Executive impunity and parallel justice? The United Kingdom debate on secret inquests and inquiries.
ABSTRACT At the beginning of 2008, the United Kingdom Government rolled into the Counter-Terrorism Bill some controversial proposals to reform coronial inquest processes, namely clauses that would provide for "secret inquests". The provisions were heavily criticised both inside and outside Parliament, and took a rocky passage through both the House of Commons and the House of Lords before eventually being abandoned by the government. In 2009 the government again tried to introduce "secret inquests" with the Coroners and Justice Bill, instead ultimately succeeding in establishing what critics have termed a "parallel" system of justice through provisions around "secret inquiries". This move has been seen as subverting the principles of transparency and open justice in the investigation of contentious deaths. This article examines the government's efforts to introduce "secret inquests" and thereafter "secret inquiries" in the context of the United Kingdom's coronial law and purpose, human rights obligations and the ongoing issues around sensitive intelligence, and examines the clash of laws that gave rise to the controversial proposals.