Fancy being a secret juror and be subject to VERY THOROUGH vetting by MI5 and MI6?

It is ‘unfortunate’ that we need secret organisations like Special Branch, MI5 and  MI6. But because of the needs of our country over the past 150 years or more, specifically, and the way our governments have directed the affairs of our country and waged wars recently, we do.  That is the reality.  That is Real Politik.

It would of course, in the view of the ‘thinking right and right oriented left’ – a phrase some may view as oxymoronic – be naive, nay simpleminded, to suggest that this may not necessarily be so going forward if we are more circumspect, intelligent and patient in our thinking before we wage yet another ill planned war and, instead, take a more liberal, realistic and community minded pattern of behaviour towards other countries in the world.  I suspect for that to happen we need time to forget about the not always glorious British Empire and our ‘perceived place’ in the world pecking order.  This may be an uphill struggle.  As a nation (and a surprisingly large number of people in our nation)  we appear to revel in jingoism, illiberal racism with a dash of xenophobia  and the ability to distort the facts of history thrown in for good measure.  Land of Hope and Glory?  Rule Britannia? Jerusalem? Well, I would not regard the wealth of a nation partly built initially on the profits of the slave trade as particularly glorious.  We have as  a nation done many great things – but, please spare me from the absurd jingoism and irrational myopia of those whose thinking is all too ‘Little England’.

Our values and mores have changed over the years.  I would venture the opinion that our values and mores have changed   for the better.  Justice, an imperfect mechanism I accept, has been administered more fairly, more compassionately, less politically, than say two hundred years ago. The death penalty has gone.  Concepts of rehabilitation have pushed hard at the Victorian concepts of punishment  through hard often pointless labour.  We are signatories to The European Convention on Human Rights.  We have our own Human Rights Act.  We have introduced free health care, employment laws, protective laws for the vulnerable – and justice has become more open.  The last Labour government – a government one hoped  would introduce a more liberal caring society, but  failed, eroded many of our civil liberties hard one over centuries of protest and intelligent debate.  The present government, antipathetic to Europe, now wishes to disregard The Rule of Law – or at least cherry pick and ignore the Rule of Law which applies to Prisoner votes.  The present government   also wishes to strengthen the power and remit of ‘secret justice’.

Why the plans to subject inquest jurors to such intrusive security vetting?

There are now plans to have ‘developed vetting of juries’.  If you haven’t already read Simon Crowther’s article in The Guardian: Why the plans to subject inquest jurors to such intrusive security vetting? may I encourage you to do so.  It makes for uncomfortable reading.

In essence the plan is for secret inquests to be judged by secret juries who have been vetted by the security services.

Simon Crowther writes:

Jurors who sit in the government’s proposed secret inquests will be subject to the most intrusive security vetting used in the UK.

This security clearance, known as “developed vetting“, is identical to the procedure they would face if they themselves were joining MI5 or MI6. It involves the investigation of the most intimate areas of a juror’s personal life, including their sexual behaviour, family relationships, finances and political views….

He ends his piece with this statement:

As evidently understood by the author of the government’s impact assessment, many people will fail or choose not to undergo such intrusive clearance. Those who pass may then have to decide on the state’s involvement in a death, hampered by the knowledge that very same state holds records of their most uncomfortable secrets.

Justice must be seen to be done.  The holding of trials in secret, for reasons of national security, should be a rare and judicially oversighted event.  The proposed ‘developed vetting’ of jurors to serve on secret inquests is a proposal which I hope will be kicked so hard into the long grass – to use a cliche beloved in 2012 – that it gets lost forever.

I suspect, in any event, there will be  few British summoned for such jury service prepared to submit to or survive the skeletons in the cupboard of  M15 and M16 vetting and answer 53 pages of questions and submit to a thorough three hour interview.  I would certainly find it fairly straight forward to convince M15 and MI6 that I am not a suitable candidate.  I suspect I would start the interview – assuming they were daft enough to summon me after reading through my answers to the 53 pages of questions – by asking them to go easy with me on the waterboarding.  That should do the trick?

4 thoughts on “Fancy being a secret juror and be subject to VERY THOROUGH vetting by MI5 and MI6?

  1. back in my Navy days, I had a TS clearance for my work. Not only was I interviewed – everyone on my ship that worked with me, my parents’ neighbours, high school friends and summer job colleagues all were approached. I know, because they told me.

    At the interview, they knew more about my financial history that I’d remembered. They knew what I liked and who I hung around with, every guy I’d dated and every break up. Not only did they know I’d bombed out of U of Nebraska, the man who interviewed me told me I had a lot of potential and that he sincerely hoped I’d finish my degree and become an officer one day.

    I went through that process in my early 20s on the way to a job I really wanted to do. I was happy to submit myself to that process.

    I wonder how many middle aged citizens would be willing to submit themselves to that level of Government scrutiny.

    I also wonder who would survive and qualify after such middle aged scrutiny..

  2. There is an bible saying “let him who is without sin caast the first stone” in other words none of us are whiter than white. So if MI5 and MI6 are going to be checking into potential jurors background …you are going to be seeing babes in arms sitting on the jury

  3. So good to see much resumed activity from you. Hope all is now well.

    A form of Vetting of jurors is, of course, already a part of our legal system.

    http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/h_to_k/jury_vetting/

    In relation to Corner’s juries, this proposal (assuming it actually appears in the, as yet to be published bill) is untenable. Once the legislators realise this, there will be the inevitable move to hold all inquests with Coroner alone. This will entirely suit those in government and elsewhere who wish to see the back of juries and any other form of “lay involvement” in the legal system.

    The Justice and Security Green Paper (examined at length on my blog) did not appear to go as far as Simon Crowther’s article suggests. We need to see the Bill which has, according to report, been delayed by some disagreements within the coalition.

  4. Pingback: UK Blawg Review #10 – Part 1 « Charon QC

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