4th April 2012

‘We do not accept that the government has made out the case for extending closed material procedures to inquests’ – Joint Committee on Human Rights.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights today published the report of its inquiry into the Justice and Security Green Paper.

The report roundly rejects the government’s proposals to introduce closed procedures at inquests, which would mean families and their legal representatives being prevented from hearing or challenging evidence concerning how their relative died.

The JCHR were clear that:

  • The government has not adduced “any evidence” to demonstrate the need for change, let alone sufficient evidence to justify the need for such fundamental changes as are proposed (para. 138);
    • There are “serious doubts” as to whether using CMPs in inquests could ever be compatible with Article 2 (para. 144);
    • Coroners have been resourceful and pragmatic in addressing issues of sensitivity short of holding a CMP (para. 138);
    • There is scope to produce greater consistency of practice between different inquests (para. 150); and
    • Reform of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) is needed (para. 139).

Throughout the report the Committee agrees with INQUEST and the INQUEST Lawyers Group evidence and concludes the section on inquests by stating:

We endorse the suggestions made to us by INQUEST and the INQUEST Lawyers Group as measures falling short of the introduction of closed material procedures into inquests which would address some of the government’s concerns in the Green Paper (para150).

Helen Shaw, co-director of INQUEST said:

It is abundantly clear that there is no need for such sweeping changes to the law. The fact that the government was unable to produce a shred of evidence to support these proposals is testament to that.

The Committee has recognised that current practice at inquests adequately serves the public interest for transparency and scrutiny of contentious deaths whilst also protecting the interests of national security. We also welcome their endorsement of our suggested approach to improving national guidance to coroners presiding over these complex inquests.

The remaining anomaly in relation to intercept evidence can be resolved by government taking this opportunity to amend RIPA as we suggested in our evidence and was noted by the Committee. This same suggestion was made both by the Metropolitan Police Service in their response to the Green Paper consultation and also last week by the IPCC in response to the furore about the Mark Duggan inquest.

Over and above everything else, it is vital that a bereaved family is able to understand fully why their relative died and the Committee have clearly stated that the government’s proposals for greater secrecy are not necessary.


Notes to editor:

  1. The report can be accessed here
  2. INQUEST’s evidence to the JCHR can be accessed here, with additional evidence here and our oral evidence here.