The W&Y could answer the above questions, but because of a little known British legal device known as a ‘Ministerial certificate’ cannot so do without running the considerable risk of being taken to court. Whether it would be beneficial to the public good to disclose the full what and why of 27 year old law student Erol Incedal actions is debatable, but it is healthy that, at the least, the public knows about ‘Ministerial certificates’ and their power because they have been used to deny us even the knowledge of Mr Incedal’s defence against accusations of which he was found not guilty.
The London Times newspaper today publishes an article in a manner rarely seen in Britain. For example, after Incedal was jailed for three and half years for possession of a bomb making manual, it writes that he was a xxxx xxx xxxxxxxxxx. It goes on to report that a jury had been swayed by powerful evidence that he had been a xxxxxxxxxxx xxx xxxxxxxxxxx who had received xxxxxxxxx xx xxxxxxx. The central allegation against him, that he had plotted online to xxxxxxxxxx xxx xxx xxxxxxxx was not heard in open court and large parts of the proceedings against him were held in secret or semi secret. He was found not guilty of those allegations but Mr Justice Nicol ruled that we cannot be told the reasons why. Nor can we be told the details of what Incedal’s defence team said was a ‘reasonable excuse’ for him possessing the bomb making manual even though the jury did not believe the excuse.
The grounds for the manner of the trial were ‘national security’. The Ministerial Certificate was signed by both the British Home Secretary Theresa May, and William Hague who, when signing, was Foreign Secretary.
The certificates are designed to protect information which if made public could, it is argued, put certain people in danger, and wreck measures being taken to prevent terrorist attacks on the public. In this instance they appear to have been used to their fullest extent with no leeway given even after the trial has ended.
The Times reports that when Mr Justice Nicol was a mere QC he co-authored a book entitled Media Law in which he wrote – “the judge presides as a surrogate for the people, who are entitled to see and approve the power exercised on their behalf…”