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Legal Minds

14 November 2014 / by / in

Secret Trials and Private Hearings

Lord Chief Justice Hewart famously stated, ‘it is not merely of some importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done’.

Although a believer in open justice, Hewart CJ has been described as biased, incompetent and the worst Chief Justice ever, despite some serious competition. However notwithstanding his shortcomings it is unlikely he would have approved of the partly secret terrorist trials that are taking place today in English courts.

It is not only in criminal cases that private hearings are sometimes deemed necessary. ENRC has been charged £16.3 million by its solicitors Dechert for conducting an internal investigation into a whistle blower’s allegations. Dechert was fired and according to reports between £6 and £11 million pounds of the bill is in dispute. The Serious Fraud Office  is an interested observer as the investigation involves allegations of fraud and bribery in Kazakstan and Africa. However Roth J has ruled that the hearing will take place in private. Typically disputes between lawyers and their clients take place in private to protect legal professional privilege.

The Judge decided ‘it is clear that if ENRC’s application…..were heard in public, the SFO would attend that hearing in order to glean information of assistance to its inquiry. It is in the interests of justice to preserve the confidentiality from any wider disclosure and thus protect the documents and information from scrutiny by the SFO’.


John Bechelet

John specialises in commercial and civil fraud litigation. Admitted as a solicitor in 1983, John worked in private practice and in-house for a leading life assurance company before establishing Bivonas with Antony Brown in 1997. John has extensive experience in a wide range of courts and tribunals including the UK Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the Divisional Court. He has been involved in a number of important reported cases.