Summary of Secret Court's Discussion
This is a complex topic, and by the end of the evening we were a lot wiser, though not much more cheerful. Paul took the group through a prepared outline (available on request), which contained some basic information and key quotes, as well as opportunities for members to provide their own responses. This was useful, but also in need of adaptation, and the discussion provided additional personal insights on Jack Straw, being arrested by MI5, and the experience of policing methods in Israel and Singapore.
Secret courts don’t have a clear rationale, reject many of the assumptions of our justice system, and are vehemently opposed by human rights lawyers. Internationally they align us with some very unsavoury company, as well as arousing serious concern among allies. The recent Supreme Court judgement shows that judges have some room for independence, but the general picture – taken together with cuts in legal aid – is bleak. Many vulnerable individuals are at risk of imprisonment or deportation, without knowing the evidence against them, and there is restricted manoeuvre for the media to report what’s going on. Meanwhile, the secret services are free to operate as they wish with impunity.