The Metropolitan Police has ordered journalists to hand over confidential information in secret courts, it has been revealed today.
The Sunday Times reported that commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has launched secret court cases in the absence of public scrutiny in a bid to secure production orders.
Once the production order is secured, the target of the order is ordered to hand over any relevant information, including notebooks, emails or photographs.
The Sunday Times reports that the Supreme Court will hear an important test-case and receive a submission from Hogan-Howe on 3 December.
Former shadow home secretary David Davis described the court bid as “an astonishing threat to press freedom”.
He said: “These things should be decided in open court.”
The case involves a former SAS officer who is accused of leaking information to Sky News’ defence correspondent Sam Kiley.
Armed police stopped the SAS man and his son near the squadron’s Hereford headquarters.
Sky News has been ordered by the secret court to hand over emails and any other information that passed between the soldier and Kiley.
The Metropolitan Police gave evidence in court that was not handed over to Sky News although Sky News later appealed that decision.
The High Court ruled that seeking production orders in closed courts was unlawful.
The charges against the SAS man and a second soldier were later dropped.
However, the Metropolitan Police is seeking to overturn the High Court’s decision so they will be allowed to use secret courts to force journalists to hand over documents in future.
According to court documents seen by the Sunday Times the restriction on using secret courts is a hindrance to the Metropolitan Police and is “having a significant impact on current police investigations into other very serious and important cases, in particular those involving national security.”
A spokesman for the Met said: “Currently the police are unable to make applications for production orders in cases involving highly sensitive material as it would have to be disclosed and could then potentially be disclosed to a suspect.
“The Supreme Court will be asked to consider whether it is procedurally fair for the court to consider some material in private.”