USE OF SECRET EVIDENCE – NEW JOINT COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT

March 26th, 2010 by Anya Proops QC

In an earlier post this month on the Al Rawi litigation, I reflected upon recent developments concerning the use of secret evidence in civil litigation. Yesterday, the House of Lords and House of Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights published its latest report on the human rights implications of UK counter-terrorism measures: Counter-Terrorism Policy and Human Rights (Seventeenth Report): Bringing Human Rights Back In. In its report, the JCHR expressed serious concerns about the growth in the use of secret evidence procedures within the judicial system and the Government’s apparent failure to apply the restrictive principles outlined in the Article 6 cases of A v UK [2009] 49 EHRR and Secretary of State v AF [2009] UKHL 28. The following paragraphs of the report are particularly worthy of note:

62. The Government’s response to the A and AF judgments suggest that it considers itself free to press on with the use of secret evidence and special advocates in the other contexts in which they are used, without pausing to take stock of the wider implications of these significant rulings. Although the Government says that it is considering whether changes to the Parole Board’s procedures are needed, we have not seen any evidence to suggest that the Government has in fact considered the implications of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in A v UK for all the other contexts in which special advocates and secret evidence are used. We recommend that the Government urgently conduct a comprehensive review of the use of secret evidence and special advocates, in all contexts in which they are used, in light of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and the House of Lords, to ascertain how often they are used and whether their use is compatible with the minimum requirements of the right to a fair hearing as interpreted in those judgments, and to report to Parliament on the outcome of that review.

 

64. We are not satisfied that the Minister’s answer meets the special advocates’ concerns about the difficulty of distilling the relevant principles from closed judgments, or about the necessary accessibility of the law. We recommend that the Government include arrangements for law reporting in the review of the use of secret evidence that we have recommended above.