Warning from unions, civil rights campaigners comes as Justice and Security Bill is to be debated in the House of Lords later today

Tim Lezard

big ben w/lampDozens of unions, civil rights campaigners and activists have expressed alarm at plans which they say will “close down” reporting on court cases.

It comes as the Justice and Security Bill is due to be debated in the House of Lords later today.

The parliamentary joint committee on human rights has already described the Bill as “a radical departure from the UK’s constitutional tradition of open justice and fairness”.

Critics point out that the proposed changes were drawn up in response to legal cases involving allegations of UK complicity in secret rendition, torture and inhumane treatment.

If the legislation is passed, they say court records could be kept secret forever, with neither victims, their lawyers, nor the media and the public having any right to know the facts of a case tried under the new courts.

11 union general secretaries and a further 7 senior union officials are among those who have signed a letter to politicians saying they believe the secret courts could be extended to undercover police officers, deaths of suspects in custody and deaths in the military.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said: “The NUJ is alarmed at the measures proposed in the Justice and Security Bill, which will close down reportage on civil proceedings and court cases.

“The union believes this will undermine a fundamental constitutional right: the right to open justice.

“Secret courts will damage our democracy, close off open courts and shut down public scrutiny.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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