Shayler attacks CPS trial bid

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The Independent Online

Former MI5 officer David Shayler has attacked moves for his trial to be held behind closed doors.

Former MI5 officer David Shayler has attacked moves for his trial to be held behind closed doors.

It follows a bid today by the Crown Prosecution Service to have all or parts of his prosecution heard in private under the Official Secrets Act.

Shayler, 34, faces three charges of disclosing secret documents and information in relation to an article in The Mail on Sunday in August 1997.

The third charge relates to passing on material he allegedly obtained through telephone tapping, an offence against section 4 of the Act.

He said: "Open justice is a fundamental part of any civilised society but this government is trying to gag the press.

"Open justice is supposed to be bred in the bone of our common law and trial by our peers in the open, a central tenet of the criminal justice system."

And John Wadham, his solicitor and director of human rights group Liberty, added: "One of the fundamental principles of our criminal justice system is openness.

"This case is all about freedom of speech and to gag the press from reporting is wrong in principle.

"There may be some parts of the trial itself that need to be held in secret but not the preliminary hearings and not the whole of the trial."

The CPS in an application posted today said the case should be heard in private "for reasons of national security".

Shayler fled to France before the article was published but returned voluntarily last month.

The article said that security chiefs at MI5, where Shayler previously worked, had kept files on prominent Labour politicians.

Shayler is expected to claim protection at his trial under the new Human Rights Act.

He is expected in court on November 2 for a preliminary hearing.

A spokeswoman for the CPS said the application was not "usual" but could happen in the interests of national security.