Tories in charge

Ken Clarke 2010-2012

Chris Grayling 2012-2015

Michael Gove 2015-2016

Liz Truss July 2016 - June 2017

David Lidington June 2017 - Jan 2018 

David Gauke Jan 2018














1993 was the year in which Michael Howard told us that "prison works".Liz Truss is now in charge and she tells us: "There are no quick fixes" 


Prisons: Just the facts

Staff shortages, government cuts, mental illness, self-harm, drugs, particularly, Spice easily available, high re-offending rates, violence and disorder rising, prison education hopeless and rehabilitation a pipe dream - now that's what you call public policy failure….

It comes as the government faces repeated warnings about the crisis inside Britain's prisons. There have been a riot and three disturbances in the last three and a half months, 354 deaths in prison last year and 6,430 assaults on staff in the year to September 2016.”

Latest unrest in England's prisons 2016

HMP Swaleside - 22 December - Prisoners took control of part of a wing at the prison in Kent. Swaleside has a capacity of about 1,100 inmates serving prison terms of more than four years. An HM Inspectorate of Prisons report in July described the prison as "dangerous”. 
The category B prison gives inmates access to education and training.
HMP Birmingham - 16 December - Specialist riot squads were deployed after a riot broke out involving hundreds of inmates and lasting more than 12 hours.
HMP Bedford - 6 November - A riot saw up to 200 inmates go on the rampage, flooding the jail's gangways.
HMP Lewes - 29 October - A national response unit had to be brought in to control the prisoners at the East Sussex jail during the incident which lasted for six hours.

England’s 133 prisons are holding 86,000 souls, that population has doubled in the last twenty years. England locks up far more people than any other comparable European country.  Since 1993 the prison population has almost doubled over a period when the overall population of England and Wales has grown by about 17%.

Over half of all prisons are overcrowded although prison minister Jeremy Wright tells us “we have enough space within our prisons to accommodate all offenders”. Yes, minister, and there’s enough space on the Isle of Wight to accommodate half the world’s population, as long as no one wants to sit down. Staff shortages are major problem, both in terms of maintaining control, the health of staff and even pretending to run a rehabilitation programme. The ratio of prison officers to prisoners in 2000 was 1:2.9, by the end of September 2013 this had increased to 4.8 prisoners for each prison officer.

Staff shortages are compounded by the mental health of many inmates, 90% of whom are said to have some type of mental ailment; which is made worse in turn by the free availability of drugs of all descriptions. Rehabilitation is not working, 49% of all those leaving prison reoffend within one year. 

You may recall that Mr Cameron told us: 

“Prisons will become places of hard work and industry, instead of enforced idleness.” 

Well, enforced idleness is the norm, fewer than 10,000 inmates are gainfully employed within the prison estate.

The Tory solution to this malaise is to parcel out as much of the justice system to the private sector as it can. We are told that the private sector offers better value for money, it does not, it’s just cheaper. And cheaper is all this government cares about. 

Sodexo, French multinational food purveyor knows all about cheap and has a finger in the prison pie, in Britain the company has over 2000 contracts supplying food to schools, the army and prisons. It also attempts to run prisons, 122 around the globe, five in the UK.

In February 2017, a Panarama special took us inside HMP Northumberland… inmates running the show, off their heads on drugs and drink, prison officers unable to maintain control and at risk on a daily basis. 

According to HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, both “the quantity and quality of purposeful activity in which prisoners are engaged [has] plummeted” in 2012-13, reporting the worst outcomes in six years. In over half of prisons results were judged to be not sufficiently good or poor. He also warned in 2012 “Resources are now stretched very thinly [...] there is a pretty clear choice for politicians and policy makers - reduce prison populations or increase prison budgets.” (Prison Reform Trust website) This government intends to keep  cutting budgets.


Private Prisons

There are currently 133 prisons in England and Wales. The management of 14 of these are contracted to private sector partners and the rest are run by the public sector through Her Majesty's Prison Service. It was Ken Clarke, under Thatcher, who opened the first private prison in 1992, New Labour during their regime went for the idea big time.

However, the big question is, will private prisons better enable the justice system achieve its goals relating to making everything more efficient and effective; cracking down on drugs, improving the work and education regime within prisons, improving relation between staff and prisoners. The short answer is that some private prisons have proved innovative and successful while others have been criticised for their high staff turnover, tendency to cut corners and weaknesses in security.

The National Audit Office has pointed out that corner cutting like employing inexperienced (i.e. cheap) staff does not lend itself to a safe environment for vulnerable staff and inmates, in a world where the habitual criminal is king. Also, the ratio of prison staff to prisoners is usually lower in private prisons.


The Rehabilitation Revolution

The intended reforms include at least six new rehabilitation programmes, delivered on a payment by results basis. Providers will be paid to reduce reoffending, funded in the long run by the savings to the taxpayer that this new approach is expected to generate. How many times will a Tory tell us how the private provider will save the taxpayer money. Do they mean like G4S and Serco did with their tagging contracts, you may recall these companies had to pay back over £200 million for over-charging for their good work. Serco also had to pay back £2m for ‘mis-recording’ the number of prisoners it delivered to court. And Justice Secretary Chris Grayling noted an “audit of G4S contracts has uncovered problems” ..... “serious issues relating to invoicing, delivery and performance reporting” - is that all?
They also intend to stop sending people with mental illness and drug dependency to prison, they are hoping to pass the parcel here to the NHS, as long as public safety is not compromised. Foreign criminals, unless they have a legal right to remain here, should be deported at the end of their sentence. They are also considering immediate removal, rather than imprisonment for some foreign offenders. After all, we don't want a repeat of that nasty Mr Abu Qatada making a monkey of our Home Secretary, do we.

A note on drug use in prison

The Prison Service has no idea how much drug use there is and no incentive to stop it. The Prison Service relies heavily on mandatory drug tests (MDT), whereby a small proportion of prisoners are tested every month because it paints such a positive picture, i.e. it provides figures suggesting that only 8% of prisoners are using drugs. The Policy Exchange discovered that up to 35% of prisoners were taking drugs and 80% reported that they could obtain hard drugs if they wanted them.

MDT rates are a key target within the performance management regime. This incentivises prisons to cover up the problem rather than confront it. This is exacerbated by the worrying overuse of methadone and other opiate substitutes, which allows prisoners who are being maintained to use heroin on top, because any positive test is overturned on appeal. It also encourages the use of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine since they leave your system quicker.
In sum: Breaking The Cycle of crime means reducing crime by reducing the number of criminals, according to Dave. However, not wishing to be pedantic but being unable to resist the necessity, reducing the number of criminals may not reduce crime if the reduced number of criminals increase their productivity. Also, and perhaps more damning to Dave’s ambitions, reducing the number of mentally ill inmates will never happen since our prisons are being used as holding pens for all those that care in the community has failed.


Third Sector Involvement

The National Offender Management Service (NOMs) is an executive branch of the Ministry of Justice and combines the Probation Service and HM Prison Service. The part played by charities and voluntary organisations in offender management services is not significant, beyond government rhetoric, the bulk of probation work is going to big corporations, who sub-contract out the work to third sector agents. 
They do not always get on though, the governor of three prisons in South Yorkshire ordered all probation staff (March 2012) off the premises after discovering that the local probation trust had formed an alliance with the private security company, G4S, to take over the running of his jails. The bust up arose because of, then justice secretary, Ken Clarke's drive to privatise up to nine more prisons. The governor objected to the probation trust giving the edge to G4S against public sector bidders, HM Prison Service, who was bidding for the 15-year contracts to run all the jails in partnership with Mitie Group, an outsourcing and energy services company. Why did the probation trust side with G4S, because they would be partners going forward, not sub-contractors. However, the government has plans to disappear probation trusts.

Be in no doubt prison privatisation is big business. Serco, owners of Premier Custodial Group has contracts valued at £5-6bn over the next 20 years, these include, beyond building and running prisons, five immigration facilities, police custody suites, probation services, mental health services, customs and excise and tribunals. It looks like the probation service in South Yorkshire has lost the missionary zeal that established help for offenders in the late 19th century. To survive today in the public sector you either become market facing or you take yourself off to the JobCentre.

Probation services were provided by 25 Probation Trusts across England and Wales. All received funding from NOMS to which they were accountable for their performance and delivery. 

Well, Mr Grayling abolished the Trusts in May 2014, all part of what he calls a new National Probation Service. We think that means a privately run, payments by results probation service. We don’t know what happens to accountability etc., when they start going private. Actually, we do know, accountability happens when these companies get caught out with its hand in the public purse. 

What is happening in the  privatisation in the prison/offender services arena is setting the pattern for the provision of all social policy. Large corporations, e.g. G4S, Sodexo, and Serco, subcontract to charities and voluntary groups; direct funding and the role of local authorities are being air brushed out of the picture.

In the latest round of bidding for probation services, October 2014, Sodexo and Interserve have been contracted to run half of the probation services, for up to 70% of low level offenders.  G4S and Serco did not appear in the latest round of bidding, something to do with their over-charging for tagging?  Companies now bidding for contracts are being referred to as Community Rehabilitation Companies or CRCs, i.e. Grayling’s replacement for the Trusts. Both the Public Accounts Committee and Napo, the probation staff union, have condemned the lack of real competition among bidders and raised safety concerns. The failures of the private sector in relation to asylum accommodation, the Work Programme, tagging, and court translation are all being ignored by Grayling. He seems to believe that ‘facilities management’ companies, with expertise in food supplies, will do a better job of offender rehabilitation than the Probation Trusts. And a minor detail, these ‘poison pill’ contracts, once allocated, will not be cheaply undone by future governments.


Probation service in chaos as privatisation goes ahead, Philip Hadley, Oct. 2014
Repeat offender: why outsourcing probation is a risky mistake, NEF blog, July 2014

Grayling forces through probation sell-off despite safety fears, Ian Dunt,, Oct 2014

Justice for sale – the privatisation of offender management services, TUC report based on research by NEF, 2014


Prison Education

Half of all prisoners have literacy skills at or below those expected of an 11-year-old. Britain's prisons are home to an itinerant population of 86,000, these people are constantly churned between different establishments within the system. 72 charities across 118 prisons are involved in education, a 2005 report suggested that the government should devolve their responsibility for prison education to charities or should involve them more formally in the process. (House of Commons Education and Skills Committee, 2005)

Prisoners who do not take part in education or training are three times more likely to be re-convicted than those who do. Three times more likely, should we read this as evidence that points to the importance of education in cutting recidivism. No, because first you will have to find a causal link between education and not reoffending, it just might be pure chance.

Individual Learning Plans

Prison education has always been about basic skills but basic skills do not enhance peoples' employability. Employers have been conditioned to expect not very much from a 16 year old but when someone in the thirties turns up, they expect a trifle more. However, before Dave invented cunning, some bright spark came up with the idea of the 'The Individual Learning Plan'. The idea being, that following an assessment of the individual's needs, an educational plan would be drawn up that would travel wherever the inmate travelled. Unfortunately, the inmates records didn't always travel as well as the inmate. For every headlining Bachelor of Philosophy success story, you can find 10,000 forgotten souls, who didn't even manage to complete Level 1 Basic Skills.

The whole process of prison education is haphazard, hit and miss, inconsistent and vague in purpose and outcomes, and does Dave have a plan to improve this mess, no, what he has is a set of clearly defined good intentions but not the means to bring about real change: in terms of rehabilitating criminals and reducing reoffending.

In sum: Dave's plans for Justice have your safety and security as a key priority, the plans have all been written down but there's a big question mark over the increasing role of private money grubbers in the prison system and the uncertain position of the third sector partners due to lack of support and funding. Improvements to prison education is central to the success of the project but the omens here are not good. Also, providing meaningful work within the prison system has not proved easy in the past and given the present market conditions there are no reasons to be optimistic.
We can be certain, however, that the great and good will be kept safe thanks to Ken Clarke's legacy of secret courts - there will be no redress in this new system for the poor.


The Forward March of the Privatisation Project 

In September 2012, Mr Cameron reshuffled his Cabinet, old duffer Ken Clarke was replaced by Chris Grayling as Justice Secretary. When the Coalition was formed, Grayling was given the job of Minister of State for Employment and spent two years working for Iain Duncan Smith's honing his craft. Now he's the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary and is forging ahead with the Tory project to privatise the whole justice system.

"We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right" (Clause 39 Magna Carta, 1215). Tell that to the Tory party.
The MoJ stated (May 2013) that it had no plans for the "wholesale" privatisation of Her Majesty's Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS). What they meant to say was, what's left of it. Grayling has every intention of outsourcing as much of the justice system as he can get away with, before anyone notices that the rights set out in the Magna Carta have all gone.

The plan going forward is to outsource the courts and buildings to the lowest bidder and to sell services to litigants, over and above their fees, turning court users into customers and thereby making the sale of court services an investment opportunity. For instance, wealthy litigants could obtain preferential treatment, like deciding to have their case heard when they want it. Perhaps, as the judiciary become part of the corporate landscape explicitly, complete with G4S logos, rich people will be able to choose the judge they prefer or the perhaps the location and time they prefer for their hearing.

Thus far the private sector has been allowed to turn a profit from security, prisons, probation, transport and interpretation services, child-abuse investigations and rape recovery suites. They now being allowed to take over the courts as well.

And don't waste your time looking for any mention of the wholesale privatisation of the justice system in the Conservative manifesto 2010, cunningly, the whole project comes under the rubric of Value For Money. In fact , all you will find is the following: "We will raise public sector productivity by increasing diversity of provision, extending payment by results and giving more power to consumers."
Grayling's Pipe Dream: prisoner resettlement (July 2013) Chris Grayling announced plans for 70 'resettlement prisons' that hold offenders close to home before their release. All very interesting but Mr Grayling does not have 70 extra prisons available, he has 130 prisons, all currently very much overcrowded. His apparent intention is to designate parts of existing prisons for the resettlement of soon to be released inmates. This will mean moving prisoners close to release on a massive scale. Perhaps he intends to install a new IT system to manage the chaos resulting from his plans to move the majority of inmates serving longer sentences to a resettlement prison at least three months before the end of their time in custody.

His plans include prisoners serving 12 months or under to spend their time in a resettlement prison and receive a "tailored package of supervision and support" on their release. He has not said what this tailored package will mean for the 30% of prisoners who leave prison homeless. Will support begin by supplying somewhere to live for these people. Who we wonder will be supplying the package of support.

Well, we do not have to wonder for long, it will be the same incompetent outfits running the Work Programme. In effect, Grayling plans to privatise his new scheme, using a payment-by-results model, knowing full well that it will be impossible to evaluate the results. For instance, at what point following release will it be decided that support has been effective and money changes hands; will it be six months, a year or longer without any re-offending. Clearly, only the biggest players in the market will be able to take the strain of not receiving any income for their services.

Mr Grayling said: "Rehabilitation in the community must begin behind the prison walls and follow offenders out through the gates if we are to stand a chance of freeing them from a life of crime."

Trials of the scheme will begin in the North west in the autumn with full roll-out across England and Wales by autumn 2014. Grayling can have as many trials as he likes, the project is doomed.


Rehabilitation but no books (2014)

Dave is scratching his head in wonderment over what Chris Grayling, Justice Minister, is up to with his new initiative to improve offender behaviour. The scheme entitled 'Incentive and Earned Privilege' is straightforwardly a scheme designed to encourage offenders to conform to earn higher wages and gain privileges like television and books.

The books in question may be purchased from the prison shop. Now, in order to make the 'Incentive and Earned Privilege' scheme work you need to control the supply of books. So, an essential part of the scheme is Grayling's ban on prisoners receiving books from outside.

Now, this may mitigate against the notion of rehabilitation since offenders were being asked to trade off gratification now, i.e. some smokes or a bar of chocolate, for some intellectual improvement further down the road. Also, the scheme makes the assumption that offenders will behave themselves for a small increase in wages. Clearly, Grayling does not understand the concept of opportunity cost. Offenders spend most of their days locked up, denying them access to books like Fifty Shades of Grey, provided from outside, is a trifle inhumane and is unlikely to improve behaviour.

Action required

In May 2016 the Justice Select Committee called on the Government to draw up an immediate action plan as previous measures have had little impact.

Serious assaults went up by almost a third in 2015; there were nearly 2,000 jail fires – up 57 per cent; and incidents of hostage taking and concerted indiscipline had reached “unprecented levels” of 30-40 times a month, according to the Prison Officers’ Association. Riot squads were being deployed to prisons at least once a week.

The committee found that staff retention was major issue, where despite recruiting 2,250 extra staff in 2015, the net gain was only 440 officers.

Another major problem was the availability of legal highs, despite outlawing posession. Prevalence of staff corruption was also cited as a major problem – 250 officers were sacked in the last quarter of 2015.

Prisons Minister Andrew Selous admitted they “must do better”, adding:

“This report demonstrates the very serious challenges facing the prison service and shows how badly prison reform is needed.” 



The Justice System

Many of Dave's policies are either confused by over-ambition, e.g. education or threadbare, e.g. transport, or just nuts, e.g. energy policy. However, Dave's plans for the justice system, as set out in Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders are remarkable in their completeness and clarity. In fact, the ministerial forward to the Green Paper, Breaking the Cycle provides us, bizarrely and usefully, with a summary statement of Tory thinking on everything: "We will base our plans [for the Justice System] on the same insights that are driving reform across Government: increasing competition; decentralising control; enhancing transparency; strengthening accountability; and paying by results. We will draw on the skills of the private sector and civil society, as well as enabling public sector organisations to compete in new markets."

Why does the Justice System need reforming?

Let's be clear, Dave's plans for Justice have the "safety and security of the law-abiding citizen as a key priority for the Coalition Government." That's the citizen taken care of, what about the rest of us? It's the job of the justice system to deliver a response: punishing offenders with intelligent sentencing, protecting the public and reducing re-offending by providing effective rehabilitation. The latter being most necessary given a 50% increase in the budget for prisons and managing offenders under New Labour.  It was New Labour that piloted the first payment by results scheme at Peterborough prison. They also attempted to make community sentences more punitive and visible. They also locked more people up but they run out of prison space and had to start letting thugs out early and their record on rehabilitation was desperate.

Mr Cameron said:

1.    Prisons will become places of hard work and industry, instead of enforced idleness. 
2.    There will be greater use of strenuous, unpaid work as part of a community sentence alongside tagging and curfews.
3.    When fines are a sensible sentence, we will place a greater focus on enforcement and collection.
4.    We will put a much stronger emphasis on compensation for victims of crime.


A cautionary tale of private sector efficiency: Lost in Translation

ALS has a contract to supply the justice system with court translators but failed miserably to meet its obligations in that regard. The thing is it didn't have enough translators to cover on a day to day basis, and many of its translators were not qualified to do court work. The upshot, court cases are being cancelled, defendants are being remanded, and the tax payer is throwing money away.
Employing ALS was supposed to save £18 million, currently it's costing thousands every week and causing a good deal of upset for defendants and their families. It's worth noting that ALS also has a contract with the NHS, and the Border Agency, both no doubt worth more millions. ALS got the court translation contract because they were the cheapest. Well, they intended to be cheapest by cutting the wage bill by 30%. Nice idea but the translators didn't find the idea that brilliant and many refused to work for ALS. How on earth the MOJ can tolerate ALS is a mystery, especially when we learn that courts are turning to Google translate so that defendants at least know what they are charged with.

What about the victims of crime?

Much of what the coalition proposes for the justice system focuses on prisons and the rehabilitation of offenders. When it comes to the victims of crime, the way they are dealt with by the police and by the adversarial court system leaves much to be desired and the attorney general, Dominic Grieve QC seems to think we have no need for reform here.
Grieve was responding to Sir Keir Starmer QC, who said:
"Without casting around the world for the elusive perfect criminal justice system, the taskforce will consider the extent to which it might be possible to blend the adversarial and inquisitorial systems. Perhaps judges should be given the task of questioning young and vulnerable witnesses?"

The 'taskforce' in question has been set up by Ed Miliband's party, who believe the system does need some tweaking. Grieve does not believe that you can have a "mix of the inquisitorial and adversarial system."


And anyway the coalition are already doing things:

"We are piloting pre-trial cross-examination. So for the majority of young and vulnerable victims, I hope we are soon going to move to a position where the cross-examination takes place by video link prior to the actual trial taking place."
So, Labour has a taskforce and the coalition has a pilot, excellent, now all they have to do is explain how they will encourage victims to trust the justice system.
Keir Starmer again:

"Many victims, particularly victims of personal or sexual violence, lack the confidence to come forward to report crime … and face an unacceptable ordeal in the courtroom if their case gets that far."

And for our corporate friends

The Legal Aid Bill sets out Dave's plan to look after his corporate friends by making it harder, no impossible, for poor people to take on big companies, including media corporations through the courts. For instance, parents of babies brain-damaged at birth due to dodgy medication or victims of human rights abuses at the hands of Britain's security services will not be able to pursue the guilty. Dave is selling this legislation as an attack on ambulance chasing lawyers, as seen on afternoon television, as an attempt to reduce motor insurance premiums.

Currently, under the no-win, no-fee arrangement, if a poor person wins the case, the loser pays all the fees. Under the new system, the loser's liabilities will be limited and the average winning claimant will end up paying not just their lawyer, but also the insurance they have to take out to protect against losing. So taking on Murdoch in future could mean you lose your house in the process.
Another nail in the coffin of welfare provision, the disappearance of legal aid for a whole range of cases. For instance, citizens will struggle to get legal aid for divorce and custody battles, personal injury and some clinical negligence cases, as well as, debt, housing and benefit issues. Crucially, you will not be able get help at employment tribunals and in cases involving large corporations, e.g. a Murdoch newspaper that defames you.

The coalition’s cuts to the legal aid budget are not just unfair, they are undemocratic, denying access to the justice to a whole swathe of poor citizens. However, marginalising further those already at the margin are of no concern to the Tory mind but their actions on legal aid have made some powerful enemies. To wit, the Treasury Counsel, the Bar Council, and the Law Society have all condemned these reforms. This reaction should be expected, the system of legal aid, established in 1949, occurred very much with both sides of the legal aid equation in mind, support for the marginalised and a pay day for the elite. The news was full of people in gowns and wigs protesting over cuts to the £2bn legal aid budget of some £320m. Typically news coverage has tended to be presented as a debate about the loss of earnings to the lawyers and barristers.

We have seen the tabloid press misrepresenting the published legal aid bill for 2012/13, in an attempt to establish that the legal aid budget was being exploited by fat cat legal types. However, the official figures could not be used to support this argument for two reasons, the numbers were not just for one year, the statistics did not reveal how much spending related to work carried out across one or more years, and, there was no breakdown of how payments were shared out across the contributions of a number of professionals working on the case. The last point is the most important since the tabloids' did their best to concentrate on the people earning six figure salaries. Also, VAT is included in the figures, along with expenses that have to be paid back to the government.

Justice Minister, Shailesh Vara also focused the debate on the legal profession, saying: "We are living in difficult economic times and lawyers are not immune from the economic climate". Clearly, the Minister is not much of a philosopher, lawyers are immune to the economic climate. In the past year we have seen instances of chambers refusing complex legal aid cases. In one fraud case, 17 different chambers refused to take briefs. Those people in gowns and wigs were on strike for issues beyond their loss of earnings. More importantly, cutting the legal aid budget will hurt those denied justice or who end up with second rate advocates far more - that's the real debating point. And worryingly for Dave, it's his brother Alex who is heading up the campaign against legal aid cuts.


 Dealing with Internet 'trolls', apparently

The Defamation Bill is a tweak to existing legislation, that makes it harder for a defendant to prove his own innocence rather than the complainant having to prove the defendant’s guilt. If that last sentence appears difficult to grasp, just imagine how the peasants felt at the signing of the Magna Carta, written in Latin for the benefit of the barons.

Also, and more worryingly, this Bill will see trial by jury go out of the window and a solo judge will decide if someone's reputation has been harmed by what someone else has said about them. The excuse for this is that it will make the whole process quicker and less costly. It will also mean a loss of anonymity for trolls as Internet Service Providers are forced to reveal the identities of their nutty customers. This anonymity should be seen as equivalent to parliamentary privilege but the ISPs are not shouting about it because this legal tweak means that if they comply by supplying information about users they don't get caught up in a libel case. The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), are also happy with this new legislation  because it means they don't have to do anything, i.e. like moderating their users.

However, there's a fine line between being nasty and introducing some light into the dark corners of the private lives of the great and the good. The removal the jury and anonymity smacks of big brother deciding what is acceptable commentary in public life.

No answer to Twitter Trolls

However, events, at the end of July 2013, relating to Twitter's lack of effective moderation has led to calls for the company to start taking its responsibilities seriously. Twitter trolls attacked feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez after she successfully campaigned to have author Jane Austen depicted on the new £10 note. Everyone who went to Caroline's defence was also rudely and violently abused by the trolls.

Following complaints across the media, Twitter managed to use an Avatar in the shape of Del Harvey to answer for the company's poor record in dealing with personal threats to users. The reporting procedure that Twitter urrently employs is ineffective. And given the anonymous nature of tweeting, the problem will not be dealt with unless everyone is required to register with some proof of identity.


Special Courts

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission, is a very special court, a court like no other in the land (although the Family Court comes close). What makes this Appeals Commission special is the fact that the facts do not get interrogated the way they do in other courts. The accursed and his defense lawyers do not know what the facts are, the prosecution does not have to divulge anything it knows and no one knows what the judge knows. In the Appeals Commission, politicians and the 'spooks' who inform them, decide what the judge knows.

Not a few legal professionals have walked away from the business of the Commission, finding it too distasteful. One QC, Dinah Rose, described the process as like "being asked to shoot blindly at a concealed target".
Enter the Justice and Security Green Paper designed to introduce that system of trial on a need to know basis to any case that the State finds embarrassing or might find embarrassing. Update: March 2013, the Justice and Security Bill was passed by 71 votes.

The argument for this Kafkaesque approach to justice is a familiar one. Openness in certain circumstances may be against the national interest, or not in the public interest. After all, it doesn't do the public any good to know that British spooks have had a hand in torture, it might upset them.

Our current 'openness' is more upsetting for our chums across the pond, specifically, the CIA have said that if we persist with our outmoded fair and liberal legal system they will stop sharing so-called 'intelligence' with us.
The Cabinet Office, which handled the consultation process, have entered the spirit of things by withholding details of some of those who gave evidence. Ken Clarke was charged with blustering through this radical change to the British legal system but they say his heart was not in it.

Clarke is arguing that we need 'secret courts' because without the secrecy we end up paying out massive compensation claims to people who have implicated the security services in ‘extraordinary rendition’, which the establishment is still in denial about. However, the evidence against MI5 and MI6 and ex-government ministers is growing.

Closed Material Procedures (CMP)

CMPs were introduced by New Labour to restrict the need to know in the following circumstances: national security cases, deportations, T-Pim (restrictions on movement) cases, Employment Tribunals, and Parole Board challenges. In some recent high profile cases the government has been able to invoke CMPs and chosen to pay out millions to protect its collusion in misdeeds. The new Bill allowed then justice man, Ken Clarke, to decide that a case requires secret hearings, end of debate. Clarke told the press, following a fair bit of concern from the Primrose Hill Marxist collective, that it should not be politicians who decided that a case would be heard in secret but the judges, he was being disingenuous. Critics of Clarke's Bill argued that changes to the law should be to improve and strengthen our legal system, not destroy it. Don’t these people know we are at war?