Coping with Conway v. Rimmer [1968] AC 910: how civil servants control access to justice

Spencer, Maureen P. and Spencer, John (2010) Coping with Conway v. Rimmer [1968] AC 910: how civil servants control access to justice. Journal of Law and Society, 37 (3). pp. 387-411. ISSN 0263-323X

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The article, based on a review of files in the National Archives, examines the role of civil servants in claims for the suppression of state documents at trial on grounds of public interest immunity (PII). Government lawyers solicited responses from other ministries to the landmark Lords decision in Conway v. Rimmer and coordinated the civil service campaign against this unwelcome judicial intrusion into their professional domain. The decision was seen as a threat to confidentiality and the secret cultivation of administrative expertise. Academic debate on the evolution of the PII doctrine has centred on the allocation of responsibility between an overly deferential judiciary and ministerial concern to avoid political embarrassment. The role of civil servants may have been more coherent and ideologically motivated than previously appreciated. As the courts increasingly challenge government claims for suppression of material at trial, the article highlights the historical factors determining the executive's innate instinct for secrecy.

Item Type:Article
Research Areas:A. > School of Law > Law and Politics
Citations on ISI Web of Science:0
ID Code:4545
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Deposited On:17 Mar 2010 11:34
Last Modified:25 Mar 2015 17:32

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