asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what information he has received relating to the arrest of a British national in Malta and the commencement of his trial in camera; the charges which have been preferred against him and the dates thereof and of his arrest; by whom they will be investigated and whether with or without a jury; to what extent the trial has proceeded; whether it is now proposed to allow the trial in open court; and whether all reasonable assistance and communication has been and will be allowed to the accused man?
My information is that the person in question was arrested on 8th March and, on 13th March, charged with an offence against the Malta Official Secrets Ordinance of 1923. I understand that the charge will be investigated by the local courts without a jury. I have no information regarding the other matters referred to in the question; but I think my hon. and learned Friend cap rest assured that the accused has been and will be allowed all reasonable assistance and communication.
The law as regards proceedings in camera in Malta is, I think, exactly the same as in this country, namely, that the court has the discretion in the matter of this kind to decide how far a case is to be heard in public and how far in camera.
No special order has been given, and there would be no discretion to give such an order. It is the law of Malta at the present time that cases under the Official Secrets Ordinance are tried by a judge without a jury.
Comparatively recently. It has been found necessary in the public interest that these cases should be tried, for reasons which I think the House will appreciate, by a judge without a local jury.
I should like notice of that question, but I am almost certain that such is not the case. The Ordinance was passed because it was decided that, in the public interest, it was necessary that cases of this kind should be tried in this way. I am certain it had no reference to any particular case.