Thu, 23 Apr 2009

Why are you sending me to prison? I cannot tell you that

Dinah Rose QC is a barrister with direct experience of working with the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), which assesses deportation cases, often taking evidence in closed sessions. At a meeting calling for an end to secret evidence, she told this anecdote:

I can still recall my deep feeling of shame when I heard the appellant ask the judge the question: why are you sending me to prison? To which the judge replied: I cannot tell you that. I could not believe that I was witnessing such an event in a British court. I could not believe that nobody protested or made a fuss. They simply took him to jail, without any explanation at all.

Are you shocked that this happens in this country? Don't you feel the urgent need to make a fuss?

As an outcome of this meeting, an Early Day Motion (EDM 1308) has been tabled by Diane Abbott to call on the Government to bring about an independent review into the use of secret evidence in UK courts. If you care about the fundamental right of anyone to receive a fair and open hearing, the right not to be imprisoned or subjected to draconian control orders or bail conditions based on secret evidence, the rule of law and habeas corpus then write to your MP to ask him or her to sign this EDM:

That this House believes the use of secret evidence in UK courts is fundamentally wrong;

notes that secret evidence is evidence held by the Home Office against an individual that neither the individual, nor their legal representation, may see;

further notes that in recent cases secret evidence has been used to detain individuals in prison for up to three years without charge or trial;

further notes that these individuals may also be put under a control order or severe bail conditions, greatly limiting their movements and ability to lead a healthy life;

believes that the use of secret evidence by the state against individuals runs entirely contrary to Habeas Corpus;

recognises the European Court of Human Rights' ruling that detaining individuals on the basis of secret evidence is unlawful because detainees had not been able to effectively challenge the allegations against them;

and calls on the Government to begin an immediate independent review into the use of evidence that is not ever heard by the defendant or their lawyer but which is used to justify indefinite detention, severe bail conditions or control orders.

On Monday March 30, in a committee room in the House of Commons, Diane Abbott MP chaired a meeting entitled, 'Britain’s Guantánamo? The use of secret evidence and evidence based on torture in the UK courts, to discuss the stories of some of the men held as 'terror suspects' on the basis of secret evidence, and to work out how to persuade the government to change its policies. Andy Worthington has done a fantastic job reporting on this meeting. Below are links to the relevant posts. I recommend you set aside some time and read them all.

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