asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the date upon which trial by jury was suspended in Malta in cases within the Malta Official Secrets Ordinance, 1923; and how many persons have been charged with such offences since that date and the dates of such trials, respectively?
The Ordinance providing for trial by a court without a jury in cases under the Official Secrets Ordinance was enacted on the 7th of March. Two persons were charged on the 13th of March with offences against the latter Ordinance.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me, first, the present state of the trial which is now pending and, secondly, whether, in view of the fact that that trial is taking place in camera, the practice of ordering a trial to take place in camera is a judicial discretion or the result of administrative action?
As regards the first supplementary question, it would be premature and indeed quite improper for me to speak about a trial in the sense of trial by the High Court. The proceedings which are now taking place before the magistrates as far as I know—I have not had a telegram—are not yet concluded, and, of course, it would depend entirely on the result of these preliminary proceedings before the magistrate whether or not there will be a committal and a subsequent trial in the High Court. With regard to the second question, whether and how far in a case of this kind the proceedings should be in camera, I understand that the practice under this Ordinance is exactly the same as the practice in this country, namely, that the question whether or how far hearings should be in camera is entirely a matter for the decision of the court and not for the executive.