Thursday, 27 March 2014

The state of this place

North Korea's Fashionista
I have just read a BBC news article on how men in North Korea are required to get a haircut similar to that of their leader Kim Jong-un. Until recently people in North Korea had to choose their hair-style from a choice of eighteen styles for women and ten for men, but now they have to do what they are told, with no mechanism for appeal. This is the same North Korea that the United States Government says has 'draconian internal control mechanisms' and that the 'regime’s greatest security concern is opposition from within'.  

At this point I suspect you're reaction is one of disbelief or you may be wondering, what's she on about or if this is some kind of joke? Well it's not!

As we are on the subject of dodgy haircuts and draconian dictators, the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chipping Barnet M.P. Theresa Villiers comes to mind. Theresa Villiers has had her Lawyers submit a legal application for a civil case in Northern Ireland to be held in a secret court for the first time.
The MP for Dodgy Barnet

Villiers' legal team are to ask the High Court in Belfast to impose Closed Material Procedure (CMP) restrictions in a legal case. The case in question is being taken by a former republican prisoner who is suing the Secretary of State for unlawful detention.

In the event this application is successful it must be asked will this become the norm and will it set a precedent which will allow all cases involving the state to be heard behind closed doors, as there are a lot of cases in which the states methods could be challenged in open court, and that's something they don't want!

The Justice and Security Act (2013) introduced last summer extended the use of secret courts to include civil cases in England. The secret justice bill was widely opposed by many MP'S in England who claimed this type of practice has no place in a democracy and that the practice resembled that of repressive regimes and tyrants. More than 700 people from the legal profession including 38 QC's signed a petition demanding the bill be scrapped stating it was 'dangerous and unnecessary; and that it would 'fatally undermine' the fairness of court hearings.

To try and deflect criticism of their use of secret courts, being magnanimous the British allow a defendant to have a state appointed advocate. This state-approved and appointed employee is forbidden from discussing any 'sensitive material' that may be produced in court. The person subject to Closed Material Procedure is not allowed to access the evidence against them or to challenge the evidence produced by government agencies such as Mi5. If the defendant wins the case the judge cannot explain how he came to his decision.

'The great majority of national security agents will be run by the PSNI, under the strategic direction of the Service, mirroring the arrangements the Service has with the police in GB.
                                                                                                                 Annex E St Andrews Agreement

At this juncture bear in mind it was agreed by Stormont Parties at the St Andrews talks to give Mi5 increased powers, and also worth mentioning is a certain Lyndsey Robb. Robb was a convicted Loyalist gun runner who was able to give secret evidence in a case against Lurgan man Colin Duffy.

During the trial Robb was identified only as witness 'C', as a result of Robb's evidence Duffy was given a life sentence, which was only overturned when it was established that Robb had no credibility (and was a convicted terrorist) – and here is a crucial point, it has been a long established fact that the British Government and its security services have been involved in many unsavoury acts. What is to stop them having evidence against someone provided behind closed doors, by an unnamed witness of Robb's ilk, they had no problem doing it in open court, so we can only guess at the injustices that could be carried out with no oversight or public scrutiny.

The bottom line is that the use of 'closed material' procedures denies you the right to build a defence or challenge the evidence against you. How do you defend what you can't see? Or is that the objective to cover things in a cloak of secrecy otherwise known as the national security card. How do you know someone providing evidence against you isn't a loyalist or someone on the payroll of the security services, or if any evidence exists.

As was seen in the recent case of Martin Corey (former life sentence prisoner) the Secretary of State sent him back to prison on the strength of closed material evidence.  Martin Corey served a three and a half year sentence despite, being bailed by the courts, having no charge against him and was later released under strict bail conditions. It is extremely frightening that the British Secretary of State can overrule the judiciary and begs the question, why have a judicial system if a politician, and one with no mandate here in the North can veto its decisions?

In the cases of former life sentence prisoners the British Secretary of State claims to take her advice from the Parole Commission for Northern Ireland. The Parole Commission are a group of political appointees who operate behind closed doors, they are selected by the Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland Justice Minister. However it should be noted that whilst the British Secretary of State may take advice from the Parole Commission she is not bound by their advice.

In an amendment to the Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order 2001, it enshrines the British Secretary of State’s right to use ‘Secret Evidence’ to detain anyone. This amendment also provides the right for the British Secretary of State to overrule the NI Justice Minister, so why have a Justice Minister, unless it's  purpose is to provide an illusion.
Vorster - Is this an Ambush?

John Vorster a former South African Justice Minister and proponent of apartheid once said he `would be willing to exchange all the 'South African' legislation of that sort for one clause of the Northern Ireland Special Powers Act.' I'm sure Mr Vorster would feel a certain kinship with the current regime here if he hadn't shuffled off this mortal coil and I'm sure Kim Jong-un would be so proud of the regime here in the North, so the next time you think of draconian legislation or dodgy hair cuts don't think North Korea, think Northern Ireland.

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