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Calls for less secrecy in court by lord chief justice

17th Nov 2014

The lord chief justice has attacked defendants being anonymously tried in English courts, stating that he never wants to see it again.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd raised his views on keeping evidence and details of trails a secret at his annual press conference, calling for better guidance on the matter. ‘Justice that is not open is not good justice,’ Thomas commented on the matter.

His request follows a semi-secret trial that recently collapsed for undisclosed reasons amid controversy. Accusations of preparing for terrorism were brought against defendant Erol Incedal, who was only named in June once the government’s request to hold the whole trial in secret was overturned by the Court of Appeal.

With reference to the case, and the possibility that a similar situation could arise in the future, Thomas highlighted his belief on the importance of naming defendants in all cases, stating that there needed to be ‘clear guidelines and rules’ so that anonymous defendants in courts become a thing of the past.

He added that the press was entitled to represent defendants as they wished, and that journalists should know their arguments, and that this should be ensured by the court ‘at the earliest stage’.

Thomas’ speech covered a multitude of topics, with a particular message for the winner of next year’s general election. As civil servants are asked to cut spending again, it is expected that justice spending will be reviewed once more.

Although he does not expect the proposed upgrade of the court infrastructure by the government to be affected by any upcoming cuts, he warned of the consequences if it was, claiming that the current online system is ‘wholly inadequate’.