Fighting secrecy in court

posted on June 11, 2009 | in Category International | PermaLink

by Afua Hirsch Source: The Guardian UK URL: [link] Date: June 10, 2009 A judgment condemning the use of special advocates in imposing control orders is another blow to an unfair system

Welcome to a new phase in the battle over counter-terrorism laws between parliament and the courts. Today's unanimous condemnation of the use of special advocates in imposing control orders by the House of Lords came as quite a surprise – overturning previous decisions upholding the system by the high court and the court of appeal. There have been judicial blows to this system in the past; including a House of Lords decision in October 2007 which ruled that the special advocate system did not provide sufficient safeguards. But the law lords disagreed wildly on the extent to which the "controlee", as those under control orders are known, should be provided with the case against him, and left the overall system of control orders in place. But today's judgment is a more fundamental blow. The House of Lords – in a powerful panel of nine judges – has decided that the system of secret advocates violates the right to a fair trial unless the controlee has access to at least the irreducible minimum of the case against them. The current system of secret advocates has not allowed this.

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