Erol_IncedalThe Court of Appeal today dismissed an appeal brought by a number of media organisations against continuing restrictions on reporting the trial of Erol Incedal.  In a judgment given by Lord Thomas CJ, Guardian News And Media Ltd & Ors v R. & Incedal ([2016] EWCA Crim 11), the Court upheld reporting restrictions which had covered parts of the trial which were held in private.

The defendant, Erol Incedal, had been tried at the Central Criminal Court on charges 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.  He was acquitted at a re-trial. He was, however, sentenced to three six months’ imprisonment for possessing a bomb-making manual on a memory card he had at the time of his arrest in October 2013.

A substantial part of the trial was held in private.  Following an earlier appeal to the Court of Appeal ([2014] EWCA Crim 1861), a small group of journalists were allowed to attend, but were forbidden from reporting what they had seen and heard. In addition, parts of the trial were held in secret.

The media argued that that following the conclusion of the trial there was no longer a significant risk or serious possibility that the administration of justice would be frustrated if they could publish reports of the core of the trial.  It was said that, as a result, there was no longer any continuing justification for the restrictions on reporting the trial that were imposed by the Court of Appeal’s Order of 12 June 2014.

The Court accepted that there was a strong public interest in the evidence which was heard in private in the presence of the nominated journalists being made public [70].  However, having considered “closed” evidence, the Court concluded

“We are quite satisfied from the nature of the evidence for reasons which we can only provide in a closed annex to this judgment that a departure from the principles of open justice was strictly necessary if justice was to be done. It was in consequence necessary that the evidence and other information heard when the journalists were present was heard in camera”. [75]

As a result, the Court held that a departure from the principles of open justice continued to be necessary.

There have been a number of media reports of the judgment including