Judicial Accountability

Parliamentary Debate, 17 Mar. 2011, Westminster Hall

Most of the cases are in secret: there is no access to the transcripts, there is no way of challenging the experts’ opinions, and there is no independent scrutiny. Often the people involved are quite poor and may not be very bright, and it is a challenge getting accountability in that situation.The accountability of the judiciary depends to some extent on openness, at least open judgments. There is the issue of article 6 subsection (1) of the European convention on human rights, though some people may not be so enthusiastic about it:

“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgement shall be pronounced publicly by the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interest of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.”

There are exemptions to parts of the trial mentioned there, but judgment should be pronounced publicly. What is the basis of banning the mention of proceedings and banning telling MPs about proceedings’ existence? How many of those cases do we have?  (John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD), 17 Mar. 2011 Westminster Hall, Column 153WH)

We have judges creating situations where it is made an imprisonable offence to tell an MP that a case exists. I do not think that is right, transparent or accountable. (John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD), 17 Mar. 2011 Westminster Hall, Column 154WH)