Secret court & secret trial rejected by judiciary

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AN unprecedented attempt to hold the first ever completely secret criminal trial in the UK has been blocked by the Court of Appeal.

However the Judges said that the ‘core’ of the terrorism trial could be partly heard in secret but parts must be in public.

They said media also should be allowed to name the two defendants as Erol Incedal and Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar.

Lord Justice Gross said after his ruling: ‘Open justice is both a fundamental principle of the common law and a means of ensuring public confidence in our legal system.

‘Exceptions are rare and must be justified on the facts. Any such exceptions must be necessary and proportionate. No more than the minimum departure from open justice will be countenanced.’

However he added that those exceptions could include withholding information on the basis of national security because that was ‘a national interest of the first importance’.

He said: ‘For the secret intelligence agencies to operate effectively, at least much of their work is secret and must remain so as a matter of necessity.

‘From time to time, tensions between the principle of open justice and the needs of national security will be inevitable.’

Prosecutors had claimed their application for a secret trial was in the ‘interests of national security’.

Until yesterday, the men were previously only known as ‘AB’ and ‘CD’ respectively.

The judges said that the court accepted the exceptional nature of the case against the two defendants and that there was a significant risk or ‘at the very least a serious possibility’ that the Crown would have good reasons to halt the prosecution were the case to be heard in open court.

The judges added: ‘We add only this. We express grave concern as to the cumulative effects of holding a criminal trial in camera and anonymising the defendants. We find it difficult to conceive of a situation where both departures from open justice will be justified. Suffice to say, we are not persuaded of any such justification in the present case.’

The Crown Prosecution Service said: ‘The measures applied for by the CPS in this case were, they believed, justified in order for the trial to proceed and for the defendants to hear the evidence against them while protecting national security,’ said the spokesman.’

The government remains determined to impose a legal dictatorship.