So secret… you would not have been able to read about this but for…… an MP and a blogger

 

On Thursday afternoon, in a back room of Parliament, history was made.  A few MPs found themselves a backbone; they found a way in which they could exercise their Freedom of Speech and perform their ancient duty, drawn from the Bill of Rights 1688, of redressing the grievances of the citizens who rely on them.

Anna Raccoon,  Saturday 19th March

As Anna Raccoon said…. Google the Parliamentary report – no mention…. although, hopefully, Google will pick it up after Anna Raccoon’s blog post.

I will extract Anna Raccoon’s opening text...and ask you to read her post..and then invest a bit of time in reading the full Hansard report

Mr John Hemming, MP for Yardley in Birmingham, rose to his feet and used parliamentary privilege to list some of the secret prisoners, the people who have lost their liberty in the UK behind closed doors; the court orders which detail the secret injunctions – not for the benefit of footballers or bankers, (although it was the issue of Fred Goodwin’s secret injunction that allowed the debate to be heard), but the injunctions, not mere ‘super-injunctions’ that the media could not mention, but ‘hyper-injunctions’ which even prevented the aggrieved citizen from appealing to their MP for help.

Because we are allowed to speak of that which has been in Hansard, we can today speak of the misery of those whose lives have been turned upside down, in secret, with the added bonus of a special injunction from the judge which prevented them even turning to their MP.

The issue of superinjunctions (and hyperinjunctions) is important to the system of open justice we should enjoy in our country.

Ironically…The Master of The Rolls, Lord Neuberger, made a speech on this issue last week and is, fortunately, about to report on the whole issue of superinjunctions. Hopefully, the proceedings of parliament on The Bill of Rights and Mr John Hemming MP’s statements, recorded in Hansard, will be germane to his enquiry and report.  The issue is, of course, more complex than the debate reveals – and raises the issue of whether MPs should be above the laws while in Parliament. They may, of course, change the laws; but having made a law, is it right to evade it through use of privilege?  Surely, consideration should be given to changing that law?  This is noted in the report on the debate.  There may well be perfectly good reasons for protecting privacy and maintaining secrecy. Lord Neuberger’s speech is well worth reading.

See the full text of Lord Neuberger’s  speech: Open Justice Unbound?

The UK Human Rights blog has also commented…

…. as has the always precise Obiter J

18 thoughts on “So secret… you would not have been able to read about this but for…… an MP and a blogger

  1. If this is half true it’s truly appalling. What is this, a game by the judiciary to place ever more of their judgements behind a wall of secrecy such that not even parliament can be aware of them? That’s one way of preventing MPs using parliamentary privilege to publicise the existence of such injunctions – try and make sure all the parties involved are legally unable to make the information known to MPs.

    I thought an independent judiciary were meant to be one of the checks and balances against parliamentary abuse. This would appear, on the face of it, do be an attempt to usurp parliamentary examination of the judicial process.

    Perhaps I dreamed this…

  2. Incidentally, one other point about the following

    “raises the issue of whether MPs should be above the laws while in Parliament. They may, of course, change the laws; but having made a law, is it right to evade it through use of privilege?”

    I may be wrong, but there is a specific law which allows for parliamentary debate on matters such matters which overrides these other laws. It’s hardly “evading” the law. There are parliamentary procedures available to deal with members who abuse Parliamentary privilege. Also the scope for pleading Parliamentary privilege is strictly limited – as was shown in the case of those MPs convicted of fraudulent expense claims. MPs do not enjoy the immunity from rule of law that occurs in some countries.

    If there were such laws to prevent parliamentary discussions on subjects the judiciary would not wish to be aired, wouldn’t that be potentially of enormous danger?

    It’s also worth noting that, on some matters, the law in question was not created by parliament in the first place. For instance, the laws on defamation have, I believe, emerged from the judiciary, not parliament. Indeed I suspect that the right of Parliament to debate subjects regardless of judicial rulings might well have emerged because of some very wide powers the judiciary have to impose arbitrary gagging and conduct orders not explicitly sanctioned by parliament.

  3. @ Steve Jones – there is no “if” about it. What Mr Hemming said is true.

    @ CharonQC – interestingly, I have also blogged on the same subject:

    http://obiterj.blogspot.com/2011/03/lord-neuberger-speech-to-judicial.html

    I wonder whether the newly appointed Commission on a British Bill of Rights will join up the pieces of the jigsaw? One piece is out ancient rights and freedoms – Magna Carta; Bill of Rights etc. The other piece is the more recent “human rights” convention and legislation.

    Mr Hemming, in this poorly attended debate, has done an excellent job in bringing out many of the injustices which are being pepetrated today.

  4. Pingback: Running out of words « The Scots Law Student

  5. Sir,

    One imagines that certain lodges of a distinctive sweet fruit colour will be engaged in political cohersion behind the scenes this very night. “…“don’t tell your MP about this” smacks of leather aprons and the licking of toads.

    A pox upon them I say, a pox!

    cheery,

    JB

  6. John – your actions will, hopefully, focus minds on secret justice generally and, in particular, the use of these injunctions.

    Lord Neuberger seems, by his public statements to date, to be in favour of open justice – protecting only the young and vulnerable from public scrutiny?

    I wonder what Tom Bingham would have thought of this?

    Good effort in doing so. Was it an easy decision to take?

  7. The difficult question is where to set the limits.

    The fact that people were asked to drink was was thought to be potentially poisoned water is something that I think is quite serious, but I still held back from identifying the details.

  8. Pingback: What a hyper-injunction looks like | Niklas Smith

  9. Pingback: John Hemming MP: abuse of power, and privilege | Head of Legal

  10. I’m a little confused here. How can a judge make an order such that a member of public is not allowed to contact their MP, where the 1688 Bill of Rights allows for MPs to “redress the grievances of aggrieved citizens”. Do these judges consider the above Bill to be invalid and what opportunities to those bound over have to appeal against these injunctions., or are we as citizens actually unaware of what our real rights are – does this indicate we should have a written consitution?

    Also, who are the judges issuing the injunctions; do the same judges issues these injunctions and is there any “judicial review” of these decisions. Also how can we as individuals understand what the merits of the cases are – though I presume the injunctions allow any review to be kept away from the public.

    Finally as this seems such as important point in law should the decision on how it should be managed in future be open to a wider decision making body such as the House of Commons rather than an unelected committee?

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