In the ‘Age of Terror’ western legal systems have grappled with the dual tension of protecting its citizens from terrorist attacks while also preserving the citizenry’s civil rights. While often the focus is on the secretive renditions and proceedings brought against terror suspects, we should not forget that sometimes other areas of the legal system, more domestically focused, can also be a kind of instrument of terror while in the pursuit of its mandate. Christopher Booker from The Telegraph argues against such proceedings and claims they already exist, citing the U.K.’s family court system.
Christopher Booker, writing on behalf of The Telegraph argues that, even though the British government has just recently authorized greater powers for its courts to operate in secret, these courts were already unfair prior to these reforms. Quoting former shadow home secretary David Davis, Christopher Booker describes secret courts as belonging to regimes like those seen in North Korea, Syria and Iran.
Lawyers in the U.K. are already writing to protest the extension of this secret system stating that doing so would, “represent a departure from the foundational principles of natural justice that all parties are allowed to see and challenge all evidence relied on before the court.” In the age of terror, the need for secretive renditions on the part of states can be argued for but in light of a liberal democratic system those arguments quickly become untenable. Christopher Booker uses the example of the U.K.’s family court system in which children are routinely removed from their parents care based purely upon sometimes sensational claims from social workers and lawyers.
This ‘hearsay’ evidence is given a weight and gravity that normally would never be permitted. Additionally, the U.K. family courts system and the miscarriages of justice that have resulted from erroneous application of well-meaning laws also calls into focus the degree to which the modern state should be involved in private, family life.