File this one away in the “what were they thinking” category. Today, the Guardian reports that a British appeals court has blocked an attempt by UK prosecutors to hold an entire criminal trial in secret. In Guardian News Media v. AB, CD, Prosecutors claimed that the sensitivity of the terrorism-related charges necessitated that the trial be held in private without publication of court opinions or orders and that the names of the defendants, who until today had been referred to only as “AB” and “CD”, be withheld from the public. Had the lower court’s decision be upheld, the trial would have been the UK’s first criminal trial held entirely in secret. And to think, some folks argue CIPA is overly restrictive!
The appeals court did note that there was a “significant risk . . . that the administration of justice would be frustrated were the trial to be conducted in open Court,” but that:
“[w]hile we are driven to conclude that the core of the trial must be in camera, on the material before us, we are not persuaded that there would be a risk to the administration of justice were the following elements of the trial heard in open Court:
i) Swearing in of the jury.
ii) Reading the charges to the Jury.
iii) At least a part of the Judge’s introductory remarks to the Jury.
iv) At least a part of the Prosecution opening.
v) The verdicts.
vi) If any convictions result, sentencing (subject to any further argument before the trial Judge as to the need for a confidential annex).”