A supreme Court case over claims that government negligence led to the deaths of British soldiers in Iraq could be the last of its kind to be heard in public if the Justice and Security Bill is passed, campaigners warned today.
The Supreme Court is hearing a case brought by the relatives of a number of soldiers who argue that their loved ones died because of the MoD's failure to provide adequate military vehicles.
Corporal Stephen Allbutt and trooper David Clarke were killed by "friendly fire" in March 2003 when a Challenger tank was hit by another Challenger.
Private Phillip Hewett died in July 2005 after the Snatch Land Rover he was travelling in was blown up.
Similar explosions claimed the lives of Private Lee Ellis in February 2006 and Lance Corporal Kirk Redpath in August 2007.
Minister Without Portfolio Ken Clarke has confirmed that such claims could be heard in secret courts - dubbed closed material procedures (CMPs) - on the grounds of "national security," under the Justice and Security Bill.
Ministers would be able to exclude their opponents, the press and the public from CMPs altogether.
Opponents of the plans argue that this would hand the government a massive advantage and allow them to hide embarrassing evidence from public view.
The government also recently amended the Bill to enable ministers to use CMPs in the Supreme Court.
Legal action charity Reprieve executive director Clare Algar warned: "This may well be the last time that we are able to see public reporting of a case such as this.
"Should plans for secret courts pass Parliament, ministers will be able to shut such cases away from public view by claiming 'national security' is involved.
"This would be quite wrong in cases of this nature, and would enable ministers to stop their dirty laundry being aired in public.
"It must be a wake-up call for any MP who is considering supporting the dangerous proposals in the Secret Courts Bill."
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