Secret Criminal Trials in Britain? Impossible? Well think again.(1)
I earlier flagged up the precedent being set, to allow the government secrecy in civil proceedings.(2) Now for the very first time the government wants to prosecute two individuals for terrorism charges in the absence of any member of the public or press.
It first wanted total secrecy that the trial was even taking place but that has been challenged and is now subject to appeal.
If the appeal is rejected and the government’s application upheld, it will mean that in neither civil nor criminal proceedings will the fundamental principle of, “Not only justice needing to be done, but SEEN to done”, be guaranteed to the parties involved. the decision on secrecy will be virtually at the discretion of the government that may wish to cover up its own malfeasance. It opens up the ugly door of disposing of anyone posing threat whether imagined or not.
It also raises the question of post-trial. Will it mean that the process of appeal will also have to be secret, or curtailed altogether? And presumably if the case is “proved”, and individuals incarcerated for potentially long periods of time, this will be in secret also, for fear of making the circumstances public also?
And what of the basic right of “trial by jury”, of not “being deprived of liberty or possessions without a hearing before one’s peers”? Will that now be curtailed or qualified to allow secrecy to be ensured or will the jury be “stacked”?
So it now seems we live in a state in which, in either civil or criminal proceedings, the public can be deprived knowledge about what is doing, or in the case of the litigant or accused, of knowing that at least the circumstances of their case will be reported. Once the principle is abandoned what is to stop further deterioration to the point at which any person can just disappear at the whim of whatever government is in control? In other words “the thin end of the wedge” argument.
The issue may appear to many to be irrelevant and theoretical. However it could not be less so. Particularly at a time when the D-Day landings are being commemorated with all its attendant rhetoric of lives lost in the cause of freedom, it is easy to be distracted from the question why men sacrificed their lives, if not to be free from the shadow of injustice and unconstrained tyrannical government?
Reasons can always be advanced for secrecy in matters of criminal trials. Methods already exist and are used to protect those who might be endangered by the process but total secrecy at the behest of government is a step too far – yet another sinister development revealing the true agenda that appears to be being pursued under the cover of the pomp and circumstance of the State Opening of Parliament and the well-deserved pride in the selfless heroics of countless young men. Was it all a charade? Was it all for nothing? END.