It turns out we didn’t need to wait too long for the Government to start misusing the secret courts procedure. It happened already in a case involving the Treasury and an Iranian bank accused of indirectly helping finance Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.
The Government took the opportunity to get journalists, the public, bank officials and lawyers representing the bank excluded from the case for 40 minutes during the case.
But it turned out that the reasons were spurious. They used the 40 minutes to show ‘secret’ material that was already available in material laid out in open court.
To quote Lord Hope in this article in the Huffington Post:
“The attitude which they have adopted in this appeal was a misuse of the procedure, because they invited the court to look at the closed (material) when there was nothing in it that could not have been gathered equally well from a careful scrutiny of the open (material)”.
As he also says:
He added: “The most obnoxious feature of the closed material procedure at the stage of an appeal is the possibility that the appellate court may have to give the whole or part of its reasons for the disposal of the appeal in a judgment to which the State only, and not the other party to the appeal or anyone else, has access.”
Lord Hope said secret justice “at this level” was “really not justice at all”.
The whole article is worth a read. It’s depressing, but it gives a sense of how the Government is likely to misuse these powers in the future. They’ve almost certainly started as they mean to go on.