Details of MI6 informant’s murder trial must remain secret, even from ECHR – Supreme Court

© Luke MacGregor
The UK Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal filed by a Chinese dissident and MI6 informant convicted of murder to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). 

In 2009, Wang Yam was convicted of murdering reclusive 86-year-old author Allan Chappelow in his Hampstead home at two trials held in semi-secrecy. In a highly unusual move, the trial judge ordered that the press and public be excluded from hearing the entire defense case in the interests of national security and witness safety. The media was instructed not to speculate on the reasons behind the secrecy order. 

Yam, the grandson of a close associate of Chairman Mao, lost his bid in the Supreme Court on Wednesday to disclose details of his trials to the ECHR. In a unanimous judgment, it ruled English courts may block disclosure of sensitive material on national security grounds.

Lead Judge Lord Mance said: “The appellant has not made good the proposition which he needs to establish, namely that there are no circumstances in which refusal to permit disclosure of the in-camera material to the European Court of Human Rights in the appellant’s response could be justified.”

The ruling effectively shelves Strasbourg’s review of Yam’s claim that the UK violated his right to a fair trial by blocking the release of materials that may support his claim. Yam’s legal team argued that because the trial was not reported on, potential witnesses did not come forward.

In the first trial against Yam in 2008, he was convicted of theft and fraud but acquitted of the murder charge. The following year, the jury found Yam guilty of murder and sentenced him to life in prison.