No, this isn’t the way we do things

Nor should it be the way we do things.

A major criminal trial involving two men charged with serious terrorism offences could be held entirely in secret for the first time in modern British legal history.

Justice must not only be done it must be seen to be done.

Look at the damn mess the family courts are in with their secrecy rules.

Can’t convict in a public court? Tough. for these rules are not there to spare the evil from their just rewards but to spare everyone else from being unjustly persecuted. This is about protecting us from the State, nothing else.

51 comments on “No, this isn’t the way we do things

  1. Even worse, there was a gagging order against reporting that there was a secret trial.

  2. This is nice but it is irrelevant. It affects two people out of 50 million every decade. The Family Courts are the problem as are the Social Services in general when it comes to taking children away from their parents.

    That affects us all and happens every day.

    But no, in general, this is not how we should do things.

  3. I suspect there are some folk that are positively drooling over the possibilities of combining this secrecy with THIS

    Don’t think for a millisecond it hasn’t occurred to them either – after all they’ve been taking down almost all extended media coverage of the fallout from THIS

  4. I tend to agree.

    Besides, the public needs hate figures, how can we hate there two suspected terrorists if we know nothing about them or what they were planning?

  5. Pat – “I note that, unlike the family courts, the case will be tried before a jury at least.”

    And a judge who probably sympathises with the two men concerned.

    It is the only way to explain recent decisions – and so unlike the way the Courts deal with fathers and husbands.

  6. Can we stand them up against a wall and put a bullet in each head under any kind of military law?

    I mean, they are at war with us, yes? They say they are, so that must mean they are. When else in human history have we sent police to fight an armed enemy at war?

  7. Well look on the bright side. At least we don’t live in some tinpot dictatorship where the government just takes money out of people’s bank accounts when it feels like it.

  8. Not to mention the new powers in the Serious Crime Bill to target lawyers, accountatnts etc. who have committed no crime themselves. Reduced burdens of proof on recovering proceeds of crime etc. If they want to get you, they will. Be afraid.

  9. I have to agree with SMFS; 2 men vs. Family Courts acting in secret with impunity; but what to do? you cant have children dragged into tabloid spotlights for the benefit of openess when it is likely to their detriment.

    Certainly think social “services” shouldn’t have the same anonymity though.

  10. There should be no secret courts. Why the family courts are secret is a mystery to me. But look how they have used the fact that people don’t want their domestic dirty laundry made public as a precedent for secrecy. Now it is terrorism. Then that will be the precident for “serious crime” in general. They are already taking steps to gut legal aid to ensure the system is ever more stacked against you.

    Mr Black: The idea of a trial is to find out if they are terrorists before they get punished. You know–justice?. Old fashioned nowadays of course. If the trial needs to be in secret it is probably because it is a fixed job.

    Ian B, HMRC thieves taking supposed tax “owed” out of your account is not the real issue. When the banks go down, the scum of the state intend to use our accounts as a Cyprus style internal bail-out.

  11. Mr Black asked: “When else in human history have we sent police to fight an armed enemy at war?”

    I don’t know, but I should think it was fairly common in the colonies.

  12. you cant have children dragged into tabloid spotlights for the benefit of openess when it is likely to their detriment.

    Tom- while I appreciate that you are using this argument generally, I don’t believe that that is the real justification for secret family courts. It is a justification for secrecy.

    The claim that victims should not be public- only in fact applied to sex crimes- is unsound. A person who is victimised will have public sympathy, and has no need for secrecy. If that engenders some negative attitudes from some quarters, then we should work to change those attitudes. It does not justify a star chamber.

    All anonymity should be removed from all legal procedings. The family courts are a travesty of justice.

  13. Can we stand them up against a wall and put a bullet in each head under any kind of military law?

    No. There is no aspect of UK military law which allows us to shoot CPERS. See “Marine A”.

    I mean, they are at war with us, yes? They say they are, so that must mean they are.

    In which case, they have done nothing wrong and get a nice comfy POW camp until the “end” of the “war”.

    I would note that Courts Martial are open trials.

    When else in human history have we sent police to fight an armed enemy at war?

    I served with UK police (not MoD police) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  14. Playing Devil’s Advocate.

    There is lots of stuff that goes on in government and elsewhere that we don’t know about. I don’t expect anyone seriously thinks we have *no* need for MI5 or MI6, or that *everything* these organisations do should be open to scrutiny by all and sundry.

    Equally, I don’t suppose we expect the Cabinet to publish the minutes of its meetings on the day the meetings are held. No-one would ever attend a Cabinet meeting, or say anything of any importance, ever again. (That may be a good thing, in its own way, but leave that to one side.)

    In the criminal sphere, no-one (sensible) expects (for instance) a jury’s deliberations to be opened up to public view.

    Does that establish the principle that there are some governmental and criminal justice functions which we (generally, and perhaps grudgingly) accept are best kept secret?

    If so, then as long as there is a proper separation between the executive and the judiciary, which I accept we should question, as long as the judges involved are wholly and rigorously independent of the prosecution, then I think it is possible to argue that there might be very rare circumstances where it’s in the public interest for trials to be held in secret.

    I obviously understand the risk of mission creep, and I strongly favour the principle of open justice, but I can see this argument. As long as the judges are sound.

  15. @Ian B

    ‘All anonymity should be removed from all legal procedings.’

    Hmm. The trouble is, women do feel shame at having been raped, however illogical and even barmy that sounds.

    I don’t mean women who shagged the wrong bloke after a night out and then claimed rape, I mean actual rape victims.

    IMO they should certainly be allowed anonymity in newspaper reports – this is not the same as anonymity *from the accused*, who certainly knows the identity of his accuser and should be able robustly to challenge her, and it’s not the same as anonymity if they are later prosecuted for making false allegations.

    Say a defendant is charged with GBH on the basis that he knowingly infected partners with HIV (they consented but were unaware of his medical status). If the only way to get that man into the dock is to offer his victims anonymity, in the public sense, should that anonymity be denied? (I know of a recent case where this was exactly the issue.)

    I personally think not, though I also believe in the sauce/gander/goose argument, and would go back to anonymity for the accused, too. If it’s shameful to be raped it must be shameful to be accused of rape.

  16. Anonymity can have a purpose. A couple of months ago, two leading actors from Coronation Street were accused of rape and the allegation was reported in the press.

    In the event, it turned out that there was no evidence whatsoever. As I recall, their accuser (a third party) was unable to supply any supporting details but “felt sure” that it had happened.

    The case never got to trial or anywhere near. But in the meantime the two actors were named in the tabloids (well they would wouldn’t they?).

    Mud sticks.

  17. Does that establish the principle that there are some governmental and criminal justice functions which we (generally, and perhaps grudgingly) accept are best kept secret?

    All you’ve done is establish that there are some that are secret. There is a perennial argument about the extent to which that secrecy should go, particularly in recent times with the so-called Snowden revelations.

    But broadly speaking ‘we’ at some point have argued why those things should be secret; Parliament has had those debates. We can’t argue about why this trial should be secret, because we’re not allowed to know the reasons why the CPS wants it held in secret, except in the broadest, most vague terms (that the evidence must not be heard in open court). If the CPS had its way we wouldn’t even know it’s happening. It stinks.

  18. ‘All you’ve done is establish that there are some that are secret.’

    No, I’ve established that some things are secret and asked if it’s right that they should be.

    ‘But broadly speaking ‘we’ at some point have argued why those things should be secret; Parliament has had those debates.’

    Are you saying that the decision to hold this trial in secret was illegal? I had assumed that it was legal, and that the conditions under such decisions could be made had been debated in parliament and legislated for.

  19. There is statute about certain evidence in a trial being heard in secret or privately, but I don’t think it applies in this instance.

  20. OK – I must say I’ve not followed the case closely, and I don’t know under what powers the original order was made. But presumably whatever powers were used, the original (independent) judge was convinced by the prosecution case, which seems to be that these guys were planning to make bombs and kill people, and if they can’t be tried in secret the trial may not be able to proceed, for reasons I don’t know.

    It was challenged by the press, and the Court of Appeal is now deciding. That’s what we have a Court of Appeal for, surely?

    I don’t like it much, I wouldn’t want it to happen very often, but I can’t say it ‘stinks’, in blanket terms.

  21. No reason why victims of rape cannot remain anonymous as long as the same applies to the accused, unless and until he is convicted. That only covers identity. Otherwise all else is public record– no secret trials.

    Also, remember that the first concern of the scum of the state is to protect themselves from those they lord it over and to keep their subjects in their place and paying the demands. Attacks from outside is a distant number 2 on the list. It is obvious that the US Federal tyranny is trying to shift things so that anyone over there who won’t kiss Uncle Sam’s arse can listed as a domestic “terrorist”. The NuBluLabour scum over here want exactly the same but aren’t as brazen as the Yanks. So be careful when you say its ok for “terror suspects” to get a secret trial. You might just find yourself amongst that company.

  22. Ultimately it comes down to trust: do you trust these people to get it right in this instance and all the other instances? I don’t – not because I’m paranoid or ignorant of the statistics, but because I think they are only human and those bodies (the CPS, police, judiciary, government, Parliament) have been known to make mistakes and abuse the processes available to them (including in cases of alleged terrorism). Scrutiny is a must.

    The Court has varied the order obtained from the first judge, from which we can infer that it was unnecessary for the CPS to demand no reporting of the fact the trial is happening and broadly what it’s about.

  23. Well, you can only infer that if you trust the Court of Appeal. Will you trust their Lordships if they rule that the trial itself can be heard entirely in camera? If not, why not?

    But, yes, you’re right, it’s about trust. Every human interaction is about trust. If you entrust your life to Boeing and British Airways there’s no reason in principle not to trust the courts. BA and Boeing may have something to lose corporately if your plane crashes, but probably not much. And the engineer who is over tightening and dethreading the screw which will cause the tailplane to disintegrate will probably never be identified.

    Arguably.

    It’s about the separation of powers for me. Mad Ecksy thinks they’re all out to get us, and presumably lives off the grid in a log cabin somewhere. I think they’re probably not all out to get us, but that we should remain vigilant.

  24. I don’t have complete trust in Boeing and BA, just an understanding there is a tiny if not infinitesimal risk I’ll be killed if I use their services.They can’t detain me or kill me with impunity, either.

    I think trust is usually a matter of degree. I’m inclined to trust (or have faith in) the courts in this instance to get it right. I don’t have complete trust they will, I don’t have complete trust in the CPS, police, security services, government or Parliament. Not having complete trust is of course different from having no trust. And I’d have more trust with more scrutiny and less trust with less scrutiny – if Boeing and BA were allowed to keep all their wrongdoing and accidents a secret I’d rapidly lose trust in them.

  25. The risk of being killed in a Boeing aircraft seems to be considerably higher than the risk of your being tried in camera for terrorism or anything else (though I suppose a fair man would have to accept that there was a time before Boeing flew when the odds were different).

    I’m also not sure how you know the Boeing and BA do reveal everything they should, though the real issue is why we should trust them more than the courts or the CPS, which many people obviously do?

    I’m not snarking, btw, I’m genuinely interested from a human nature point of view.

  26. People trust airlines because they have some fairly senior staff at the front end of the plane who are going down with it if it goes. I suspect that whatever the progress of AI, it’s going to be very difficult to sell seats on pilotless planes.

  27. Interested, they are all out to get us. The problem for Britain- England and Wales at least- is that for some centuries we’ve had an abnormally decent (by international and historic standards) ruling class. Even the old aristocracy genuinely did have quite a sense of duty and, in most cases, an understanding of restraint in the exercise of power. Arguably, it was this sense (however much a Spart may consider it patronising) that enabled Britain to avoid revolutionary upheaval and did act as a kind of sort of social contract between the ruling and ruled.

    We are watching the collapse of this now. The new Establishment that has arisen has, in the main, little or no such sensibility; it has absorbed and articulates an ideology of outcomes focus, as they call it; ends rather than means. Combine that with what amounts to conspiracy theories powering much of their beliefs, and it’s toxic.

    As citizens, or subjects, we need to adapt to this new way of life while trying to find ways to overcome it. They really are out to get us.

  28. “Justice must not only be done it must be seen to be done.” – indeed, also Justice must be seen being done, even when its not very just, especially when its not very just.

  29. @PaulB ‘People trust airlines because they have some fairly senior staff at the front end of the plane who are going down with it if it goes’

    People who believe airlines care about their pilots maybe – surprised a lefty like you thinks that way. Clearly not a BALPA member.

    (I’d fly in a pilotless airliner tomorrow because pilot error.)

  30. @IanB seriously they’re not. Apart from anything else there is no ‘they’. There *are* a few people who want to set off bombs in shopping centres, the cops and MI5 can’t have how they know this in the public domain because tradecraft and sources, and that’s about it I suspect.

  31. What, we can’t even know who the defendants are, we can’t even know that the trial has taken place, we cannot hear the evidence against them or their defence? Srsly? Is it that the evidence is purely relying on testimony from “sources”?

  32. Interested,

    The risk of being killed in a Boeing aircraft seems to be considerably higher than the risk of your being tried in camera for terrorism or anything else (though I suppose a fair man would have to accept that there was a time before Boeing flew when the odds were different).

    I’m also not sure how you know the Boeing and BA do reveal everything they should, though the real issue is why we should trust them more than the courts or the CPS, which many people obviously do?

    I didn’t suggest Boeing and BA do reveal everything they should or that they are more or less trustworthy than the courts or CPS – I don’t know how one would begin to measure them against each other – I suggested none of them are 100% trustworthy, they should all be subject to scrutiny.

    I’m inclined to believe the CPS, police, security services and courts by and large get it right – and actually that’s a matter of faith, I haven’t done a rigorous study. Occasionally they get it terribly wrong – I like to wheel out the case of Lotfi Raissi (but there are plenty more).
    http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2008/72.html

    Essentially an innocent man accused of terrorism was detained in Belmarsh for four and a half months because the police/CPS abused the extradition process, then the government tried to deny him compensation. The courts weren’t supplied with any evidence of his involvement in terrorism; the charges on the extradition warrant were allegations of making false statements to government agencies, not acts of terrorism. The Home Secretary could have cancelled the warrant but did not. Sure, we got to the right answer in the end, although he claimed it had a “devastating effect on his life and on his health” – which doesn’t seem an unreasonable claim given everything that happened.

    Yes, human nature is interesting isn’t it? People moan about politicians, CPS, police, the judiciary ‘all the time’ but when it comes to allegations of terrorism (in this specific case plotting and possessing information, not making explosives or possessing guns or blowing things up) all that goes out of the window and the normal rules mustn’t apply. Why did we get rid of the Star Chamber? Why are we horrified at secret trials and suchlike in foreign lands? What makes our TPTB special that they would never do wrong given access to the same powers as foreign TPTB? We just have to hope that some real nasty people don’t come to power.

    And I’d add this isn’t just about this case in isolation, this is against a background of huge legal erosions of liberty over the past couple of decades or so – and that’s the stuff that made it through Parliament, worse has been seriously proposed (90 day detention without charge, reverse the burden of proof, decreasing the standard of criminal proof). Also there may be stuff we don’t know about, stuff that hasn’t been debated, like what Snowden & co. have revealed so far. And there has been a slippery slope; special advocates, closed material procedures, civil orders breach of which is a criminal offence (some amounting to house arrest).

  33. sorry, edit: And there has been a slippery slope; special advocates, closed material procedures, civil orders breach of which is a criminal offence (some amounting to house arrest) used outside the circumstances for which they were originally introduced with the claim it was “only for this kind of case, we’ll only use it for this, we won’t use it for other things.”

  34. Abu Hamza was tried on terrorist charges for calling for peoples deaths, just two leaps from that and our own esteemed blogmeister and certain bloggers could be tried in secret on terrorism charges for calling for people’s deaths.

    It may also come to pass that there will be mass prosecutions for accessory to rape for watching porn.

  35. @UKL I think we agree that the central point is trust and that we should as far as possible scrutinise what the courts do. I’ve given examples – jury deliberations (but there are others) – where secrecy already exists in the criminal sphere. I suppose it comes down to: I trust the independent bar and judiciary, and the often left wing solicitors who will be repping these people, more than others do.

    IOW, if gross miscarriages of justice occur, I think we can expect to find out about it, irrespective of any court orders.

    I am one of those who moans about politicians all the time, but I do so because they clearly do stupid things in their own interests (though this is largely a matter of opinion).

    I have no evidence that the independent legal professions do stupid things re clients they are defending on behalf of themselves or the State.

    @Ian B but it’s not just the defendant vs the State. It’s the D vs the State, where the D is represented by an independent solicitor and independent barrister, in a trial presided over by an independent judge.

    If we think those people are not independent, I wholeheartedly agree with you. But I think they are independent (and many silks, this case definitely being within their purview, are itching to give the govt a bloody nose over the VHCC debacle for instance).

  36. I suppose the other point re ‘they’re all out to get us’ is this: assuming this is true (I regard it as a conspiracy theorists’ fantasy) then why go to the trouble of a trial? Surely it would be easier and cheaper to arrange ‘accidents’ for people like this?

    Man dies in car crash/fall from windowfrom radio in bath/mystery illness, police say it was tragic accident. What’s not to like?

  37. At least we don’t live in some tinpot dictatorship where the government just takes money out of people’s bank accounts when it feels like it.

    The sad part is that this doesn’t happen even in tin-pot dictatorships. We seem to be trying to out-tin-pot them.

  38. It’s easier than most people seem to think to identify which technician did what to which aircraft, on military ac at least and I believe civvies work to similar standards throughout Europe; every job, down to checking the tyres for wear or replacing a U/S bulb in the cabin, is recorded and signed for by the tradesman and supervisor (though for more minor jobs a tradesman may, if suitably experienced and trusted, self-supervise). Jobs on more critical systems are subject to independent inspection, also signed for. One phrase used to sanity check decisions made is to ask whether you’d be happy to defend it “come the subsequent Board of Inquiry”;

  39. One phrase used to sanity check decisions made is to ask whether you’d be happy to defend it “come the subsequent Board of Inquiry”;

    It’s pretty much how I conduct myself when signing off engineering work. When I mention this to the French, they have no idea what I’m on about.

  40. Incidentally, I read a rather good article comparing the aviation and medical spheres in terms of identifying causes of and learning from accidents and incidents:

    Excellent article!

  41. @TN ‘like this?’

    Funnily enough, that case was in my mind as I typed.

    But it doesn’t alter my basic point, which is that if ‘they’ really wanted to ‘get’ X person, as IanB suggests they do, ‘they’ would be better off arranging an accident than in trying him.

  42. Except arranging an accident is illegal, but using the law against them isn’t.

    There is no doubt that the State, or at least parts of it, was out to get homosexuals. It didn’t creep around issuing “hit man contracts” on them, it set up a special police force to ruin them via the legal system. That’s how the State works in our kind of country.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.