Page last updated at 15:44 GMT, Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Minister defends plans for more secret court hearings

The government "disagrees" with the Equality and Human Rights Commission's analysis that proposals to extend the use of secret court hearings are incompatible with the Human Rights Act, a minister has said.

Advocate General Lord Wallace of Tankerness told peers at question time on 6 November 2012 that he recognised the plans were "controversial" but believed CMPs "can occur compatibly with the right to a fair trial".

Moreover, the UK Supreme Court had affirmed "as early as last year" that a procedure involving CMP's was compatible with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, he said.

The minister was responding to a question by Labour peer Lord Clinton-Davis, who asked the government how it would deal with the "powerful criticisms" of the equalities watchdog.

The plans to make more use of "closed material procedures" (CMPs) in civil law are contained in the Justice and Security Bill currently making its way through the House of Lords.

CMPs allow part of a case to be argued behind closed doors so that the government can reveal sensitive national security information, such as intelligence assessment by MI5.

Critics fear this goes against the principle of open justice and could lead to miscarriages of justice.

The equalities watchdog, the Equality and Human Right's Commission, has expressed the view that the plans to extend the use of secret justice are a "departure from this country's traditions of open justice and fairness".

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