Monday, October 15, 2012

Have you signed the Liberal Democrats against secret courts petition?

Jo Shaw and I may currently be competitors in the  elections for the Federal Executive, but that doesn't mean I can't take time out of my day to back her continuing campaign against secret courts.

Her motion against the Government's Justice and Security Bill provided the only real defeat for the leadership at Conference. In a thrilling debate, Conference representatives overwhelmingly rejected the idea of secret courts.

You can see my assorted collection of tweets from the debate here and Jo's proposing speech was published in full on Liberal Democrat Voice here. She said:

Personally I cannot imagine being able to argue that I believe in a fair free and open society and at the same time support the notion of a trial from which one side is excluded, evidence is heard in secret, judgments are handed down in secret and the government is able to rely on unchallenged and unchallengeable evidence. Those two sets of ideas seem to me to be entirely contradictory.
How can we, who stand for openness vote for a closed court which shuts out press and public scrutiny?
How can we, who believe in freedom, vote to allow the Security Services to operate wholly in the shadows?
How can we, Liberal Democrats, who have fairness at the core of our beliefs, vote for a trial which leaves one party in the dark, excluded?
I don’t believe we can. If the preamble to our constitution means anything, it means Liberal Democrats should be campaigning fearlessly against these proposals which offend every principle we hold dear.

So, what happens now the Conference debate is over? Well, it's important to make sure that the powers that be stick to the terms of Jo's motion passed at Conference which are:

  1. The Coalition Government to withdraw Part II of the Justice and Security Bill; and put in place instead a statutory scheme reflecting the current Public Interest Immunity system to be enacted which will retain judicial discretion, be a proportionate means of ensuring national security is not jeopardised by any litigation, and ensure the working successful democratic principle of open justice is retained.
  2. All Liberal Democrats in parliament to press the government to do this and in any event to press for the withdrawal or defeat of Part II of the Justice and Security Bill.
To that end, there's a petition you can sign here and a Facebook group you can join here. Please do so and encourage others to join the campaign. This is such an important issue and we must make sure that our liberal principles are implemented.

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