Secret Trials: What Is The British Justice System Hiding?

Whenever the term “national security” is cited as justification for the introduction of more secrecy you can feel another tranche of our freedoms and liberties slipping away.

 I can barely recognise the British legal system anymore and wonder what happened to the fearless judiciary which once jealously guarded the courts from political interference.

 Now it seems the top jobs are going to those craven career-minded individuals willing to become political tools serving no one’s interests including the general public.

 I’m raising this now after seeing a BBC story revealing terrorism trials could be heard entirely in secret for the first time in an English court.

 It is an outrage and serves only to elevate the status of so-called terrorists. Trials should be held in public they way they have been for centuries and this meddling with the judicial system is unacceptable.

 Would justice have been served to the Norwegian people if Andres Behring Breivik’s trial had been held behind closed doors? The Norwegian mass murderer who slaughtered 77 innocents in July 2011 had a very public trial.

 That the Norwegians did it without the usual hysteria given to such vile individuals is a credit to them and their judiciary. The Breivik trial was given no special status and he was treated very much like a common criminal which upset his neo-Nazi egotistical psyche. The calmness, openness and near normality of proceedings was a victory for the Norwegian people who were still reeling from their own 9/11.

  I’ve no idea who is AB or CD but if they are given a secret trial what conclusions are we to draw? If they’re innocent they certainly will not get closure and if they are guilty they will be elevated to the sort of status so craved by those involved in terrorism.

 Publicity and fear are the additional weapons in the arsenal of any terrorist and the fools in Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service have just signed off on both with this ludicrous demand for a secret trial.

 Senior judges have been hearing that the CPS wants the criminal trial to be conducted behind closed doors on grounds of national security.

Thankfully not all of our journalists or their publishers have slipped into a malaise of general apathy. Next week the Court of Appeal will rule on a media challenge to the restrictions on the case. It has never happened before and if we allow courts to go down that route we are heading towards a police state.

The details emerged at an appeal against an order issued in May by Mr Justice Nicol which banned the identification of the defendants and access to the trial. The media were banned from reporting the existence of that order until the Court of Appeal hearing.

All I can tell you is that the two defendants face charges relating to the allegations of the preparation of terrorist acts and possessing bomb-making instructions.

Lawyer Anthony Hudson, acting for those media organisations challenging the restrictions, told the appeal judges: “The Crown has sought and obtained an unprecedented order that the trial of two defendants charged with serious terrorism offences should take place entirely in private with the identity of both defendants withheld and a permanent prohibition on reporting what takes place during the trial and their identities.

“This appeal raises important issues relating to not only the constitutional principle of open justice but the equally important principle of fairness and natural justice.”

The head of the CPS counter-terrorism team reckons if a decision was taken to hold the trial in open court, and to identify the defendants, it might have to abandon the prosecution. Balderdash!

Richard Whittam QC, for the CPS, claimed the request was forced because of “exceptional circumstance”. More balderdash, m’lud!

Mr Whittam went on to say that the complete ban on reporting the case would not necessarily exist forever. How do we know? What guarantees are there? This is a slippery road from which there is no return.

 Terrorism is not something new. It has gone on for centuries and the courts have dealt with those accused of carrying it out in full public view. The public has a right to know and not be left hanging wondering what information they’re being denied.

A judgement is expected next week.

The 1st Viscount George Hewart, originator of the aphorism “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done” must be spinning in his grave.

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