For the first time in modern history, a criminal trial involving 2 “terror suspects” is to be heard behind closed doors. You ever heard the much-quoted aphorism: “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done”? Justice minister Chris Grayling is telling us that we must trust our judges to do the right thing. Which is surely one of the most stupid comments of the week. We can barely trust some judges to behave properly when the media spotlight is on them; why should we trust the self-interested idiots when no one’s looking over their shoulders?
Until now it has not even been possible to report the existence of the forthcoming trial against the two men, known only as AB and CD. But three appeal court judges lifted a gagging order allowing reporting of a hearing challenging the plans.
The trial would be the first criminal case to be held behind closed doors for hundreds of years. It involves two defendants who are charged with terrorism but whose names are being withheld from the public. Unless the appeal succeeds, journalists will be banned from being present in court to report the proceedings on 16 June or the outcome of the trial.
The men will be tried by a jury but no report of the case will be made public and no members of the media or public will be given access to the court.
So, if the (still officially unnamed) defendants hadn’t appealed against these reporting restrictions, we the public would never have heard about it. As things are, the accused (whatever it is they’re accused of) are known to us only by the code-names “AB” and “CD”. We don’t know what they’re accused of; and journalists are barred from even reporting whether they are found guilty or not guilty!
If this travesty of justice is allowed to go ahead, it will be repeated again and again. After all, no major political party wants to be seen as “soft on terrorism”.
Worse than the “secret court” idea is the gagging component. Let’s say I’m a defendant in a secret court: people who know I’m innocent (for instance people who saw me in a pub in Glasgow when the crime took place in London will not come forward with this evidence because they won’t even know I’m being tried for it). The men will be tried by a jury but no report of the case will be made public and no members of the media or public will be given access to the court.
The court was told that the crown has sought and obtained legal orders on the grounds of national security, arguing that if the trial were held in public the prosecution might not proceed with the case. This reminds me of the terrorist suspects who are living under onerous “control orders” because if they were tried in court some terrible Godzilla monster will flatten Tokyo or something.
And what’s going to happen if the accused are found not guilty? Will the (obviously protected) prosecution witnesses be outed as liars and perverters of justice? Of course not.
Justice? What justice?