The prosecution of a Foreign Office civil servant under the Official Secrets Act has been dropped. The UK government now has questions to answer. Jo Glanville reports
Derek Pasquill was charged last September with making damaging disclosures of Foreign Office documents concerning UK government policy on dialogue with Islamist groups and extraordinary rendition.
Today, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charges as a result, it said, of material provided to the prosecution in December by the Foreign Office. The material indicated that discussion had taken place that undermined the charge that damage had been caused by the leaks. As a result, the case was dismissed – two years after Derek Pasquill was arrested and after a Special Branch investigation that lasted 20 months.
The leaks had in fact influenced a change in government policy on the question of dialogue with radical Islam following their publication in the Observer and the New Statesman. Critics of the decision to prosecute Pasquill (including Index on Censorship and the New Statesman) believed that the case would prove highly embarrassing for the government, since ministers had clearly acted on the information revealed by the disclosures.
Neil O’May, Derek Pasquill’s solicitor, said: ‘It was a scandalous prosecution, a case where the government shot the messenger. It’s clear that the Foreign Office took a view at an early stage that the disclosures were not damaging and in fact assisted in changing a dangerous government policy.
‘It’s a disgrace that this information was withheld for nearly two years while Derek Pasquill was persecuted by Special Branch investigators, arrested, charged and subjected to a criminal prosecution. He’s now been vindicated.
‘Questions now need to be asked as to why the Foreign Office withheld this information, why the decision was taken to prosecute him and what compensation he is going to receive.’