The Consequences of Disclosure in the Public Interest

Yvonne Cripps

in The Golden Metwand and the Crooked Cord

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780198264699
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682766 | DOI:
The Consequences of Disclosure in the Public Interest

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Professor Sir William Wade played a pivotal role in the Ponting case when he was called by Counsel for the defence as an expert witness on the constitution. There can be little doubt that Sir William's evidence had an immense influence on the jury which, unmoved by the judge's repeated reminders about the unforgiving nature of the now repealed section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911, proceeded to acquit Clive Ponting of a charge under that section. Ponting had disclosed to a Member of Parliament information which suggested that a Minister of the Crown had been less than fulsome with the truth when giving evidence about the Falklands War to the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. Sir William, the then Master of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, had informed the Central Criminal Court that it is a fundamental convention of our constitution that Ministers of the Crown have a responsibility to provide Parliament with accurate information, provided that national security will not thereby be endangered. This authoritative evidence bolstered Ponting's argument that, under the circumstances in which he found himself, he had a duty in the interest of the State to inform Members of Parliament that they had been misled about the events leading up to the sinking of an Argentinian warship. This chapter examines Ponting's plight and the impact of Sir William's evidence in the Ponting case.

Keywords: administrative law; Sir William Wade; Clive Ponting; acquittal

Chapter.  10215 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law

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