Media organisations to learn outcome of terror trial restrictions challenge


Media organisations are to learn the outcome of their challenge against continuing restrictions on reporting a terrorism trial which was held in conditions of unprecedented secrecy.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas and two other judges in the Court of Appeal in London will announce their decision on Tuesday.

The case centres on what should now be allowed to be reported following the Old Bailey trial of law student Erol Incedal.

The appeal judges heard from a lawyer representing a number of broadcasters and newspaper publishers that the case "raises important issues about the constitutional principle of open justice".

Incedal, of south-east London, was acquitted last year of plotting with a terrorist in Syria either to target individuals such as former prime minister Tony Blair or carry out a ''Mumbai-style'' outrage using a Kalashnikov.

Much of the trial was in private, with only a small group of journalists being allowed to attend, but barred from reporting on anything they saw or heard.

In addition, parts of the trial were held in secret, with the press as well as the public excluded.

Media organisations argue that now the trial is over they should be allowed to report what was said during the private sessions of the trial.

Incedal was cleared of planning a gun attack at the end of a retrial, but he was jailed for three and a half years last April for possessing a bomb-making manual on a memory card he had at the time of his arrest in October 2013. He was convicted of that offence in 2014.

His friend Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar, who had admitted having an identical document, was jailed for three years by trial judge Mr Justice Nicol - who rejected a media application for the reporting restrictions which had covered the parts of the trial which were held in private to be lifted.

The ruling, to be given by Lord Thomas, Lady Justice Hallett and Lady Justice Sharp, is on the media's challenge against Mr Justice Nicol's decision.

The media argue that the judge was wrong to hold that the restrictions had to stay in place, and that the end of the trial meant that the sole justification for the reporting restrictions - that reporting could seriously prejudice the administration of justice - had now gone.

Incedal admitted in evidence heard in open court that he had the document on a memory card, but argued that he had a reasonable excuse for having it and so was not committing an offence.

But the jury heard the basis for his belief that he had a reasonable excuse during the private sessions - and those reporters who were present are currently banned from reporting that information.

The organisations say there is substantial and genuine public interest in reporting of the matters that lay at the heart of the prosecution's case against Incedal, and that without such reporting the public is left unable to understand the real issue at the trial, and the reason for his acquittal on the main charge.

The Crown had sought complete secrecy for the trial - with Incedal and Rarmoul-Bouhadjar being kept anonymous - but lawyers for the media mounted a successful challenge at the Court of Appeal in 2014.

Appeal judges lifted the anonymity, saying the defendants should be named, and declared that while the ''core'' of the trial could be held in secret it must start and end in public.