Queen ready to give Assent to Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Bill - Rush to judgement - Liberty be damned !!!!
The preamble to the Criminal Evidence (Witness Anonymity) Bill says it all ...
New rules relating to anonymity of witnesses
(1) This Act provides for the making of witness anonymity orders in relation to
witnesses in criminal proceedings.
(2) The common law rules relating to the power of a court to make an order for securing that the identity of a witness in criminal proceedings is withheld from the defendant (or, on a defence application, from other defendants) are abolished.
(3) Nothing in this Act affects the common law rules as to the withholding of
information on the grounds of public interest immunity.
The full html text of the Bill is here the full parliamentary history from 4th July to Royal Assent (probably tommorrow) is here. Explanatory notes are here.
This is what war criminal Jack Straw said when introducing the Bill Hansard 8 July 2008 : Column 1304
"There has been an intensive period of consultation since my statement, the product of which is reflected both in the Bill as introduced and in the Government amendments standing in my name. I am very grateful indeed to the spokesman for the official Opposition and to the Liberal Democrats for the constructive approach that they have adopted in the course of the consultation. In the intervening period, too, we have sought the most up-to-date information available from the Crown Prosecution Service regarding the scale of the use of anonymous witness evidence. "... ie it's all stitched up and the MP's have been told to shut up.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con) said inter alia (and to his credit) ..."we do not want to encourage lazy policing, lazy prosecuting or an informal process to emerge under which such orders become the norm" , of course not, but that is what we have had and what we will have more of, and there is nothing to stop it.
The only change made was to institute a so called "Sunset" of 31 December 2009, but orders can continue .....(b) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument containing the order has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.’. Which makes things even worse ... what should be a judicial decision will become a political decision, thus blurring the control of the Judiciary.
In the Lords , God Bless her Ann Mallalieu expressed her misgivings about the speed of legislation, the slow slide to it's use in magistrates courts and the fact that the bulk of outstanding cases was not to protect public witnesses but state witnesses. This Bill as she points out is " is an attempt to validate retrospectively those 580 cases (!!!) in which it seems, as a result of Davis, that unlawful orders have been made."
It is worth pointing out that Clause 12 (1) a of the Act ..."Interpretation
In this Act— “court” means— (a) in relation to England and Wales, a magistrates’ court, the Crown Court or the criminal division of the Court of Appeal;
Reminded by Baroness Butler-Sloss that Liberty, which has nothing to do with political parties, does not object in principle to the Bill, " she replied that she did ..." My Lords, I am very much aware of that. I have read the helpful briefing that Liberty has sent, but I disagree with it."
Geoffrey Roberston , QC in the Guradian on the 8th July There can be no fair trials with this perjurer's charter said ....
Parliament will this week be asked to make the most serious single assault on liberty in memory. The witness anonymity bill abolishes the right of defendants to know the identity of their accusers. This will result in thousands of unfair trials; and the principles of open justice, which this nation has contributed to the lexicon of human rights, will be gutted by a panic-stricken measure that encourages courts, in criminal cases of any kind, to suppress the identity of crucial witnesses.He adds that safeguards have been overlooked or dismissed ..
There are no safeguards for the citizen. The prosecution does not even have to prove that a witness has been intimidated or fears any kind of mental or physical threat: any "harm to the public interest" is sufficient - a formula that might cover up questionable police operations. There is no safeguard against a conviction relying entirely on the evidence of an anonymous witness; incredibly, this bill does not require judges to ensure corroboration (independent evidence pointing to guilt), or even to warn juries about the dangers of convicting on the word of witnesses who can't be effectively cross-examined. There is no right of appeal against the granting of anonymity orders.He also points out that war criminal Jack Straw makes false claims under EU HUman Rights Legislation
The Bill is prefaced by a statement from Jack Straw that it conforms with the European Convention on Human Rights. It does not: article six of the convention says that "everyone charged with a criminal offence" has, at minimum, a right "to examine or have examined witnesses against him" - and you cannot examine a distorted voice.
So MP's were silenced by a behind the chair deal, Liberty led by their pretty (ex?) Home Office Lawyer who is so concerned to defend Freedom with David Davis has no problem with the principles in the Bill.
The Press have been silent, so the public have been unaware of the progress of this Bill and it has been left to the old war hoses opf the legal left geoffey Roberston and Ann Mallalieu to try to stop the State's juggernaut.
The CPS say they have over 550 criminal cases in the pipeline (our resourceful rsearch staff cannot find this report - it is not on the CPS website) requiring the use of anonymous witnesses which is astonishing.
Now this device can be used in Magistrates courts - where you can be certain it will be used.
We have done out little bit .. Tuesday, June 24, 2008 Rush to judgement for anonymous trial witnesses...wronging a Right....more hastily prepared laws restricting ancient Common Law Rights
Thursday 26th June 2008 - War Criminal Jack Straw and Conservatives and Lib Dems stitch up to breach of common law rights in allowing anonymous witnesses in criminal cases
Thursday, June 26, 2008 Lord Thomas of Gresford QC for Lib - Dems slams War criminal Jack Straw's proposals on witness anonymity
Saturday, June 28, 2008 10 cases where anonymous witnesses helped secure a conviction
Curiously the world of blogistes has been remakably silent on this one.....