No defendant anonymity, says judge

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Published: Wednesday 12th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Defendants should “never, ever” be allowed to remain anonymous during their trial, the most senior judge in England and Wales has said, following an unprecedented terror case.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, said clearer rules were needed to prevent major trials being heard entirely in secret – adding “Justice that is not open, is not good justice”.

His comments come as British law student Erol Incedal, who is accused of targeting former prime minister Tony Blair, faces retrial after a jury was unable to reach a verdict in the the UK’s first part-secret terror trial.

Incedal was formerly known in the court case as AB and his co-defendant Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar, 26, who admitted possessing a bomb-making document, as CD.

The exceptional and controversial arrangements for the secret trial were made after a media challenge at the High Court against the entire case being heard in secret on grounds of national security.

As well as opening up the case to partial reporting, it led to the defendants being named in public for the first time.

Speaking at his annual press conference, the Lord Chief Justice said: “We ought to have much clearer rules as to what we need – much clearer guidance.

“This is something that should be looked at and looked at properly.

“My experience of the intelligence services is actually that when you make a full explanation of what are the principles of open justice they actually believe it – not as much – but they do believe in it.

“We need to get the ground rules straight. We can not have something like this in my view happen again.”

Lord Thomas went on: ” What we don’t want in my view is a situation where you have anonymous defendants and t hat the matter has to come to the Court of Appeal to resolve it.

“There ought to be very much clearer guidelines and rules so that the prospect of an anonymous defendant is one that I hope we would never, ever see again in our courts.”

Lord Thomas said the press ” at the earliest possible stage” should be entitled to make representations and see as much material as can be shown”.

He added: “I really passionately believe in open justice. Justice that is not open, is not good justice.

“There may be wholly exceptional reasons why you can’t say very much more than what someone is charged with.

“But I think anonymity and the nature of the charge, it is difficult to conceive of circumstances that could ever arise.”

The Lord Chief Justice said in cases where some secrecy was required – the reasoning must be explained openly and clearly.

“You need to be very clear, if something is secret, why is it? What’s the rationale? One has to do that openly.”

Published: Wednesday 12th November 2014 by The News Editor

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