The government has thrown out plans to hold inquests in secret.
The proposal under the Counter Terrorism Bill would have allowed the Home Secretary to issue a certificate requiring an inquest to be held without a jury ‘in the interests of national security’. The inquest would then have been held in front of a specially appointed coroner and specially appointed counsel – who would have access to secret evidence, which the family and legal representatives of the deceased would not.
INQUEST, the organisation assisting the families of those who have died in custody, which has campaigned vigorously against the proposals, has welcomed the changes.
Helen Shaw, Co-Director of INQUEST told IRR News: ‘INQUEST is delighted that concerted campaigning against these draconian proposals resulted in them being withdrawn. Since January, we have worked to build a wide-ranging coalition including Liberty, JUSTICE, the Royal British Legion and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission which culminated in cross-party parliamentary opposition to the proposal, including from the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Justice Committee. The government proposals amounted to a fundamental attack on the independence and transparency of the inquest system. Introduced without consultation they could have resulted in the inquests into highly contentious deaths involving state agents taking place without juries, partly in private, with government-appointed coroners and counsel overseeing the evidence. It would have excluded bereaved families, their legal representatives and the public at large from the investigation process in breach of article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights.’
Read an IRR News story: Dangers of secret inquests