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
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn