Thursday, November 25, 2021

Now Labour wants secret trials

Today, the government introduced the Security Information in Proceedings Legislation Bill to the House. The Bill would allow the government to use classified information in civil or criminal proceedings and keep it secret from the other party. So people suing the government for human rights abuses could lose, and defendants could be found guilty, on the basis of secret "evidence" which they have had no opportunity to challenge or rebut. Oh, there'll be a "special advocate" procedure (a pre-vetted, security cleared and hence cooperative lawyer, paid by the government and hence working for them, and forbidden to communicate with the person who isn't really their client unless the government gets to review every word), but that system has been found to be fundamentally unjust by the UK Supreme Court (and our own Court of Appeal is currently expressing deep suspicion about its use in a passport case). In the UK, not even the special advocates believe the system is fair. It was bullshit when they did it to Ahmed Zaoui, and it is bullshit now.

What sort of trials could the government use this in? I previously compiled a little list when National introduced this bullshit to workplace safety legislation, and I guess we could add human rights claims over the SAS's actions in Afghanistan and privacy claims over police abuse of power as obvious examples. As for criminal cases, the obvious application is terrorism cases, and its worth noting that the bill would have allowed the use of secret evidence against the Urewera 17.

The core problem for the government is that where secret evidence is used, verdicts are simply not credible. Oh, the court and the government can say someone is guilty, but in a secret trial where no-one is actually allowed to see the evidence, there's no reason to believe them. And the result will undermine the entire justice system.

This bill should not pass. If it does pass, there needs to be a legal challenge to declare it inconsistent with the bill of Rights Act immediately. We cannot allow this English tyranny to further infect our justice system.