Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Secret Inquest Bill Passes

A backbench amendment that would have thrown out the Government's proposals for the replacement of open inquests with secret 'inquiries' was narrowly defeated by 8 votes in the House of Commons yesterday. Under the measures ministers will be able to order that an inquest is replaced with a secret inquiry whenever they consider it necessary.

MPs and civil rights groups accused the Government of eroding the ancient right to a public inquest and for trying to sneak through an 'abuse of power'. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, which has strongly opposed the powers said: "The British public has no taste for secret justice, particularly when the rights of grieving families are at stake."

Jack Straw said the move would only affect a "tiny number" of cases. I don't believe him. This is the start of a slippery slope towards the end of open inquests. This government has used this 'bit at a time' method to chip away at many of our freedoms.

The truth is that Jack Straw's 'national security' arguments are a smokescreen. This bill is all about sparing the police and the authorities from any embarrassment that might arise from open inquests and their independent-minded coroners. Remember Andrew Walker, the Wiltshire coroner, who spoke out about the MoD at inquests on British troops?

Update: For readers who live out with the UK, the above legislation does not apply to Scotland where there is a different legal system. The latest report on Fatal Accident Enquiries for Scotland can be read here.


Apogee said...

How long before the MSM is nationalised? Take control of the media to show how well the government is running things!
How will "lessons be learnt" about failures by the government if everything is hidden.


Oldrightie said...

"if everything is hidden."

This is another disgraceful move by a secretive and nasty bunch of expense claimants. Will The "Opposition" come out and declare they will repeal this debased piece of Stalininsm? Don't hold your breath.

Lallands Peat Worrier said...

I agree with you on one point Subrosa - the effects of laws which furnish anyone with discretionary powers cannot readily be predicted. Change and creative compliance can turn the same enactment into two different beasties. The use of the powers distributed by the Terrorism Acts is evidence enough of that.

That said, here in Scotland (or since I'm in England, over by you) you'll know that we don't have coroners courts, and the procurator fiscal investigate deaths. There is the possibility of a fatal accident inquiry. In terms of your argument, however, we Scots are "worse" than the English in transparency of death terms - we don't require a smokescreen at all. "Secret justice", do you think? How does justice come into it?

In case you missed it, or were interested, you can read Lord Cullen's report into the Fatal Accident Enquiries - published this month - here:

banned said...

Presumably the smarmy Tories think that this will be quite a handy statute to have on the books when they come to power ?

Clarinda said...

According to Our Kingdom yesterday there have been 26,000 laws brought into being in the last 800 years - 20,000 since 1997.
Most of these frequently pass through Westminster without debate having already been framed by Whitehall bureaucrats. Add in the avalanche of the EU it is surprising that Westminster needs anything more than a panjandrum sitting alone in a small room with a rubber-stamp.

It must be terrible to live in a small mountainous country with remarkable natural reserves and potential, partially ruled by a corrupt and supressive central government, little sign of true democracy, oppressive laws made by external forces and a population in fear of terrorist cells and fear itself.

I don't think I've ever felt so angry and upset at any previous eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month than I do today.

subrosa said...

We're going that way Apogee. Freedom of the press isn't what it was 40 years ago and nobody could convince me otherwise.

subrosa said...

I'm not holding my breath OR. I'm very disappointed in your party though - they seem so unconcerned about matters like this.

subrosa said...

Lallands, thank you for reminding me I ought to have said the legislation did not apply to Scotland and have put an update to that effect.

What little I know about FAIs here isn't good and I shall make a point of reading Cullen's report over the next few days.

Thanks for the link.

subrosa said...

Of course it's handy banned, any laws which curtail transparency are fine with MPs.

subrosa said...

I'm angry most days Clarinda, but I understand your feelings.

MPs are really posh clerks these days. Most of their work is being an intermediate between their constituents and government departments from which their constituents can get no satisfaction.

Of course, there's all the EU legislation to meander through ...

Great Big Billygoat Gruff said...

Jack Straw is the most odious untrustworthy member of any Labour cabinet.

He lies light in the public face of the oppressive side of this soft neo-communist manifestation of the socialist brand.

A real nasty bit of work, pulling strings, quietly deconstructing democracy and smiling his crocodile smile all the time.

Great Big Billygoat Gruff said...

I think that he has one of the highest postal votes, as a percentage, in the UK elections.

He has had for some years, long before Glenrothes and Glasgow North East.

subrosa said...

Your assessment of Jack Straw is almost identical to one who owns a Macpro.

Related Posts with Thumbnails