Halloween nightmare for government on secret courts?

In another blow for the government and supporters of the “secret courts” provisions, the government’s independent equality and human rights watchdog, the EHRC, has today stated the Justice and Security Bill breaches the Human Rights Act.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has made public its equality and human rights impact assessment on the provisions of the Justice and Security Bill.

The of the EHRC is that the provisions are in breach of Article 6 obligations and also the common law. The EHRC have sought legal advice which concludes that:

  • The provisions of the Bill relating to the introduction of a closed material procedure are incompatible with the common law right to a fair trial of an excluded party;
  • The options to invoke a closed material procedure and to make a closed material application are incompatible with article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention) notwithstanding clause 11(5)(c) of the Bill; and
  • The options given to a relevant person to elect not to comply with orders of the court for disclosure and to provide a summary of evidence. referred to as ‘gisting’, are likewise incompatible with article 6 of the Convention notwithstanding clause 11(5)(c) of the Bill.

In addition our analysis on clauses 6-11 notes that:

  • There is no clear definition of national security or what constitutes sensitive material. Furthermore clause 6(3) prohibits a court from considering whether the interests of justice outweigh those of national security.

This latest negative verdict on the Bill is added to the views of Amnesty International, the Special Advisers, Liberty, Justice and Reprieve. Supporters of the Bill are getting harder and harder to find.

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