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Plans To Make Some Inquests Secret

Nimrod Aircraft crash


The House of Lords is to rule on a provision that would see inquests held in secret if they are deemed to be a risk to national security.

The changes, under a clause in the Counter-Terrorism Bill, would mean the Home Secretary could stop a jury being summoned, bar the public from inquests and replace the coroner with a Government appointee.

The powers could be used in inquests similar to those into the deaths of the weapons inspector David Kelly or Diana, Princess of Wales.

Those opposed to the move, which will be ruled on later this autumn, have told The Times newspaper that it represents a fundamental breach of the right to a public inquiry into a death - enshrined in the British justice system.

Opponents worried about the unprecedented powers granted to the Home Secretary to intervene in the workings of the judiciary said they are planning a full-scale campaign against the move.

The measure, Section 63 of the Bill, would enable specially vetted coroners to sit in private without a jury if evidence involving national intelligence was heard.

Copyright © PA Business 2008

Andrew Tucker from law firm Irwin Mitchell who represented all the families at the recent Inquest into the Nimrod Aircraft crash, commented: "Where national security issues are truly at risk, measures can be taken under the existing rules to protect both individuals and operational effectiveness to avoid putting lives at risk.

"The Nimrod Inquest is a good example; it demonstrated that a Coroner is capable of protecting the national interest whilst also upholding the rights of the families of the deceased. Having a public hearing into why lives have been lost is how justice is seen to be done."