Secret Courts - No Need To Wait For The Legislation, It Seems

Judge Andrew Vickers has imposed a secret court and issued a ‘Gagging Order” against the Oxford Mail and Oxford Times.

A concerned Oxford resident has made the UK Column aware that Operation Bullfinch, the police investigation into the Oxford paedophile ring, successfully called for District Judge Andrew Vickers to gag the two local newspapers.

The Oxford Mail had been reporting the court case of a man who appeared in a separate court at the same time as the court appearance of six men accused of being part of the main child prostitution ring.

In addition to the gagging order, the Mail reporter was required to leave the court hearing itself.

The draconian measure of ejecting the reporter, rather than simply ordering him not to report proceedings, takes us even closer to secret courts where Judges can do as they please.

In a pithy article complaining of gagging, the Oxford Mail reported on 26 March this year that:

District judge Andrew Vickers prevented details of the hearing being reported unless the man is charged and appears at court.

He passed rulings under the Contempt of Court Act to stop any publication and to prevent the man’s name and address being revealed in connection with the hearing.

This came after it was argued by police that any press report could hamper their investigation.

But the judge then took the unusual step of holding the hearing in camera – which means press and public are excluded – forcing our reporter to leave the courtroom.

He ruled the investigation could be jeopardised if the hearing was not held behind closed doors.

Recognising that the police may well have a legitimate need to protect an ongoing investigation, Judge Vicker’s statements and actions are nevertheless highly questionable, if not dangerous to open and accountable justice.

By “preventing details of the hearing being reported unless the man is charged and appears at court’, the Judge seems to have ignored the fact that the man was already in court. Furthermore, if he was already in Court, why had he not already been charged?

In imposing a closed court hearing, and excluding the press and public, Judge Vickers then presided over a secret court.

What subsequently took place behind those closed court doors?

Was the unknown man threatened, intimidated or coerced in some way?

The public has no way of knowing, yet this is the very ‘soviet’ justice system that Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Ken Clarke is promoting for sensitive government trials, inquests and inquiries.

Meanwhile the UK Column continues to highlight the fact that despite their good work in Operation Bullfinch, Thames Valley Police  have still not formally interviewed or taken statements from any of the victims alleging sexual, physical and racial abuse, and intimidation at Oxford and Cherwell Valley College.

Further questions are likely to emerge over the bias in police operations against child abusers in Oxford, as Thames Valley police are key players in the same public child protection partnerships, which have clearly failed to protect young girls in their direct care. Such failings suggest misfeasance and malfeasance in public office, if not more serious charges.