Eastleigh candidates challenged over secret courts

February 27, 2013

The main candidates in the Eastleigh by-election have been challenged to set out their position on the Government’s plans to roll out secret courts across Britain’s civil justice system.

The plans, contained in the Justice and Security Bill, are currently before Parliament, and are likely to still be in progress when the by-election’s winner takes up his or her seat.

Legal action charity Reprieve has written to Maria Hutchings (Con), John O’Farrell (Lab) and Mike Thornton (Lib Dem) to ask each of them whether they intend to support or oppose the plans for secret courts, known as ‘Closed Material Procedures’ (CMPs).

The Lib Dem Conference last year voted overwhelmingly to remove CMPs from the Bill altogether, while Labour has warned of the “inherent unfairness” involved in the procedures.  A number of senior Conservative backbenchers, including Andrew Tyrie and David Davis, have also opposed the plans, voting against the Bill at second reading.

CMPs would see press, public and even the Government’s opponents shut out of the courtroom, enabling ministers to present a one-sided case to the judge.  Those bringing cases against the Government would not hear the evidence used against them, and would be denied an explanation for the outcome of the trial.

Reprieve’s Executive Director, Clare Algar said: “This is an issue which cuts to the heart of our country’s understanding of justice and fair play.  It is right that anyone standing for Parliament should make clear whether or not they oppose plans which would limit the public’s access to justice and put the Government above the law.  We look forward to hearing what the candidates have to say on the matter.”