The government’s justice and security green paper and its proposals for “secret justice” has been heavily criticised this week.  Nick Clegg wrote to cabinet colleagues to criticise the proposals as unacceptable in their present form, while the Joint Committee on Human Rights issued a damning report on the paper.

The committee said that the paper failed to justify a change in the law and that all other options should be explored before the government resorts to holding trials in secret. It called on the government to bring forward legislation to clarify how ‘public interest immunity’, which allows sensitive material to be protected from disclosure, should be applied to cases involving national security. The committee also identified a “serious omission” in the paper – the impact of its proposals on the freedom of the media to report on matters of public interest and concern. “The role of the media in holding the government to account and upholding the rule of law is a vital aspect of the principle of open justice,” the JCHR said.

The government was also criticised for its plans to extend GCHQ’s powers to monitor internet and telephone communications. David Cameron defended government plans, saying the government needed to take every step to keep the country safe.

Adding to the criticism from the deputy prime minister and the joint committee the Bar Council called for the government to amend further the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to protect civil liberties and open justice. The Bar Council wrote to the Home Secretary to urge the Government to consider seriously whether RIPA operates consistently in the public interest. “The Coalition’s Programme for Government pledged to ‘restore the rights of individuals in the face of encroaching state power, in keeping with Britain’s tradition of freedom and fairness.’ But the Government has been giving with one hand and taking with the other. While the Protection of Freedoms Bill is a step in the right direction, proposals for secret courts and intercept ‘modernisation’ fly in the face of the Government’s post-election commitments.”

The Court of Appeal (CoA) is to pilot a mediation scheme for all personal injury and contract claims up to the value of £100,000 for which permission to appeal is given. The Court of Appeal Mediation Scheme (CAMS) will be managed by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR). Under the plans parties will be expected to mediate disputes unless the presiding judge says otherwise. Lord Justice Rix is driving forward the scheme as part of the Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger’s aim to revitalise the CAMS scheme. He said the scheme would speed up potential settlements and save litigation costs.

The Law Commission has drawn up a list of obsolete statutes that are to be repealed by the form by the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill. The Bill  “… will repeal 817 whole Acts and part repeal 50 other Acts. The Bill covers a diverse range of subjects, from poor relief and lotteries to turnpikes and Indian railways. The earliest repeal is from around 1322 (Statutes of the Exchequer) and the latest is part of the Taxation (International and Other Provisions) Act 2010.” The bill is necessary as it cannot be assumed that an Act of Parliament or any other legal rule has disappeared just because it has not been used for many decades or longer.   By the 1950s, for example, the Court of Chivalry had not sat for two centuries, and most assumed it had ceased to exist. Yet it was revived in the celebrated case of Manchester Corporation v Manchester Palace of Varieties Ltd [1955] 1 All ER 387: since no case or legislation could be found which had formally abolished the court, it had to be extant.