Judges will be “fettered” by Secret Courts Bill, admits Government reviewer

October 16, 2012

The Government’s reviewer of terrorism legislation today agreed that British judges would be “fettered” by plans for secret courts currently before Parliament.

Giving evidence to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, David Anderson QC was asked whether the Bill “needs to be amended in order that the judge [isn’t] fettered in any way,” to which he replied, “Indeed.”

Mr Anderson also criticised the Bill, which he said “isn’t even-handed” – and warned that this would mean that “neither public confidence in judges or in the security services is going to be achieved.”

He added that “the judge should be trusted to make the relevant decision” on whether secret courts are used – a position which is at odds with ministers’ claim that under the Bill, judges will have the final say.

Commenting, Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said: “It is increasingly clear that the Secret Courts Bill is a dangerous assault on the independence of our judges. Today, the Government’s reviewer warned that judges would be ‘fettered’ by the plans and that public confidence in them would be undermined as a result. It is vital that ministers think again – before they wreck centuries-old British legal freedoms.”