How much threat is British justice under?

Quite a lot if you agree with Alex or James. The cause of their ire is Labour’s plans to give the government the right to remove the jury from coroner inquests, and replace the coroner with an appointee of central government’s choice.

As the BBC reports:

The government is facing a backlash over controversial proposals to remove juries from some inquests.

Provisions in its counter-terrorism bill, published last month, would also allow home secretaries to replace coroners with their own appointees.

Ministers insist the new powers would be used sparingly and the vast majority of inquests will still stay public.

But critics say the changes are dangerous and unnecessary meddling with a system that has worked for centuries.

A little-noticed clause in the bill would allow the home secretary to prevent a jury being called to an inquest and even to change the coroner for “reasons of national security”.

The change is intended to avoid the risk of sensitive information – such as details of phone-taps or surveillance operations – being revealed to jurors and other members of the public.

But it is not explicitly restricted to terrorism cases and could in theory be applied to cases of deaths where no such link is suspected.

This opens up the possibility of juries being barred from sensitive inquests such as that into the death of Jean Charles De Menezes, the Brazilian man police shot because they thought he was a terrorist.

Alex’s post makes the case, with a current example, as to why we should be very nervous about how this new power could and would be abused.

Liberal Democrat MP Alan Beith has said, “I’m not comfortable with a situation where a politician is deciding there shouldn’t be a jury in a particular inquest.”

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