17 January 2006

Did the MoD lie, or are they afraid to tell the truth?

Yesterday I learned that the Ministry of Defence have chosen to continue their strategy of secrecy. I was invited by my Member of Parliament, Andrew Mackinlay, to meet with him at the House of Commons on 19 December last year, and after some discussion Mr Mackinlay agreed to ask a written parliamentary question on my behalf. I have a great deal of respect for Andrew, both as a politician and as a man, and he has shown himself to be courageous and willing to stand up for the principles he believes in. As an MP I would expect Andrew Mackinlay to receive an adequate answer to the question he tabled, and the question was as follows:

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what date the document known as the Prosecution Exhibit bundle pages 51 to 59 in the case of R v. Michael John Smith held in the Central Criminal Court from September to November 1993, relating to the Marconi Space and Defence Systems Ltd. Demonstrator Programme Requirement Specification Bandpass Filter Assembly component dated 8 January 1982 reference 79481/PBH/BB/SO8 became linked to a weapons system; which weapons system it was linked to; on what date it became obsolete and no longer linked to any weapons system; and if he will make a statement. [39458]

The answer was received on 10 January:

Mr. Ingram: I am currently unable to provide a response to the questions raised as the subject is the matter of an investigation by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) and it would be inappropriate to provide the information requested while this investigation is ongoing.

This exchange can be read on the UK Parliament website
on this page.

I was absolutely disgusted by this answer given by Mr Adam Ingram MP. How could any answer he gave to this question have affected the outcome to the CCRC's investigation of my case? This was a purely factual matter and not one concerned with opinion or interpretation.

The facts are: an MoD expert stated at my trial in 1993 that the document referred to above was used on the ALARM missile project; the Technical Director of Marconi was quoted as agreeing to this claim; in 1995, at my appeal, a Deputy Director of MoD Security confirmed the link to ALARM (please note that ALARM stands for Air Launched Anti-Radiation Missile). Later, in the Security Commission's report on my case, it was admitted the MoD's evidence about this document was "seriously incorrect" and it caused a significant problem for the Commission, which resulted in the statement: “… at the time the document was created it was not specifically linked to a particular weapons system.” (HMSO, Cm 2930, July 1995, Annex A.5).

In the espionage cases of Rafael Juan Bravo and Ian Parr, both apparently entrapment scenarios organised by MI5, it was quickly publicised in the media (for example on the Guardian and BBC websites) exactly what projects had been involved, and the level of document classification was also mentioned in those reports. In my case it was claimed that a 'restricted' document was wrongly classified, and the project it was used on was never publicly acknowledged. I would expect the same degree of disclosure as occurred in the Bravo and Parr cases, especially as those cases are quite recent and my case involved a document that is now over 24 years old.

It would appear the MoD is not comfortable to simply confirm that the evidence given at my trial, by their own expert, is correct. I await their further comment, and wonder why they are so reticent to confirm some simple facts.