Secret courts plan in chaos: Lords reject closed hearings by crushing majority

Plans for secret courts were left in tatters last night by the House of Lords

By James Chapman and Jason Groves

PUBLISHED: 23:07, 21 November 2012





Peers voted by crushing majorities for fundamental changes to the Justice and Security Bill, which would allow civil cases involving national security to be conducted in secret.

By margins of over 100 votes, peers voted to remove ministers’ exclusive right to apply for secret hearings and to give judges ultimate discretion in deciding whether or not they should be held behind closed doors.

As the legislation was introduced in the Lords, the Government’s plans came under devastating attack from several of Britain’s most senior retired judges and politicians.

The defeats suggest ministers will have to return to the drawing board and accept a series of amendments – or risk seeing the entire piece of legislation thrown out.

Critics say the Government’s proposals will seriously threaten Britain’s reputation for open and fair justice.

The Daily Mail has led criticism of the plans to allow so-called ‘closed material procedures’ (CMPs), in which cases are conducted entirely in private, in any civil hearing.

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