Thursday, January 26, 2006

Trial of David Keogh and Leo O'Connor under the Official Secrets Act

The Times yesterday reported that "Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, is to apply to the Old Bailey for proceedings against two men under the Official Secrets Act to be held in camera".

Is this an indication that the Government are not yet prepraring to allow any part of memo to become public?

Both men were remanded on bail at a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday (see BBC news). They are next in court on the 25th April.

The Official Secrets Act states: S11(4) Section 8(4) of the [1920 c. 75.] "Official Secrets Act 1920 (exclusion of public from hearing on grounds of national safety) shall have effect as if references to offences under that Act included references to offences under any provision of this Act other than section 8(1), (4) or (5).". A certficate would have to be issued giving reasons.

Similar applications were made by the Government for parts of the David Shayler trial under the Official Secrets Act to be held in camera. (Two were issued one in 2000, the other in 2002). The context was obviously different given Shayler's background as an ex agent - there was a much greater risk of new senstive information coming to light given his extensive inside knowledge and nature of the witnesses involved. Shayler attempted to resist this, as did the press. In this case the detailed evidence supporting the certficate was seen as too damaging, so this was given to the court as a "sensitive schedule". The certficates were accepted by the judge for parts of the trial.

There is now a useful "live" set of pages on Wikipedia on the Trial and the al-Jazeera memo (with the caveat that Wikepedia is an "open editorial" site free to edit by any user)

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