Does Britain Need a Star Chamber?

03/09/2012 14:17 BST | Updated 02/11/2012 09:12 GMT

A 'Star Chamber' or 'Camera Stellata', as it is known in Latin, is a secret closed court which is used to prosecute people of prominent status who have abused their power. Star Chambers have been used in the past to convict people in high positions, which the existing court system would not otherwise be able to touch. They have no witnesses, no appeals, no indictments and no juries. All of the evidence is presented to the court in writing and the members of the court all remain anonymous.

To me this seems like a possible framework to use in the current political and economic environment, where the powerful have been able to abuse their position without consequence. The position of the financial and political elite has become so intertwined that it is difficult to separate the two functions they are supposed to represent. On many occasions illegal activity has been openly reported without prosecution due to the position of the individuals who committed the crimes.

A secret closed court that works alongside the existing legal system that does not carry the same public consequences to those who operate it may be a way to convict those who are considered above the law. Not only would such a system extend the existing law to everyone, regardless of who they are but it would act as a deterrent to anyone in such a position in the future preventing them from abusing the power it would give them. Just knowing there is a legal framework that can convict anyone is in itself a tool to prevent corruption.

Perhaps the court could go further and not just convict people after the crime has been committed but enable investigations the current legal system would not sanction. Although the typical Star Chamber model works alongside the existing laws imposing a secondary court system with executive powers. It may, in certain situations, such as financial crimes, be able to address politically sensitive issues without the difficulties that the current legal processes have created.

This process might not necessarily mean convictions but a separate legal system that enables investigative legislation to prevent financial crises and fraud. The Star Chamber would have the power to temporarily bypass the existing statutes, if they obstruct the transparency of financial operations that have the potential to damage the British economy. Not only would this allow access to information that could prevent economic crises but it would also speed up the process of investigation and could be used as an emergency court.

If the economic situation deteriorates, which it is likely to, the Star Chamber could be used as an economic emergency court. If the circumstance requires fast legislative action to prevent further chaos in an immediate economic crisis the Star Chamber court be used to avoid the lengthy standard legal process. Perhaps an executive body like an Emergency Economic Committee could be set up to submit requests of emergency legislation that the Star Chamber could pass in extreme situations.