Justice and Security Bill

Fabian is adding his voice to those who are concerned about aspects of the government's new measures relating to the proposed use of Closed Material Procedures that would enable some court proceedings to take place in secret.

The issue is controversial because its critics argue that for any courts to be held in secret undermines the basic principals of open, fair and unbiased justice for every citizen in whatever circumstances. The government has argued for closed courts to be available when matters affecting national security are involved. Specifically the problem that concerns evidence that may have come from sources (spies) inside criminal and terrorist organisations and that if such evidence was presented in open court with witnesses subject to cross examination by defence lawyers, their identity and safety would be compromised.

The Labour Party is cognisant of this problem and does not exclude measures to ensure that neither witnesses nor the general public are put at risk. Some prosecutions have had to be dropped in the past and compensation paid to those accused because of the risk to the identity and safety of the witnesses if they were seen in an open court. However the Labour MPs at Westminster are not yet persuaded that current government proposals adequately meet the requirement of natural justice. Their argument that judges and not ministers should decide which court cases should be held behind closed doors was not accepted by the government. An amendment to this effect, secured in the House of Lords, was removed by government minsters in the House of Commons.

Fabian has received a large number of emails from constituents lobbying for the continued universal right to a fair trial and he is pleased that it is the Labour position that the government should be continually challenged to find better ways in which both national security and the right to an open and fair trial are not compromised.