Liberty warns of new secret inquests threat

Liberty warns of new secret inquests threat

By Alex Stevenson

The government stands accused of covertly attempting to pass their abandoned secret inquests policy as the coroners and justice bill works its way through the Lords.

Civil liberties group Liberty claimed clauses in the bill allowing for an inquest to be suspended and for a ‘secret inquiry’ to be held in its place effectively had the same effect as the concept abandoned in May.

Justice secretary Jack Straw had been forced to give up proposals to hold inquests in secret and without a jury on grounds of national security in May because of a complete lack of cross-party support.

Now Liberty claims the ‘secret inquiry’, like the secret inquests plans, could be instigated by the executive and see bereaved families, legal representatives and the public excluded.

Ministers would be permitted to restrict disclosure or publication of any documents and withhold parts of the final report.

“It beggars belief that this rotten policy has been resurrected,” Liberty’s director of policy Isabella Sankey said.

“It is thoroughly perverse for a government that has spent over a decade lecturing the public about victims’ rights to attempt to exclude bereaved families from open justice. When will New Labour’s obsession with secret courts and parallel legal systems end? There is no accountability without transparency.”

The coroners and justice bill will return to the Commons after its final stages in the Lords today, when MPS will have an opportunity to reassess its contents.