28 January 2008

BBC2 Newsnight article about secret trials 28 January

I was interested in the article about secret trials run by BBC2's Newsnight programme about 3 hours ago. This is important to me because I suffered from the effects of a secret trial myself. Below is the short summary on the BBC website:

Secret trials
Author Allan Chappelow was murdered just over a year ago - found dead in his own home underneath copies of one his own books about George Bernard Shaw. This week a man will stand trial for his murder. But much of the evidence will be held in secret for issues of national security. It is a very unusual thing to happen - and a very odd case too - we'll debate whether it is ever right for trials to be held in secret in this way.

I felt I should add to the debate, and so I submitted the comment below. I expect there will be a delay before this appears on the BBC blog page.

Secret trials are nothing new. Daniel James will be facing one at the Old Bailey next week, and about half of my own trial in 1993 was also held in secret, for reasons of "national security".

The excuses given for holding a trial "in camera" are usually an indication that there is something wrong with the evidence, rather than there being any real danger to national security. I know this from personal experience, because in my own trial for espionage a key document, marked "restricted", was claimed to have been used on the ALARM missile, and it ultimately led to the jury convicting me.

If this part of the evidence had been held publicly that verdict would never have arisen. I only discovered in October 2007 that the document used to convict me had been falsely described. The document was in fact made obsolete in 1984, 9 years before my trial, and later versions of it had been declassified and marked "unclassified". The Prosecution realised that they would have lost the case based on the truth, and so they had to use an "in camera" trial to hide the fact that the document was never used on any ALARM missile.

It is the worst aspects of human nature that drives the legal system to deceive the public - because nobody wants to lose a legal case - but it is the use of secret trials that enable such abuses to happen. For the reasons given above, I am very much opposed to any evidence being presented in a secret court.

09 January 2008

Official Secrets Act charges dropped against Derek Pasquill

It must have come as a great relief to Derek Pasquill that the serious Official Secrets Act charges he faced were dropped this morning. This is yet another example of an ill-advised and malicious prosecution under this unfair and draconian Act. The probable reason for the prosecution has more to do with scaring any future whistle blowers, not to blow their whistles, than anything connected with the pursuit of justice.

There seems to be a remarkable imbalance between what Derek actually did and the immense powers of the State that he was subjected to, simply for throwing the lid off of a can of worms. What Derek did was to reveal details about the British Government's involvement with the CIA's use of extraordinary rendition and the UK's covert discussions with Muslim groups.

However, rescue came from an unusual direction because it appears that Foreign Office documents, disclosed as part of the legal process, played a large part in the collapse of the Prosecution case. Presumably, if those documents had not been available to the Defence, then the prosecution of Derek Paquill would have proceeded through to the end of a trial.

It is clear that Derek Pasquill should never have been charged under the OSA, and on the contrary he should be recognised as a kind of hero in this affair, for risking his own future by exposing issues that unscrupulous politicians would rather keep hidden. It is a sad reflection on modern Britain that we continue to prosecute anyone who tells the public what they should be allowed to know. I say bring back the old principle of 'government of the people, by the people, for the people'.

01 January 2008

Miscarriage of justice appeal to Gareth Peirce

It is now obvious that serious mistakes had taken place at my trial in 1993 and my Appeal in 1995. I can only assume that my Defence lawyers were misled, as I was, about the validity of the evidence presented by the Prosecution.

It is only natural that I should offer my solicitor at Appeal, Gareth Peirce, an opportunity to help in the remedy of the injustice that took place in the judicial proceedings. I am sure Ms Peirce will be horrified at the false significance attributed to the exhibit that played such an important part in my conviction and the failure of my Appeal.

Gareth Peirce has been a high profile solicitor in many cases involving the abuse of human rights and miscarriages of justice, and so I openly offer her the chance to play a role in a major miscarriage of justice involving the Official Secrets Act. Below is the letter that I sent to Gareth:

To: Ms Gareth Peirce
Birnberg Peirce & Partners - Solicitors
14 Inverness Street
London NW1 7HJ

14 December 2007

Dear Gareth,

New Evidence with reference to your work on my Appeal in 1995

You may remember that the stance of the Prosecution was that there was nothing of interest to us to be found within the technical documents. As you may recall, I was not happy with that at the time or during the many years in prison that followed, and I resolved that as soon as I came out of prison I would endeavour to get to the truth about that one particular technical document that I complained to you about. With the help of John Symonds (another old customer of yours) we have now got to the truth of the matter, and John said: “this case is now right up your street”.

The situation is that the only important document within my trial, you may recall, was a document dated 1982 and marked “restricted” (reference 79481/PBH/BB/SO8). The Prosecution case was entirely based on this document being found in my possession in 1992. It had been left in my desk with a lot of other scrap paper, and when ordered to clear my desk this document was included in the pile and immediately “discovered” by the Police, who were waiting literally around the corner.

As you may recall, this document was sprung on my Defence mid-trial and immediately upgraded to “top secret” by the MoD observer at my trial. Much evidence was given to the effect that if this document fell into the hands of a foreign power it could have caused loss of life to our brave soldiers in Iraq, and threatened the very existence of our nation. As a result of this evidence I was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, later reduced as you know to 20 years.

The truth of this matter is that the document had been issued to a colleague of mine, in 1982, and sometime later he lent this document to my predecessor in the Quality Department - Mr Dewi Lewis. Years went past and Lewis later retired and I inherited his desk, with a number of abandoned documents within. It seems the question arose during my trial as to how a “restricted” document came to be in my desk many years later, and much was made of my possession of such a document in 1992.

The truth, recently discovered, is that this document did in fact become obsolete on 27 March 1984, and so the original document deserved its place amongst the other scrap documents contained within my desk. A new document was issued (reference 1011-00435 issue 1) for later tests on the ALARM missile, and this document remained “unclassified”. An interesting further point is that the engineering of the SAW filter in the first document had by that time appeared in unclassified general use, openly offered for sale by MEDL, the commercial arm of Marconi. So, in fact, there was nothing secret at all about the document found in my possession, or the items that the specification referred to. It was scrap and abandoned paper no more and no less.

During my trial this document was suddenly produced and puffed up in importance and secrecy by a Prosecution witness, who undoubtedly and knowingly perjured himself in order to ensure my conviction. This witness was either wittingly or unwittingly supported by the judge in my case, who made much of this document, its secrecy and importance, to the jury. As a result of which I was of course convicted. That was bad enough, if not entirely wicked, but the wickedness has been compounded over the last 15 years by what can only be an official cover-up of the above events and evidence. This has extended to Adam Ingram a Minister of State for Defence misleading my MP Andrew Mackinlay in the House of Commons (in a written answer on 10 January 2006), and certain persons within the CCRC refuse to accept my evidence of the above.

John Symonds said you would not be pleased to learn what had been going on behind a case in which you were involved. It seems that you could have been deliberately misled as well, by whoever it was who informed you there was nothing of interest or useful to us in criticising the technical documents within the case. I have tried to keep this letter short and to the point, but everything in this letter and much else I have now put up on my blog, and the events outlined above are the most recent entries on my blog.

I have turned to you for help in the first instance because you were of course the last significant lawyer to be involved in my case. I am hoping that you will be in a position to right this wrong quietly and decently, as I have discovered that making a fuss about matters during my investigation has done me more harm than good.

John Symonds sends you his best regards, and says that he will do anything to help in this matter at your request.

Yours sincerely,
Michael John Smith