Media By: Angus McCullough QC


“Secret Justice”: An Oxymoron and the Overdue Review

28 January 2020 by

secret courts
Since at least the 16th century the personification of Justice has been depicted wearing a blindfold to represent impartiality.

Angus McCullough QC is a barrister at 1 Crown Office Row with experience of acting as a Special Advocate in closed proceedings since 2002.

The Government has still not implemented the review of Closed Procedures that Parliament had dictated should take place when passing the Justice and Security Act 2013.  A review is required to cover the first five years after the Act came into force, and should have been completed “as soon as reasonably practicable” thereafter.  That period expired in June 2018, and there are still no signs of a reviewer being appointed.

Readers familiar with closed procedures and their background may wish to skip the first half of this post.

‘Secret Justice’ is a deliberate oxymoron, used by some legal commentators as a term for Closed Material Procedures (CMPs).  Justice, of course should generally be open and transparent, not secret.   The principle of open justice dates back centuries, and the law reports are full of reiterations of its importance.  Here’s one example, this from Lord Woolf in R v Legal Aid Board, ex p Kaim Todner  [1999] QB 966:

The need to be vigilant arises from the natural tendency for the general principle to be eroded and for exceptions to grow by accretion as the exceptions are applied by analogy to existing cases.  This is the reason it is so important not to forget why proceedings are required to be subjected to the full glare of a public hearing. It is necessary because the public nature of proceedings deters inappropriate behaviour on the part of the court. It also maintains the public’s confidence in the administration of justice. It enables the public to know that justice is being administered impartially. It can result in evidence becoming available which would not become available if the proceedings were conducted behind closed doors or with one or more of the parties’ or witnesses’ identity concealed. It makes uninformed and inaccurate comment about the proceedings less likely. If secrecy is restricted to those situations where justice would be frustrated if the cloak of anonymity is not provided, this reduces the risk of the sanction of contempt having to be invoked, with the expense and the interference with the administration of justice which this can involve.

An equally fundamental principle of fairness in legal proceedings is that a party should know the evidence and case against them.  This has even been given a Latin epithet (audi alteram partem).  But you don’t need to be a scholar of either classics or law to appreciate that being aware of the material that the other side is putting before the court, and having the opportunity to challenge and answer it, is a cardinal feature of fair legal proceedings.  The personification of Justice (see picture) is blindfolded, to represent her impartiality; but litigants are expected to have an unimpaired view of the proceedings.


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Straining the Alphabet Soup: Part 2 — Drafting anonymity orders

2 May 2019 by

Angus McCullough QC is a barrister at One Crown Office Row. Read Part 1 about Anonymity orders in Personal Injury proceedings here.

In Part 1 we looked at the circumstances in which a court may be prepared to grant anonymity in personal injury proceedings, and the applicable principles. In Part 2 I consider practical issues in the drafting of these orders, and problems encountered in this.

In particular, I will suggest that the standard Court Form PF10, that is now frequently being adopted, is generally inappropriate for anonymity orders in personal injury proceedings.


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Straining the Alphabet Soup: Part 1 — Anonymity orders in Personal Injury proceedings

30 April 2019 by

Angus McCullough QC is a barrister at One Crown Office Row

Amendments to CPR r.39.2; new Guidance issued by the Master of the Rolls; and a recent High Court decision refusing anonymity to a claimant prompt this review of anonymity orders in personal injury proceedings.

You act for someone who is vulnerable as a result of a serious brain injury.  Her claim has been settled, and as a result your client is due to receive a large award of compensation, of several million pounds.  The Court’s approval of the settlement is required (under the Civil Procedure Rules r.21.10).  There is a concern that if there is publicity about the award your vulnerable client will be targeted and exploited by unscrupulous individuals.  However, principles of open justice, and rights under Article 10 (freedom of speech), are engaged and favour unrestricted reporting of court proceedings.


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The EU Withdrawal Bill and Judicial Review: Are we ready?

15 January 2018 by

EU flagA flash-back to 1980:  the first series of the TV sitcom, ‘Yes Minister’ and a discussion between a Permanent Secretary (Sir Humphrey Appleby) and his Minister (the Rt Hon Jim Hacker MP):

Sir Humphrey: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last five hundred years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now, when it’s worked so well?

Hacker: That’s all ancient history, surely?

Sir Humphrey: Yes, and current policy. We had to break the whole thing up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn’t work. Now that we’re inside we can make a complete pig’s breakfast of the whole thing — set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch… The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it’s just like old times.

Hacker: But surely we’re all committed to the European ideal?

Sir Humphrey[chuckles] Really, Minister.

 

Nearly 40 years later, as the Westminster Government seeks to extract the UK from the European project, chuckles are in short supply (in contrast to articles about Brexit).  This piece considers the role of judicial review as the EU Withdrawal Bill is enacted, and after Brexit day has dawned – and the capacity of the Administrative Court to meet the increased demands that will predictably be made of it.

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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 … .


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Human rights and judicial review in the past year – Part 4/4: Article 12, the right to marry

26 October 2010 by

This post is adapted from a presentation given at the Justice Human Rights Law Conference, and will be split into four parts. Part 1 can be found here, part 2 here and part 3 here.

Today, in the final part of this series, I concentrate on recent cases involving Article 12, the right to marry and a couple of other notable cases. You can find previous posts on Article 12 here.


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Human rights and judicial review in the past year – Part 3/4: Article 6, the right to a fair trial

25 October 2010 by

This post is adapted from a presentation given at the Justice Human Rights Law Conference, and will be split into four parts.

This post is adapted from a presentation given at the Justice Human Rights Law Conference, and will be split into four parts. Part 1 can be found here and part 2 here.

Today I concentrate on Article 6: the right to a fair trial (click here for previous posts on Article 6).


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Human rights and judicial review in the past year – Part 2/4: Articles 3 and 5

22 October 2010 by

This post is adapted from a presentation given at the Justice Human Rights Law Conference, and will be split into four parts. Part 1 can be found here.

Today I concentrate on Article 3: inhuman and degrading treatment (click here for previous posts on Article 3).

A range of cases – as ever, mostly arising in the context of immigration, extradition, and prisons – have been decided in the last year, but most are fact-specific, and few have given rise to particularly significant developments of principle.

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Human rights and judicial review in the past year – Part 1/4: Article 2, the right to life

22 October 2010 by

This post is adapted from a presentation given at the Justice Human Rights Law Conference, and will be split into four parts.

I aim to summarise the most important judicial review cases concerning Articles 2, 3, 5, 6 and 12 of the ECHR during the last year. I have also included two other cases of interest, although they cannot be categorised under any of these Articles. Today, Article 2: the right to life (click here for previous posts on the right to life).

The substantive Article 2 duty owed to mental patients

Rabone v. Pennine Care NHS Trust [2010] EWCA Civ 698read our post

The CA have clarified the scope and application of Savage. The HL in Savage had left unclear – to say the least – whether its finding that an operational ‘Osman’ type duty applied to a compulsorily detained mental patient extended to a voluntary mental patient.

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Lord Bingham’s Legacy

13 September 2010 by

We have highlighted the obituaries and tributes to Lord Bingham yesterday and today.  For those interested in a more extensive review of his judicial contributions to the field of administrative law generally, and human rights law in particular, I would recommend an article published by Michael Fordham QC in Judicial Review last year:  [2009] JR 103.

This was a paper presented to the Hart Judicial Review Conference in December 2008.  As Fordham says:

There is no better way to illustrate and celebrate Lord Bingham’s contribution to administrative law than through his own words. What follows is a tapestry, no doubt just one from many, capable of being woven using strands of Lord Bingham’s judicial analysis, which will for decades to come guide and equip practitioners, academics and judges in the field of public law and human rights.

Human rights on the battlefield – a postscript on ‘dicta’ (and ‘dicta’)

1 July 2010 by

Even if technically obiter, it is suggested that the reasoned decision of the majority of the Supreme Court in Smith is likely to be regarded as binding in practice, if not in strict theory.

This is a postscript to Adam Wagner’s post this morning on the UKSC decision in R (Smith) v. MOD (see our post summarising the decision or read the judgment), commenting on the debate as to the authority of the judgment of the majority on the jurisdictional issue.

It may be worth bearing in mind the weight likely to be accorded by any lower court to the views of the majority of a 9 judge constitution of the Supreme Court.  Even if not technically binding, it is hard to imagine any judge at first instance, or even the Court of Appeal, having the courage to depart from the reasoned views of the majority on this point, unless arising in some unforeseen or unusual factual context.

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Amnesty International report criticises UK’s record on deportation and torture

27 May 2010 by

Amnesty International published its 2010 Report yesterday, documenting torture and other human rights abuses around the world.

In relation to the UK, Amnesty’s report condemns the UK’s continuing reliance on “diplomatic assurances” in deportation cases where individuals were likely to be at risk of torture or other abuse if sent to countries where the Government accepts they would otherwise be abuse, in particular Algeria and Jordan. The report summarises that:

Reports implicating the UK in grave violations of human rights of people held overseas continued to emerge. Calls for independent investigations into the UK’s role in these violations went unheeded. The government’s attempts to return people to countries known to practise torture on the basis of “diplomatic assurances” (unenforceable promises from the countries where these individuals were to be returned) continued. The European Court of Human Rights found that, by detaining a number of foreign nationals without charge or trial (internment), the UK had violated their human rights. The implementation of measures adopted with the stated aim of countering terrorism led to human rights violations, including unfair judicial proceedings.

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Joint Committee on Human Rights calls for control order scheme to be discontinued

31 March 2010 by

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (‘the Joint Committee’) has released its report on the Annual Renewal of Control Order Legislation 2010, in which it heavily criticised the control order scheme. The scheme, introduced in 2005, allows courts to put terror suspects under restrictions resembling house arrest by placing them under curfews of up to 16 hours a day and, typically, constraints on their movements and communications. There were 12 suspects subject to control orders in December 2009.

Whereas the Joint Committee has previously criticised the scheme, this is the first time that it has recommended for it to be discontinued. The committee said:

We have serious concerns about the control order system. Evidence shows the devastating impact of control orders on the subject of the orders, their families and their communities. In addition detailed information is now available about the cost of control orders which raises questions about whether the cost the system is out of all proportion to the supposed public benefit. We find it hard to believe that the annual cost of surveillance of the small number of individuals subject to control orders would exceed the amount currently being paid to lawyers in the ongoing litigation about control orders. Finally, we believe that because the Government has ignored our previous recommendations for reform, the system gives rise to unnecessary breaches of individuals’ rights to liberty and due process.

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Buglife: An important decision on Protective Costs Orders

30 November 2009 by

R (Buglife) v. Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation [2008] EWHC 475 (Admin), [2008] EWCA Civ 1209, [2009] EWCA Civ 29

By Angus McCullough, One Crown Office Row

Protective Costs Orders (PCOs) are a relatively new feature on the legal landscape. The Buglife case is of general significance in relation to the procedure and approach to be adopted in relation to PCOs, and associated costs caps, as set out in the Court of Appeal’s judgment of 4 November 2008, which is reported at [2009] Env LR 18 (Buglife (1)). Separately and more specifically, the substantive claim for judicial review is also notable, as an example of the Court’s approach to a planning decision to allow a development on a site of environmental significance. This was also considered by the Court of Appeal: Buglife (2).

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