings and the potential to present a very one-sided or misleading version of events.
Even the Northamptonshire police feel that the proposed legislation:
is very widely drafted and could result in its misuse. This could be used to encompass material concerning crime prevention tactics, police informants and intelligence led operations.
The impact of the overuse of CMPs would be to damage the UK reputation of a free and fair democracy.
Finally the Mail, of all places, reports the views of the existing Special Advocates, the lawyers working with the existing system of Closed Material Procedures:
They submitted a very thorough and telling response to the consultation. These are the lawyers who have the greatest experience of the system and they were unanimously opposed to the very broad extension of CMPs.