A small number of accredited journalists are to be allowed to cover a forthcoming terrorism trial which is shrouded in an unprecedented level of secrecy.
Mr Justice Nicol ruled in May that the trial would be held entirely in secret.
Following a challenge by a coalition of the UK’s leading news publishers, the Court of Appeal decided in June that the defendants could be named and that some elements of the trial could be held in public.
Giving its reasons today, the court also decided that up to ten accredited journalists will be allowed to over the trial provided they submit to strict conditions which mean their reports must remain secret until they are reviewed by the judge at the end of the hearing.
Some elements of the trial of Erol Incedal and Mounir Rarmoul-Bohhadjar will still be held in total secrecy.
Incedal is charged with an offence contrary to section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006 (preparation of terrorist acts) and an offence contrary to section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (collection of information).
Rarmoul-Bouhadjar is charged with an offence contrary to section 58 of Terrorism Act 2000 (collection of information) and an offence contrary to section 4 of the Identity Documents Act 2010 (possession of false identity documents etc with improper intention).
Lord Justice Goss said in his judgment today: “We are persuaded on the evidence before us that there is a significant risk – at the very least, a serious possibility – that the administration of justice would be frustrated were the trial to be conducted in open Court.
“For good reason on the material we have seen, the Crown might be deterred from continuing with the prosecution.”
However the court will allow the following elements of the case to be heard in public:
- Swearing in of the jury
- Reading the charges to the jury
- At least a part of the Judge’s introductory remarks to the jury
- At least a part of the Prosecution opening
- The verdicts
- If any convictions result, sentencing (subject to any further argument before the trial Judge as to the need for a confidential annexe).
He said that “up to ten accredited journalists (as defined in the order) may attend the trial subject to the terms as to confidentiality there set out”.
Adding that “the proposal for the attendance of accredited journalists means that the scrutiny function of the media will be preserved throughout the trial (save for the discrete ex parte aspects)”.
It will be up to the news groups which brought the legal challenge to decide which journalists will be allowed to cover the trial.
A transcript of the public and private proceedings (excluding the secret elements) will be available for review by any of the accredited journalists at the conclusion of the trial.