Justice Secretary Ken Clarke “unsettled” by expert lawyers’ opposition to secret justice – he must now act

March 6, 2012

The Justice Secretary today admitted that he was “unsettled” by the response of a group of expert lawyers to the Government’s controversial secret justice plans.

The Special Advocates – the very lawyers who work in the closed court procedures which the Government is proposing to roll out across the civil justice system – recently warned Ken Clarke that such procedures are “fundamentally unfair.” Questioned on this point today by Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, Mr Clarke said that the “strong reaction” “unsettled me”.

Commenting, Reprieve’s Executive Director, Clare Algar said: “At last it seems that the message is starting to get through to the Government, that their plans for a vast expansion of secret justice are deeply unfair. But it isn’t enough just to be ‘unsettled’ – it’s time actually to act on the warnings of the people who know these processes from the inside, and who say they are fundamentally unfair.” “What the Government is proposing to do would effectively put politicians and their officials above the law, while excluding the public from their own legal system. We hope that ministers will now see sense, and drop these proposals before they wreck Britain’s centuries-old tradition of open justice.”


1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office on +44 (0) 207 427 1082 / 07791 755 415 or see Reprieve’s website: http://reprieve.org.uk/investigations/secret_justice

2. The Secretary of State for Justice, Ken Clarke, was giving evidence today to the Joint Committee on Human Rights on the Justice and Security Green Paper – further information can be found here.

3. The Special Advocates’ submission to the Ministry of Justice consultation can be found in full here.

4. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.  Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA. Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ Follow Reprieve on twitter: @ReprieveUK.