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Justice and Security Bill 2012-13

Royal Assent

(This Bill is from a previous session)

Summary

  • Bill status:

    Bill is now an Act

  • Type of Bill:

    Government Bill

Sponsors:

Last event

Summary

The Justice and Security green paper was published on 19 October 2011, and the accompanying consultation closed on 6 January 2012. The green paper follows a supreme court ruling in July 2011 that sensitive evidence could not be examined in secret in the cases of six Guantanamo Bay detainees. The final Bill was confirmed in the Queen's speech of 9 May 2012 and was introduced to the House of Lords on 28 May 2012.

The Bill aims to allow sensitive material to be examined as evidence in civil proceedings, without that material being made available to the general public.

It allows for:

  • 'closed material procedures' be extended to all civil contexts other than inquests, with the decision to withhold sensitive material taken by a minister
  • the clarification of the legal obligations of the courts to summarise sensitive material to interested party when closed material procedures are used
  • the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) to have greater powers to solicit information from the security services, and that the ISC be made a statutory committee of Parliament

Closed material procedures are controversial arrangements designed to protect secret government information that is used as evidence in court. The evidence is withheld from public viewing, and is never seen in full by the other party or its legal team. The evidence is submitted directly to the judge, and viewed by a special, independent advocate, appointed to defend the other party's interests.

Although the existing concept of Public Interest Immunity (PII) allows sensitive evidence to be entirely withheld from civil proceedings, if the use of PII renders the government unable to defend itself suitably, it is, at present, forced to settle at the cost of the taxpayer.

In July 2011, the government attempted to defend itself against claims by six former Guantanamo Bay inmates that the British security services had abetted their extraordinary rendition and unlawful imprisonment. The supreme court ruled that a closed material procedure could not be ordered in lieu of a PII certificate, and the government was forced to settle at a cost of £20 million. In order to avert this problem in the future, the Ministry of Justice proposes to extend the use of closed material procedures to all civil contexts, not just those involving national security.

At the time of the green paper's publication, Ken Clarke has said that he was seeking 'cross-party consensus' on the green paper, and Labour is expected to support its proposals.

The green paper recommended that the merits of appointing an Inspector-General for the security and intelligence agencies be examined, but no such provision was included in the final Bill.

The green paper recommended that closed material procedures be extended to all civil contexts, but following pressure from Nick Clegg, the Bill will not allow evidence to be heard in private during inquests. Negotiations on this point are reported to have delayed the publication of the Bill by almost a week.

The proposals has been strongly criticised by civil rights groups AmnestyLiberty and Reprieve, who are opposed to the use of withheld evidence in civil cases and the power the green paper will vest in ministers. Liberty said that the Guantanamo Bay payouts "should encourage the avoidance of complicity in torture not blatant attempts to halt centuries of British justice.