UK Liberty

Government defeated again on Counter-Terrorism Bill

Posted in inquest without jury, politicians on liberty, surveillance society by ukliberty on November 12, 2008

Well done the Lords (albeit with a very narrow margin of three):

Opposition peers united to pass an amendment calling on judges sitting as coroners to have access to sensitive evidence such as tapped phone calls.

The disclosure, at inquests, of details obtained via surveillance could hinder investigatory methods, ministers said.

Previous defeats came over DNA samples and detention of terrorist suspects. (BBC)

Debate began here, the amendment being moved by Baroness Miller (Liberal Democrat), who said that,

a small lacuna [a gap, or hole] was left in Section 18 [of RIPA], which did not state that a High Court judge, who in all other circumstances listed in that section can see the material in question and come to a conclusion about it, can do so when sitting as a coroner. …

All my amendment seeks to do is to include the ability of a judge to sit as a coroner at an inquest and to hear this evidence, as he does in all other instances when he sits as a judge.

As she later said, it seems a bit illogical, doesn’t it?

It remains to be seen how the Commons will deal with it, but the Government’s position (as re-stated by Lord West) seems clear – they would rather have inquests without juries, specially appointed coroners, and specially appointed counsel for the family involved.  It is about what the Government wants us to be able to see rather than any sense of fairness.  This is a common theme with this Government.

There are now two inquests in hand that cannot proceed because they involve intercept material: they are respectively the police shootings of Terry Nicholas (killed May 2007) and Azelle Rodney (killed April 2005).  If the Government had its way, due to their current legislative programme Azelle Rodney’s family would not see any headway at all until 2009-2010 – up to five years after his death!


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