Secret justice: the latest developments

I have previously written at length about the way in which the state continues to do its utmost to keep discussion of whether it is right for undercover police officers under wraps.

Today’s developments – a ruling from the Appeal Court – opens up a slight chink, though the presumption remains towards secrecy.

Rather than my going on about this, i reproduce below the full text of a statement from three of the women referenced in today’s judgement re their appeal over human rights claims being sent to a secret court. Note that it outlines TWO key decisions within the judgment.

Public Statement: Tuesday November 5th 2013

The Court of Appeal has today decided against us in our attempt to have our human rights cases against the police heard in open court, and have upheld the decision that the claims should be heard by the shadowy and secretive Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). [1]

However, we welcome the clarity from the Court of Appeal that the actions of the police were intrusive and amount to a breach of Human Rights. They said:

“The establishing and/or maintaining of an intimate sexual relationship for the covert purpose of obtaining intelligence is a seriously intrusive form of investigatory technique. We do not think that it is in issue that it amounts to an invasion of an individual’s common law right to personal security and of a most intimate aspect of the right to privacy under article 8 of the Convention.”

However, despite this recognition of the extreme gravity and potentially abusive nature of this technique, they ruled that the only forum that can adjudicate on the human rights violations, and the “necessity and proportionality” of its uses, is the IPT.

The second part of the appeal was successful, which lifts the stay on High Court proceedings, allowing the common law part of the claims to proceed. We welcome this decision, with which the court recognises our “right to have (our) claims heard in open court in accordance with procedures which have been developed and designed to provide a fair route to a just result.” However, we are very disappointed that human rights abuses by the police are not subject to the same fair route to justice.

The civil claims being brought before the High Court may now be our only access to justice. However, the approach of the Metropolitan Police to this litigation has shown that they intend to obstruct our access to truth and justice by any means necessary, regardless of costs. They have stated that they will apply for ‘closed materials proceedings’ in the event of claims reaching the High Court, and they are currently applying to strike the other five claims in our case out of the High Court on the basis of their wish to ‘neither confirm nor deny’ that the men involved were undercover officers. [2]

In allowing the High Court stay to be lifted for the common law part of our case, the court has recognised the severe limitations of the IPT procedure. They described the original decision by Mr Justice Tugendhat to allow the IPT to take precedence as “flawed and plainly wrong”, and described the IPT as being a forum that “…is ill-suited to the determination of claims that involve many issues of fact relevant to both liability and damages.” recognising that hearings before the IPT…

“…may take place in the absence of the applicants; applicants have no right to the disclosure of evidence relied on by the opposing party or to know the case against them; there is no right to cross-examine opposing witnesses or to representation or funded representation; there is no right to a reasoned judgment and no right of appeal.”

It is alarming then that the human rights claims aspect of our case will proceed to the IPT. The judges’ conclusions also highlight the extreme shortcomings of the RIPA legislation, stating that “There is no doubt that, in enacting RIPA, Parliament intended to override fundamental human rights” The Act purports to protect our rights but in fact exists only to override them.

We remain painfully aware that the contradictions and obstructions that surround our fight for justice continue. Last week the College of Policing re-iterated the words of other senior police officers by stating that undercover police entering into intimate sexual relationships with those they are surveiling is morally reprehensible and should be banned. Yet this week the Court of Appeal decision would seem to indicate that RIPA, the legislation covering these issues, is capable of authorising such relationships.

It is surely now time for the public to demand a thorough overhaul of legislation that can effectively allow state agents to abuse people and then limit the scrutiny of their actions to a secret court process.

The IPT is an affront to the principles of natural justice, and has only upheld a handful of claims in it’s history [3] while the RIPA legislation is deeply flawed and requires a total overhaul if human rights in this country are genuinely to be respected.

NOTES:

1 This hearing formed a part of the actions against the police by women who were deceived into long-term intimate relationships by undercover officers. For more information and other press releases see Policespiesoutoflives

2 This application will be heard in the High Court on the 20th or 21st November 2013

3 Alan Travis Time to review the surveillance tribunal, The Guardian, 2nd August 2010

About janefae

On my way from here to there
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