Should more trials be held in secret? Part 2: A Special Advocate’s comment

1 December 2011 by

This is an expanded version of a comment made on Adam Wagner’s post:  Should more trials be held in secret?

Our recent post highlights the Government’s consultation on the Justice and Security Green Paper. Having been involved as a Special Advocate in many hearings involving closed material, I am troubled about these proposals, as well as the lack of public debate that they have generated.

The main proposals in the Green Paper are based on the highly debatable assumption that existing closed material procedures (CMPs as per the acronym adopted) have been shown to operate fairly and effectively.  CMPs, were first introduced in 1997 and have escalated in their application since then.  At §2.3 of the Green Paper it is stated that:

The contexts in which CMPs are already used have proved that they are capable of delivering procedural fairness.  The effectiveness of the Special Advocate system is central to this … .

This assumption is an important part of the basis used to justify expanding the scope of CMPs to other categories of proceedings. However, just because CMPs have (with substantial modification required by the Courts) been capable of operating in compliance with Article 6 of the ECHR, where Art 6 applies, does not mean that they can be considered to be ‘fair’ by any traditional common law standards. The suggested ‘improvements’ to the special advocate system set out in the Green Paper could not begin to make good this deficit in fairness that is inherent in CMPs in this jurisdiction, where individuals are deprived of material relied upon against them.

CMPs represent a departure from the fundamental principle of natural justice that all parties are entitled to see and challenge all the evidence relied upon before the court and to combat that evidence by calling evidence of their own. They also undermine the principle that public justice should be dispensed in public.  This latter principle may of course be subject to exceptions where publicity would prevent the court from doing justice in the individual case, but the importance of public and press scrutiny of the judicial process is such that exceptions should be recognised only in “the most compelling circumstances”.

In so far as the unfairness of CMPs is not obvious, one can point to numerous judicial observations to this effect.  Lord Bingham graphically suggested in a case in 2005 that the role of the Special Advocate “would inevitably be ‘taking blind shots at a hidden target'”.   More recent examples at the highest level can be found in the judgments in Al Rawi (the Guantanamo Bay litigation) in which the Supreme Court declined to hold that a CMP could be adopted in a civil claim, where there was no statutory provision for such a procedure.  The present Green Paper is, in part, a proposal to create by statute what the Supreme Court held could not be conjured from the common law.  In considering whether this is justifiable, it is worth quoting what Lord Dyson, giving the leading judgment, said in Al Rawi:

… subject to certain exceptions and statutory qualifications, the right to be confronted by one’s accusers is such a fundamental element of the common law right to a fair trial that the court cannot abrogate it in the exercise of its inherent power. Only Parliament can do that. The closed material procedure excludes a party from the closed part of the trial. He cannot see the witnesses who speak in that part of the trial; nor can he see closed documents; he cannot hear or read the closed evidence or the submissions made in the closed hearing; and finally he cannot see the judge delivering the closed judgment nor can he read it.

Can all of these flaws be cured by a special advocate system? No doubt, special advocates can mitigate these weaknesses to some extent and in some cases the litigant may be able to add little or nothing to what the special advocate can do. For example, this will be the case where the litigant has no knowledge of the matters to which the closed material relates and can give no instructions which will enable the special advocate to perform his function more effectively. But in many cases, the special advocate will be hampered by not being able to take instructions from his client on the closed material. A further problem is that it may not always be possible for the judge (even with the benefit of assistance from the special advocate) to decide whether the special advocate will be hampered in this way.

The limitations of the special advocate system, even in the context of the statutory contexts for which they were devised, were highlighted by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in their report on Counter-Terrorism Policy and Human Rights (Sixteenth report): Annual Renewal of Control Orders Legislation 2010 (HL Paper 64/HC 395) (dated 26 February 2010) in the context of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 and cases heard by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. This report was based on the first-hand experience of those who have acted as special advocates. As the Court of Appeal noted at para 57, it is the Committee’s view after five years of operation that the closed material procedure (with special advocates) operated under the statutory regimes is not capable of ensuring the substantial measure of procedural justice that is required.

Lord Dyson went on to quote from an earlier JCHR Report:  at para 210 of that earlier report, HL Paper 157, HC 394, (published on 30 July 2007), the Committee had concluded:

“After listening to the evidence of the Special Advocates, we found it hard not to reach for well worn descriptions of it as ‘Kafkaesque’ or like the Star Chamber. The Special Advocates agreed when it was put to them that, in the light of the concerns they had raised, ‘the public should be left in absolutely no doubt that what is happening…has absolutely nothing to do with the traditions of adversarial justice as we have come to understand them in the British legal system.’ Indeed, we were left with the very strong feeling that this is a process which is not just offensive to the basic principles of adversarial justice in which lawyers are steeped, but it is very much against the basic notions of fair play as the lay public would understand them. “

Lord Kerr, again in Al Rawi, stated (at paragraph 94):

 Quite apart from the reasons so clearly stated by Lord Dyson about the necessary, inevitable but ultimately inherent frailties of the special advocate system, the challenge that the special advocate can present is, in the final analysis, of a theoretical, abstract nature only. It is, self evidently and admittedly, a distinctly second best attempt to secure a just outcome to proceedings. It should always be a measure of last resort; one to which recourse is had only when no possible alternative is available. It should never be regarded as an acceptable substitute for the compromise of a fundamental right such as is at stake in this case.

The scope of the proposals

The exceptional interests of national security are relied upon in the Green Paper as justifying extending the scope of CMPs, yet the proposals appear to relate to any material in which there is a public interest in non-disclosure, not just where the interest concerned is that of national security. Thus, it seems that PII (the long-standing doctrine of ‘public interest immunity’ which has developed to deal with sensitive material, and involves a balance between the public interest in non-disclosure against the public interest in the proper administration of justice) could effectively be abolished in a wide range cases, including those which have nothing to do with national security.

The need for critical debate

The proposals deserve much more attention and critical debate. This seems unlikely to be forthcoming from the opposition, although the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has recently announced its intention to hold an inquiry into the proposals in the Green Paper, and will formally call for evidence in a few weeks time. I would urge all those interested in the fairness of judicial procedures in this country to review, and consider responding to, the Green Paper.  Responses to the Consultation have to be be sent via email or post by Friday 6 January 2012.

Sign up to free human rights updates by email, Facebook, Twitter or RSS

Related posts:

Welcome to the UKHRB


This blog is run by 1 Crown Office Row barristers' chambers. Subscribe for free updates here. The blog's editorial team is:
Commissioning Editor: Jonathan Metzer
Editorial Team: Rosalind English
Angus McCullough QC David Hart QC
Martin Downs
Jim Duffy

Free email updates


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog for free and receive weekly notifications of new posts by email.

Subscribe

Categories


Tags


7/7 Bombings 9/11 A1P1 Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption AI air pollution air travel ALBA Allergy Al Qaeda Amnesty International animal rights Animals anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 article 263 TFEU Artificial Intelligence Asbestos Assange assisted suicide asylum asylum seekers Australia autism badgers benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology birds directive blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery British Waterways Board Catholic Church Catholicism Chagos Islanders Charter of Fundamental Rights child protection Children children's rights China christianity circumcision citizenship civil liberties campaigners civil partnerships climate change clinical negligence closed material procedure Coercion Cologne Commission on a Bill of Rights common buzzard common law communications competition confidentiality confiscation order conscientious objection consent conservation constitution contact order contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus costs costs budgets Court of Protection crime criminal law Criminal Legal Aid criminal records Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty declaration of incompatibility defamation deficit DEFRA Democracy village Dennis Gill dentist's registration fees deportation deprivation of liberty derogations Detention devolution Dignitas dignity Dignity in Dying diplomacy director of public prosecutions disability Disability-related harassment disabled claimants disciplinary hearing disclosure Discrimination Discrimination law disease divorce DNA doctors does it matter? domestic violence Dominic Grieve don't ask don't ask don't tell don't tell Doogan and Wood double conviction DPP guidelines drones duty of care ECHR economic and social rights economic loss ECtHR Education election Employment Environment environmental information Equality Act Equality Act 2010 ethics Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights European Court of Justice european disability forum European Sanctions Blog Eurozone euthanasia evidence Exclusion extra-jurisdictional reach of ECHR extra-territoriality extradition extradition act extradition procedures extradition review extraordinary rendition Facebook Facebook contempt facial recognition fair procedures Fair Trial faith courts fake news Family family courts family law family legal aid Family life fatal accidents act Fertility fertility treatment FGM fisheries fishing rights foreign criminals foreign office foreign policy France freedom of assembly Freedom of Association Freedom of Expression freedom of information Freedom of Information Act 2000 freedom of movement freedom of speech free speech game birds gangbo gang injunctions Garry Mann gary dobson Gary McFarlane gay discrimination Gay marriage gay rights gay soldiers Gaza Gaza conflict Gender General Dental Council General Election General Medical Council genetic discrimination genetic engineering genetic information genetics genetic testing Google government Grenfell grooming Gun Control gwyneth paltrow gypsies habitats habitats protection Halsbury's Law Exchange hammerton v uk happy new year harassment Hardeep Singh Haringey Council Harkins and Edwards Health healthcare health insurance Heathrow heist heightened scrutiny Henry VII Henry VIII herd immunity hereditary disorder High Court of Justiciary Hirst v UK HIV HJ Iran HM (Iraq) v The Secretary of state for the home department [2010] EWCA Civ 1322 Holder holkham beach holocaust homelessness Home Office Home Office v Tariq homeopathy hooding Hounslow v Powell House of Commons Housing housing benefits Howard League for Penal Reform how judges decide cases hra damages claim Hrant Dink HRLA HS2 hs2 challenge hts http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2011/04/11/us-state-department-reports-on-uk-human-rights/ Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority human genome human rights Human Rights Act Human Rights Act 1998 human rights advocacy Human rights and the UK constitution human rights commission human rights conventions human rights damages Human Rights Day human rights decisions Human Rights Information Project human rights news Human Rights Watch human right to education human trafficking hunting Huntington's Disease HXA hyper injunctions Igor Sutyagin illegality defence immigration Immigration/Extradition Immigration Act 2014 immigration appeals immigration detention immigration judge immigration rules immunity increase of sanction India Indonesia Infrastructure Planning Committee inherent jurisdiction inherited disease Inhuman and degrading treatment injunction Inquest Inquests insult insurance insurmountable obstacles intelligence services act intercept evidence interception interests of the child interim remedies international international conflict international criminal court international humanitarian law international human rights international human rights law international law international treaty obligations internet internet service providers internment internship inuit investigation investigative duty in vitro fertilisation Iran iranian bank sanctions Iranian nuclear program Iraq Iraqi asylum seeker Iraq War Ireland irrationality islam Israel Italy iTunes IVF ivory ban jackson reforms Janowiec and Others v Russia ( Japan Jason Smith Jeet Singh Jefferies Jeremy Corbyn jeremy hunt job Jogee John Hemming John Terry joint enterprise joint tenancy Jon Guant Joseph v Spiller journalism judaism judges Judges and Juries judging Judicial activism judicial brevity judicial deference judicial review Judicial Review reform judiciary Julian Assange jurisdiction jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Act Justice and Security Bill Justice and Security Green Paper Justice Human Rights Awards JUSTICE Human Rights Awards 2010 justification just satisfaction Katyn Massacre Kay v Lambeth Kay v UK Ken Clarke Ken Pease Kerry McCarthy Kettling Kings College Klimas koran burning Labour Lady Hale lansley NHS reforms LASPO Law Commission Law Pod UK Law Society Law Society of Scotland leave to enter leave to remain legal aid legal aid cuts Legal Aid desert Legal Aid Reforms legal blogs Legal Certainty legal naughty step Legal Ombudsman legal representation legitimate expectation let as a dwelling Leveson Inquiry Levi Bellfield lewisham hospital closure lgbtq liability Libel libel reform Liberal Democrat Conference Liberty libraries closure library closures Libya licence conditions licence to shoot life insurance life sentence life support limestone pavements limitation lisbon treaty Lithuania Litigation litvinenko live exports local authorities locked in syndrome london borough of merton London Legal Walk London Probation Trust Lord Bingham Lord Bingham of Cornhill Lord Blair Lord Goldsmith lord irvine Lord Judge speech Lord Kerr Lord Lester Lord Neuberger Lord Phillips Lord Rodger Lord Sumption Lord Taylor LSC tender luftur rahman machine learning MAGA Magna Carta mail on sunday Majority Verdict Malcolm Kennedy malice Margaret Thatcher Margin of Appreciation margin of discretion Maria Gallastegui marriage material support maternity pay Matthew Woods Mattu v The University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust [2011] EWHC 2068 (QB) Maya the Cat Mba v London Borough Of Merton McKenzie friend Media and Censorship Medical medical liability medical negligence medical qualifications medical records medicine mental capacity Mental Capacity Act Mental Capacity Act 2005 Mental Health mental health act mental health advocacy mental health awareness Mental Health Courts Mental illness merits review MGN v UK michael gove Midwives migrant crisis Milly Dowler Ministerial Code Ministry of Justice Ministry of Justice cuts misfeasance in public office modern slavery morality morocco mortuaries motherhood Motor Neurone disease Moulton Mousa MP expenses Mr Gul Mr Justice Eady MS (Palestinian Territories) (FC) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department murder murder reform Musician's Union Muslim NADA v. SWITZERLAND - 10593/08 - HEJUD [2012] ECHR 1691 naked rambler Naomi Campbell nationality National Pro Bono Week national security Natural England nature conservation naturism Nazi negligence Neuberger neuroscience Newcastle university news News of the World new Supreme Court President NHS NHS Risk Register Nick Clegg Nicklinson Niqaab Noise Regulations 2005 Northern Ireland nuclear challenges nuisance nursing nursing home Obituary Occupy London offensive jokes Offensive Speech offensive t shirt oil spill olympics open justice oppress OPQ v BJM orchestra Osama Bin Laden Oxford University paramountcy principle parental rights parenthood parking spaces parliamentary expenses parliamentary expenses scandal Parliamentary sovereignty Parliament square parole board passive smoking pastor Terry Jones patents Pathway Students Patrick Quinn murder Pensions persecution personal data Personal Injury personality rights perversity Peter and Hazelmary Bull PF and EF v UK Phil Woolas phone hacking phone taps physical and mental disabilities physician assisted death Pinnock Piracy Plagiarism planning planning human rights planning system plebgate POCA podcast points Poland Police police investigations police liability police misconduct police powers police surveillance Policy Exchange report political judges Politics Politics/Public Order poor reporting Pope Pope's visit Pope Benedict portal possession proceedings power of attorney PoW letters to ministers pre-nup pre-nuptial Pre-trial detention predator control pregnancy press press briefing press freedom Prince Charles prince of wales princess caroline of monaco principle of subsidiarity prior restraint prison Prisoners prisoners rights prisoners voting prisoner vote prisoner votes prisoner voting prison numbers Prisons prison vote privacy privacy injunction privacy law through the front door Private life private nuisance private use proceeds of crime Professional Discipline Property proportionality prosecution Protection of Freedoms Act Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest protest camp protest rights Protocol 15 psychiatric hospitals Public/Private public access publication public authorities Public Bodies Bill public inquiries public interest public interest environmental litigation public interest immunity Public Order Public Sector Equality Duty putting the past behind quango quantum quarantine Queen's Speech queer in the 21st century R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department & Ors [2011] EWCA Civ 895 R (on the application of) v The General Medical Council [2013] EWHC 2839 (Admin) R (on the application of EH) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWHC 2569 (Admin) R (on the application of G) v The Governors of X School Rabone and another v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust [2012] UKSC 2 race relations Rachel Corrie Radmacher Raed Salah Mahajna Raed Saleh Ramsgate raptors rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion resuscitation RightsInfo right to die right to family life right to life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania Round Up Royals Russia saudi arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice Secret trials security services sexual offence Sikhism Smoking social media social workers South Africa south african constitution Spain special advocates spending cuts Standing starvation statelessness stem cells stop and search Strasbourg super injunctions Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance swine flu Syria Tax Taxi technology Terrorism terrorism act tort Torture travel treason treaty accession trial by jury TTIP Turkey Twitter UK Ukraine unfair consultation universal jurisdiction unlawful detention USA US Supreme Court vaccination vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wildlife wind farms WomenInLaw Worboys wrongful birth YearInReview Zimbabwe

Disclaimer


This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.

Our privacy policy can be found on our ‘subscribe’ page or by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: