The Justice and Security Bill: Six Crucial Outstanding Issues

The report stage and third reading of the Justice and Security Bill is due to take place in the House of Commons at 3.30pm on Monday 4 March 2013. It will continue on Thursday 7 March.

Following the recent publication of the widely-acclaimed Neither Just nor Secure by Anthony Peto QC and Andrew Tyrie MP, it is clear that the following amendments should be made to the Bill as it currently stands:

  1. Closed Material Proceedings (the “secret court” measure) must be a last resort. Judges should exhaust the Public Interest Immunity process before being allowed to use a CMP The Bill as it stands states that judges should show merely show that they have considered using them.
  2. In those cases where a CMP is used, the Bill should ensure that the court require that the excluded party be provided with a summary of the national security sensitive material in order to enable him or her to respond to the secret evidence that is presented to court. At the moment, a defendant would not have any knowledge of the information that the Court is considering and so would be unable to brief his or her lawyer or the Special Advocate to enable that evidence to be challenged.
  3. The Government has accepted the need to review the Bill after five years. This is welcome but does not go far enough. A five year sunset clause is needed.
  4. The Bill would, in its current form, abolish the current practice in sensitive cases whereby judges can balance a possible risk to national security with the risk to justice.
  5. The definition of “sensitive information” in section 14 of the amended Bill must be greatly narrowed to provide a more proportionate response to the Government’s concerns that a court may order the disclosure of national security sensitive information obtained in confidence from a foreign power.
  6. The ISC has clearly failed to provide proper scrutiny of the security and intelligence services and has lost credibility. At the very least, the process of appointment of the Chairmanship of the ISC should be reformed so that this position is no longer exclusively in the gift of the Prime Minister.

To view Andrew Tyrie and Anthony Peto’s report, ‘Neither Just nor Secure’, please click here

Date Added: Monday 4th March 2013