July 2014

10455168_301972866646912_8194718983731398265_nJWI wish to express our serious concern of the increasing use of ‘Closed Material Procedures’ (CMP) and applications for use by any state.

The common belief that Justice is blind, impartial and fair; that, British and Irish systems are two of the most advanced in the developed world must now brought into question with the increased applications for and use of CMP.

It is the opinion of Justice Watch Ireland (JWI) that this is yet another example of a multi-tiered judicial system in play, when dealing with any individual with views other than that defined by the state.

By virtue of the Justice Security Act, alongside executive interference; government are increasingly invoking the wrath of inequity, as they use CMPs to permit the judge and one party to a legal dispute to see evidence, but prevent claimants including their own legal teams and the public from knowing precisely what is being alleged and who has been alleged by. No right to quiz the accuser, no right to question the evidence. Sounds like a kangaroo court? Unfortunately not; this is now the reality for an increased number of citizens. This ensures a limited or even zero degree of disclosure that could be made in any trial.

CMPs unsurprisingly were heavily advocated by de-facto intelligence agency, MI5. Manningham-Buller, the former Director General of MI5, argued that CMP is the only way that Judges can make a judgment on the accusations of ‘wicked iniquities’ levelled against the service which she said they could not defend themselves against under the current law.

That said, Senior Law Lord, Phillips has stated that he was ‘reluctantly persuaded of the need, in the interests of justice, for a closed material procedure in exceptional cases.’ But he pointed out that it is inevitable that if CMP is brought in to law it will ‘undoubtedly be challenged in the Supreme Court and in Strasbourg and that it will be necessary for the Government to demonstrate that the inroads into fair trial rights are the minimum necessary and are subject to available safeguards.’

Phillips has not had to wait too long, as recent judicial events here has illustrated, that there are no safe guards in place, as the British SOS and trained barrister; Theresa Villers seems to be unaware of the understanding to be used as last resort. In fact she has fallen into the trap that was raised by respected legal academic Tom Hickman, detailing the flaws of this process, he stated; ‘Absence any such balance CMP operates like a black box from which no information of any use or interest emerges. All information of even marginal sensitivity is immune from disclosure even if this is overwhelmingly in the interests of justice for it to be disclosed. Entire classes of information regarded as of some sensitivity, such as any information relating to activities of the Intelligence Services, for example, are considered to be non-disclosable.’

These concerns have been backed by leading human rights lawyer, Kevin Winters of KRW law in Belfast, who has the unfortunate task of working at the coal face of CMP implementation. He stated ‘We are concerned about the developing pattern of CMPs being used as the norm to defend legal actions rather than being used as exceptions in extreme cases.’

The Guardian’s Henry McDonald highlights that ‘CMPs add a more versatile legal weapon to the government’s armory, permitting intelligence to be introduced into a case while withholding it in full from a claimant. Supporters – including the cabinet minister Ken Clarke, who ushered the act through parliament – argue that it enables the government to resist ill-founded claims.’

Justice Campaigners have always believed this type of behavior was always at play behind closed doors, in courts within this jurisdiction, and that secret evidence given to obliging judges, no disclosure, no facing the accuser, no fair trial and all backed up by having no access to a jury. The same campaigners have always warned if this type of injustice remained unchallenged it would become part of normal procedure. Now that the Justice and Security Act has codified and authorized the CMP process, the chicken has come home to roost. If this remains unchallenged it will without doubt, add to the increasing number of miscarriages of justice and should highlight the true nature of the Justice system when dealing with those subjects that it is not willing to tolerate or afford the right to a fair trial. JWI calls for the CMP project to be officially and unofficially ended. Injustice of any kind destroys the fabric of any society and would strongly appeal to all advocates of human rights protections, especially those in Britain to voice their opposition to this unjust process.

Read more