Clare Algar: Secret courts plans must be dropped altogether

April 4, 2012

Image of a secret prison

Commenting on the Deputy Prime Minister’s intervention in the debate over the Government’s secret justice plans, in which he called for changes which would still leave intact the central proposal for Closed Material Procedures – which were today condemned by MPs as ‘inherently unfair’.

Reprieve’s Executive Director, Clare Algar said: “Nick Clegg’s intervention does not go nearly far enough. The simple fact is that closed courts are inherently unfair. What the Government is proposing is a system in which they can use whatever evidence they like against the citizen, but the citizen is unable to challenge or even to see that evidence. This is unacceptable in any circumstances.”

The Green Paper seeks to address a ‘problem’ which simply does not exist – as the Joint Committee on Human Rights has said, there is a ‘troubling lack of evidence’ to support the Government’s claims. Tinkering around the edges will not be enough. These plans would put the Government above the law, and must be dropped altogether.

“Our current system is working well, and judges have always been extremely deferential to the Government on matters of national security.  Yet it appears that our Security Services are attempting to undermine our justice system because they are unwilling to be held accountable in a court of law.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: 0207 427 1082 / 07791 755 415, or see

2. 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 has represented, and continues to represent, a large number of prisoners who have been rendered and abused around the world, and is 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; if you were forwarded this release, sign up to join our press mailing list.