Terror trial to be heard in secret in break with tradition

It could be the first time a criminal trial has been held both behind closed doors and with the defendants’ anonymity protected

A terrorism trial of two men is set to be heard in secret in an unprecedented departure from the centuries-old British tradition of open justice, the Court of Appeal has heard.

The two men – who have been identified only as AB and CD – are set to stand trial in a few weeks, with the press and public barred from the courts on the grounds of national security, the court was told.

AB and CD had been arrested in “high-profile circumstances” last year and faced allegations of preparing terrorist acts and possessing bomb-making instructions.

The media had been banned from reporting the existence of an order allowing anonymity for the defendants and restricting access to court.

Today, the media challenged the order made by Mr Justice Nicol on 19 May at the Old Bailey, and that hearing can be reported.

If the media challenge fails, it would be the first time that a criminal trial has been held both behind closed doors and that the defendants’ anonymity has been protected, according to lawyers.

In 2008, part of a murder trial was held in secret on the grounds of national security, but the defendant was named and much of the case was heard in public. However, prosecutors said that if the trial was not held in public there was a “serious possibility” that it would not go ahead.

“The Crown has sought and obtained an unprecedented order that the trial of two defendants charged with serious terrorism offences should take place entirely in private, with the identity of both defendants withheld and a permanent prohibition on reporting what takes place during the trial and their identities,” said Anthony Hudson, representing the media.

“We submit that the orders mark such a significant departure from the principle of open justice that they are inconsistent with the rule of law and democratic accountability.”

The prosecution said the decision to hold the case in secret was exceptional and the complete ban on reporting would not necessarily last.

“There is a justification for defendants to be anonymous and there is jurisdiction for the court to sit in private,” said Richard Whittam QC, for the Crown Prosecution Service.

The three judges, Lord Justice Gross, Mr Justice Simon and Mr Justice Burnett, will give their decision in the next few days.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, said: “Transparency isn’t an optional luxury in the justice system – it’s key to ensuring fairness and protecting the rule of law. This case is a worrying high-water mark for secrecy in our courts.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?