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Volume 489: debated on Tuesday 17 March 2009

21. To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what recent representations he has received on his Department’s plans to make provision for some inquests to be held without juries. (263767)

At Second Reading my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor told the House that the Government were open to suggestions and amendments about these proposals. Many have responded to my invitation from both sides of the House.

In consequence, we are this afternoon tabling amendments to fundamentally recast the proposals. First: the criteria for a Secretary of State certification will be significantly tightened.

Second: The Secretary of State’s certificate will trigger consideration by a High Court judge—sitting as the coroner—whether it is necessary to hold an inquest without a jury but the decision will be for the High Court judge, who will be able to consider whether special measures with a jury would be adequate to protect the sensitive information concerned. There would be a right of appeal to the Court of Appeal.