OFFICIAL SECRETS ACT NEEDS REVIEW - HOWARTH

January 14, 2008 4:13 PM
David Howarth MP

David Howarth MP

David Howarth, MP, the Shadow Solicitor General for the Liberal Democrats, is calling for a review of the Official Secrets Act following the failed prosecution of Foreign Office civil servant Derek Pasquill.

In recent years there have been two high profile cases where civil servants have had their cases dropped following pending prosecutions against them for breaking the Official Secrets Act by leaking documents to the press. First there was Katherine Gun, then Derek Pasquill. Mr Howarth said:

"There needs to be another review of our Official Secrets Act. The dropping of the charges against Derek Pasquill has brought the Act into disrepute. The law needs to treat civil servants as servants not just of the ruling party but as servants of the people. There should be no question of people being prosecuted for disclosures that don't affect the public interest but just embarrass the party in power.

"There also needs to be an inquiry into the prosecution of Derek Pasquille. There are reasonable questions to ask about whether the prosecution was being brought forward on political grounds. There is also a question about when the officials knew that the prosecution wouldn't succeed.

"I am concerned that the Official Secrets Act serves all of us equally and is not used for political ends and the short-term gain of those in Government."

End.

Note to editors:

The case against Derek Pasquill, who faced jail for passing secret papers to journalists, collapsed last week as it was becoming increasingly clear that it could have caused the government severe political embarrassment.

Katharine Gun leaked details of an alleged plot to bug UN delegates before the Iraq war and was sacked from her job as a translator at GCHQ. She was charged under the Official Secrets Act but the prosecution eventually decided not to offer any evidence and in 2004 the case was dropped.

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