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Buried Treasure: selections from the Peace News archives

35 years ago

A PN editor, reporting from the committal hearing (where the prosecution demonstrates to a magistrate that there's a case to answer in a crown court) in the ABC official secrets case, took notes which led to a minor constitutional crisis – not to mention to all the PN staff appearing before the lord chief justice, and later the house of lords. See also the obituary of Crispin Aubrey.

There were certainly moments of humour – of the absurd variety that [the prosecutor] Michael Coombe, with his inability to comprehend the possibility of a different view of the world from his own, is so good at.... He explained that an expert witness was to be called, who would testify to the type of risk to the safety of the state that might ensue if the information of the sort [the three defendants talked about] were disclosed. The risk has been assessed, he intoned, as varying from grave to extremely grave.

When it came to the witness, lieutenant-colonel A, who was to give the expert assessment, the prosecutor not only objected to the name of the witness being mentioned in open court, but even insisted that the defence shouldn't know his identity. The reason was that one of the defence solicitors (Bill Nash) had worked for the National Council for Civil Liberties, and wasn't to be trusted. So lieut-col A remained uncalled while the prosecution tried to find an alternative whose life would not be endangered by Bill Nash knowing his name....

Finally, the prosecution announced that it had found a Colonel B who could safely give evidence.... Once he had appeared in court and his name had been given in confidence to the defence, all who thus knew were bound... not to disclose his identity....

The colonel was asked – in open court – which precise unit he belonged to, and said he was in General Staff DI 24 (Army). He didn't disagree when it was put to him that his appointment had been listed in the magazine Wire, December '74 - January '75 issue.



From a news report in the 18 November 1977 issue of Peace News.