Last night was a dark moment for British justice as odious Government plans for Secret Courts moved to the brink of becoming law. The House of Lords voted against introducing safeguards to the Justice and Security Bill ensuring that so-called Closed Material Procedures (CMPs) were used only as a last resort. The margin was tight, but the legislation was passed in its entirety and now heads for Royal Assent and the statute book in all of its foul, shadowy glory. Not only are Secret Courts infesting our civil law system – minor restrictions making them slightly less deplorable have also been dismissed.
Peers voted by 174 to 158 against a Labour amendment which would allow CMPs only where a judge decided a fair verdict was impossible by other means. The proposed safeguard won cross-party support, with 26 Liberal Democrats rebelling alongside 16 crossbenchers, six non-affiliated peers, one Conservative and 109 Labour counterparts to back the amendment. Regrettably it wasn’t to be, and we now move towards a world where Ministers will be able to rely upon secret evidence – never disclosed to the claimant, let alone public or press – during cosy private chats with judges behind closed doors.
And yet the principled opposition to Secret Courts was clear throughout the Upper House. Labour opposition spokesperson for justice Lord Beecham, moving the amendment, urged peers to help “minimise the damage threatened to the most valued elements of our jurisprudence and judicial system”.
Liberal Democrat peer and former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Macdonald of River Glaven QC observed: “Nothing would be more corrosive of justice and public confidence in justice than the routine intrusion into our system of closed procedures, of secret courts, of excluded defendants, of confidential meetings between government lawyers and the judge.”
“I have never been convinced of the Government’s position that expelling one party to the proceedings and running the risk of evidence not being challenged is better justice than excluding some evidence, not a party, from the hearing,” said Conservative peer Baroness Berridge, a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. “It is better for the Government, but not for justice.”
And former Attorney-General and Labour peer Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws QC told the House of Lords: “Openness will sometimes be more important for the health of the nation because of the poison that is released by secrecy.”
“This legislation involves so radical a departure from the cardinal principle of open justice in civil proceedings, so sensitive an aspect of the court’s processes, that everything that can possibly help minimise the number of occasions when the power is used should be recognised and should appear in the legislation itself,” added non-affiliated peer and former Justice of the Supreme Court Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood.
We also mustn’t forget the mountain of outside opposition which the Government ignored in forcing the Bill through. Lawyers, the international community, the Scottish Government and much of the national press rejected the legislation, along with politicians of all political stripes and hordes of Liberal Democrat supporters. Liberty members also fought the proposals determinedly and we salute their dedicated campaigning.
That the Government failed to make the case for Secret Courts is beyond debate. There wasn’t a shred of evidence suggesting they were necessary; not a single previous case where the existing system for handling sensitive material had fallen short. Clearly the argument was won, but not quite the politics. Needless to say we’ll continue working hard on this – starting as soon as the Bill is rolled out.
Source – Liberty
Today protesters have gathered in the West End to campaign against the government’s welfare reform bill. Oxford Street, Regent Street and Oxford Circus have been brought to a standstill as people in wheelchairs chained themselves together.
Campaigners from disability groups and direct action group UK Uncut chanted and waved banners and banged drums blocking off Regent Street and the demonstration is believed to have caused traffic jams in London’s West End as fifteen people in wheelchairs chained themselves to railings and eventually were joined by hundreds of others to campaign against the Government’s Welfare Reform.
Campaigners believe that hundreds of thousands of families will lose their homes or become “imprisoned” inside them. Josie McDermott, a 32-year-old UK Uncut supporter, said: “The welfare reform bill is cruel and unnecessary” and added “..this protest is an essential way to persuade the government to scrap its plans.”
Campaigners believe that the Government is choosing to pick on marginalised groups of people in the UK, in trying to pay back the economic UK deficit rather than focussing on the large bonuses and companies that they believe continue to avoid tax to the estimated amount of £25bn.
“It is typical bully tactics by the government to force marginalised people in society to pay for the economic downturn” one campaigner said.
A spokesperson for the Government said that they will continue to spend more than £40bn a year on disabled people, and that they are committed to supporting disabled people in the UK.
The bill will not affect households where someone receives disability living allowance, as they will be exempt from the benefit cap the Government has pledged, and they have also said that an extra £190 million will be given to local authorities over a four year period to ensure vulnerable people are supported through the housing benefit reform to ensure that disabled people will not lose their homes.
The public will be asked if they think the law should be changed to allow science to move a step forward so a cure could be found for potentially fatal inherited diseases, the Government has announced today.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has been asked to lead a public discussion to ask if a new scientific procedure, which could prevent women with mitochondrial disease from passing the illness to their children, should be introduced. This will be launched later this year.
Mitochondrial disease is a genetic condition that affects an individual’s mitochondria – the part of the body’s cells that produces the energy they need to function. The disease affects everyone differently, but symptoms include poor growth, loss of muscle coordination, visual and hearing problems, mental disorders, heart disease and liver disease.
The condition affects approximately one in 5,000 adults. One in 6,500 babies are born with a severe form of the disease that can lead to death in early infancy. There is no cure.
It is estimated that around 12,000 people live with a mitochondrial disease in the UK and scientists estimate that the treatment could save the lives of around ten children affected by severe forms of the disease a year.
A proposed procedure would use IVF to fertilise the egg of a woman affected by mitochondrial disease with her partner’s sperm. The genetic material of the fertilised egg that determines the characteristics of the potential child would then be transferred to the shell of an egg donated by a woman who has healthy mitochondria. This procedure would not be allowed under the current law
Source: NDS (C.O.I.)
The Government is today publishing its response to the report by the Independent Commission on Banking (ICB), which sets out plans to fundamentally reform the structure of banking in the UK. This response agrees with the ICB’s recommendations and outlines how the Government will legislate to create a stable banking sector that supports lending to businesses and families, and removes the implicit taxpayer guarantee in the event of a bank failure.
The Government will implement the ICB’s advice in stages with the full package of reforms completed by 2019. All necessary legislation will therefore be put in place by the end of this Parliament. The Government will publish a White Paper in spring 2012 setting out further detail on how the recommendations will be implemented; in advance of that, the Government is open to views on how to implement these plans.
“The Independent Commission on Banking was set up last year to look at what I have called the ‘British Dilemma’: how Britain can be home to one of the world’s leading financial centres without exposing British taxpayers to the massive costs of those banks failing.
The Government is preparing the most far reaching reforms of British banking in our modern history – our objective is to make sure what happened in Britain never happens again.”
This is “Bulgaria’s Abandoned Children” which was recently shown on BBC Four.
The documentary uncovered the appalling treatment of disabled and autistic children in the town of Mogilino, Bulgaria.
If you are affected by this programme PLEASE sign the following U.K petition http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Children-Dying/#detail