Saturday, 30 Sep 2023

Cleverly invokes terror gag over case where he has been named as defendant

James Cleverly has been accused of “weaponising” counter terrorism legislation after he signed the application to hold a case where he has been named as a defendant behind closed doors.

The High Court case centred around allegations of leaks of top-level secrets by the former UK Ambassador to the US Lord Darroch is now due to be held in secret.

The judge Master Richard Davison on the King’s Bench today granted the application, which was signed by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who along with Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch, has been named as a defendant in the case.

The case has been brought by a former civil servant who has claimed he was “framed” for revealing the allegations that Lord Darroch passed on secrets to a CNN journalist in exchange for sex while he was based in Washington.

The claimant was accused of revealing the embarrassing information to a tabloid newspaper and in 2020, 14 counter terrorism police broke into his Westminster flat, dragged him from his bed where he was recovering from cancer surgery and interrogated him.

The arrest was released to the press, but no charges were ever brought.

However, the length of the investigation left the claimant homeless and led to him attempting suicide.

Mr Cleverly and Ms Badenoch have been named as the defendants, even though they were not the ministers responsible at the time. They are named as they currently head the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and Department for Business and Trade.

However, the case has named more than 20 senior civil servants and officials including Lord Darroch, former DIT permanent secretary Antonia Romeo who is currently at the Ministry of Justice, and the Director General of Propriety and Ethics Darren Tierney.

The case had threatened to put a strain on UK and US relations as well as the actions of senior British officials and MPs had already raised concerns about a potential “cover up” by using counter terror legislation to hold the hearings in secret.

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The claimant has told he intends to appeal the decision before the hearing on June 22 where the government has been ordered to make a defence.

But the effect of the order means he cannot see the government’s statement, cannot use his own barrister and has to accept a government appointee, and public and media will have no access to the hearings or any of the evidence.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said: “This is a wholly inappropriate use of the Justice and Security Act.

“When Parliament passed this law, members expected the state to use it to deal with real cases of espionage and terrorism, not to cover up potentially embarrassing stories involving diplomats and civil servants.”

Former Conservative minister Andrea Jenkins added: “It is vital that ministers do not overreach in this way to hide potentially embarrassing information about diplomats and civil servants.

“The public and the press have a right to see the evidence involved in this case; we must have maximum transparency to get to the bottom of any allegations made.”

Meanwhile, the claimant has attacked the decision by Mr Cleverly to ask for the hearing behind closed doors as “Soviet style behaviour.”

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In a statement to, he said: “This Tory Government is weaponising counterterrorism legislation in an effort to block the press and the public from my High Court claim.

“James Cleverly should be ashamed of himself for such Soviet-style behaviour.

“We expect this behaviour from totalitarian regimes, such as Russia, China, and North Korea, but it is an outrage this will now happen in the UK.

“This has only ever happened before in counterterrorism cases and the government has reference counterterrorism case law in its application.

“My claim does not involve terrorism, and no one referenced in my claim has ever been involved in terrorism. This a total abuse of power.”

He went on: “I will never agree to being represented by a special advocate appointed by this Government to represent me in a secret court which I will be blocked form attending.

“Obviously, I will challenge James Cleverly’s application under the Justice and Security Act and never participate in such a totalitarian process.”

The claimant has American citizenship and is understood to be fast losing interest in the UK process with Congress already reported to be in discussions about investigating the allegations about Darroch.

The case could also end up in the American courts.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office declined to comment.

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