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Secret courts mooted for organised crime

20 July 2010

The Scottish Government is reportedly considering counter terrorism-style courts, sitting in secret before a judge and special advocates, to deal with suspected organised criminals involved in money laundering.

The proposals, disclosed in the Herald yesterday, have now attracted criticism from human rights lawyers as well as opposition politicians.

Under consideration as part of the drive to tackle organised crime, the proposals are said to have arisen from concern that criminals are increasingly using people with no criminal records as the face of businesses they set up as part of their money laundering operations. These are believed to be diversifying from traditional front businesses, such as cab companies and security firms, into concerns such as children’s nurseries and residential care homes.

If implemented, the hearings would involve specially appointed advocates, rather than the suspect's own lawyers, considering the evidence in order to decide whether to remove suspected criminals’ business licences and seize funds.

Concerns have now been expressed by human rights lawyer John Scott, vice-president of the Society of Solicitor Advocates, who described the plans as an "absolute minefield”, particularly if an innocent person should find themselves caught up in such an investigation.

Mr Scott said that human rights issues arose if a person was not allowed to know the substance of the case against them.

John Lamont of the Scottish Conservatives and Robert Brown for the Liberal Democrats also voiced concerns for the effect on the Scottish justice system.

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