Trial will be one of most costly in Britain

The trial of the terror suspects charged with plotting to blow up transatlantic airliners will be one of the biggest and most costly to be staged in this country.

It could also be one of the first high-profile terror trials to be held at the purpose-built high-security court in Woolwich, south London.

Woolwich Crown Court is close to Belmarsh high security prison, where many of the suspects are being held. In recent months court staff have been busy preparing Woolwich so that it is ready to shoulder some of the heavy caseload of terror trials currently handled at the Old Bailey.

While the switch could help to improve security and cut costs, the case is still expected to be one of the most expensive for many years.

It follows a massive nationwide police operation involving a number of different forces as well close liaison with the security and intelligence services. The evidence gathered is now being carefully assessed and prepared for trial by senior lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service, who have been working closely with the investigating police officers.

The defence teams will be looking to retain high-profile QCs who have strong reputations in defending in terror trials.

But the Crown's opening statements are unlikely to be heard before next year, when the trial date is expected to be set. Lessons will have been learnt from the experience of prosecuting other multi-defendant terror cases.

The Government, working with the judiciary, has introduced several reforms to the management and operation of high-cost cases, including terror trials.

Judges now have powers to keep barristers on a tighter reign and ensure the trial is run more efficiently so that costs do not overrun.

Until the start of the trial the media will be expected to show great restraint in reporting anything about the suspects or the alleged plot. Under the strict rules of the Contempt of Court Act, editors face fines and possible imprisonment if they print or broadcast anything that might seriously prejudice the trial.

And the Home Secretary, John Reid, and the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, have already issued a joint statement reminding the media to "exercise considerable restraint".

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