Commission responds to introduction of secret inquests

Response to the Coroners and Justice Bill

20 November 2009

John Wadham, Group Director Legal, Equality and Human Rights Commission:

'On 12 November 2009, Parliament approved controversial measures to allow secret hearings into deaths that might have been the responsibility of the police or other public authorities - where a secrete hearing is thought to be necessary to protect sensitive information or documents.

'This is the third time the Government has sought to introduce secret inquests. The Commission believes that the new provisions may be in breach of Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights and the need for proper public scrutiny into potentially controversial circumstances.

'The Commission appreciates that non-disclosure of sensitive material may sometimes be necessary in the interest of national security. While we welcome oversight by the Lord Chief Justice over the process, we do not believe this goes far enough.

'The effect of these proposals is that inquests, such as that into the police shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes on a London tube, might be held in secret or partly in secret.

'The Commission believes these proposals are likely to undermine public confidence in the inquest process and may leave the families of those that have died and others suspicious of how the death occurred and what has not been disclosed.'

More information on The Coroners and Justice Bill can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.