Thursday, 15 January 2009

Jack’s Back!

I don’t mean Jack Bauer, though – unfortunately, I mean Jack Straw:
Jack Straw, the justice secretary, will today revive his plan to hold inquests that involve aspects of national security in private without a jury when the coroners and justice bill is published.
The controversial measure, which could be invoked in cases like those of British servicemen killed by American forces in Iraq and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes on the London tube, was shelved last month when it faced severe criticism during the passage of the Counter-Terrorism Act.
But that didn't give him pause, so he's back for another attempt, probably correctly assuming that this will be his last attempt, and he won't be around to have to deal with the mess that will ensue...
Straw is to confirm today that the bill will also contain a proposal first floated two years ago to prevent high-profile convicted criminals from profiting from published accounts of their crimes.

He is to introduce a civil recovery scheme targeting the profits made by criminals serving sentences of at least two years without making the publishing, film and media industries criminally liable at the same time.
I’m tempted to snark that by the time it gets through Parliament, even the kind of crimes that make sensationalist reading won’t get you more than two years so this will have little effect…

But why is this such a big deal? Has there been a big outcry about it? Has some grieving relative bent his ear a la the 'violent porn' case?
Accounts of prison life, such as those published by Jeffrey Archer and Jonathan Aitken, will be exempt from the new provisions as will accounts of criminal activity that was never punished, accounts of other people's crimes or truly fictional works. The publishing industry has already voiced its anxiety about the plan amid fears that bestselling author and former drug smuggler Howard Marks could be among those targeted as well as recent autobiographies by "serial hostage taker" Charles Bronson and former paramilitary leader, Johnny Adair. But it is not yet clear whether the civil recovery scheme will operate retrospectively.
If there's been an outcry over this, I must confess, I've missed it. Though I'm tempted to say that anything that might prevent Jeffrey Archer from writing must be a good thing...
The reintroduction of the plan to hold inquests into deaths involving aspects of national security with a specially selected coroner sitting without a jury is expected to lead to renewed parliamentary opposition. The joint human rights committee has already described the proposal as "an astonishing provision" with serious implications for the obligation, under the European convention on human rights, to provide an adequate and effective investigation where a person has been killed as a result of the use of force by a state agent.
Ah, I see - a nice little ticking bomb for Call-Me-Dave's team to try to defuse.


Anonymous said...

You can imagine the reaction of the young Jack Straw hearing of such things. Another march along the Embankment!

JuliaM said...