15 Official Secrets

John Wadham

15.1 Introduction

Sections 1 and 2 of the Official Secrets Act (‘OSA’) 1911 were rushed through Parliament in just one day, amidst the widespread public hysteria over national security that dominated the period leading up to the First World War. It is perhaps not surprising, given the speed and circumstances in which the Official Secrets Act found its way on to the statute books, that both sections attracted a great deal of criticism over the years. In particular, Section 2 was the focus of regular and damning attacks from judges, politicians and the media. In the 1970s the Franks Committee recommended its abolition after three defendants were acquitted in a case that became known as the ‘ABC’ case, involving the ...

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