Ritchie presses for answers on secret courts

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Wednesday, July 4th, 2012
Politics

DLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has questioned the Northern Ireland Secretary on what discussions he has had with Justice Secretary Ken Clarke on the progress of government plans for so-called Closed Material Proceedings.

These court cases would be held in secret where evidence is regarded by the government as being of particular sensitivity in terms of national security.

Speaking to Newry Times, Ms Ritchie said: “Closed Material Proceedings are of exceptional interest to many of my constituents, who are deeply concerned that they constitute a serious erosion of civil liberties.

“The North of Ireland has a long history of alternative realisations of the judicial process, most notably the Diplock Courts, which accommodated security concerns, but, while we had to grudgingly accept that some trials would be held at the expense of a jury of the defendant’s peers, we would not be prepared to go even further and sacrifice the sacrosanct principle of open justice.”

Ritchie added, “I understand that the relevant legislation is somewhat up in the air as the Westminster government is rightly forced to accept the concerns of the public at this encroachment on their civil rights, but I sincerely hope that the Northern Ireland Secretary is lobbying his Cabinet colleague to ensure that the North, as it continues to progress along the rocky road to normality, reconciliation and a future free from fear, is not subjected to yet more London-ordered erosion of civil liberties.”


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