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The Scotsman
Mon 7 Oct 2002
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Renegade MI5 agent ready to face jury

KAREN MCVEIGH MI5 agent ready to face jury

DAVID Shayler, the former M15 officer branded a traitor by the government, is due to take on the legal establishment today, as his trial opens at the Old Bailey in London.

The renegade agent, who faces six years imprisonment for breaching the Official Secrets Act after making a number of sensational revelations about M15 to a national newspaper in 1997, will represent himself for part of the landmark case. The trial will centre around a number of allegations made by Shayler about M15 holding files on prominent politicians, including former cabinet minister Peter Mandelson and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary. He also claimed the secret services ignored warnings that might have prevented bombings in the London in 1993 and 1994.

Shayler, 36, faces two charges under section one of the Official Secrets Act for disclosing documents and information about the work of M15 and another under section four, for disclosing information about telephone taps.

He has failed so far to win his argument that his revelations were in the public interest. The High Court, Court of Appeal and the House of Lords, have all ruled that he cannot claim he disclosed information in the public interest or out of necessity. They also ruled out the main plank of Shayler’s defence - that the Officials Secrets Act is incompatible with the Human Rights Act.

Shayler, who made other allegations for which he was not charged, including a claim that M16 was involved in a plot to assassinate the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, will argue that he is only guilty of "exposing wrongdoing".

"I aim to persist in my argument that the Official Secrets Act as it currently stands is totally incompatible with the Human Rights Act," he told a newspaper yesterday.

Some of the hearing is expected to be taken up by an application by newspapers objecting to plans to hold parts of the trial in secret.

The prosecution applied for hearings to be held in camera after its concerns that Shayler will make fresh allegations to the jury to back up his public interest defence.

Shayler’s decision to defend himself, against the advice of his legal team, for part of the trial was prompted by the belief that he will be freer to argue his case than his barrister, Geoffrey Robertson, QC, whose hands are tied by earlier court rulings.

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