Clive Ponting - Right To Know

Right To Know

The Ponting case was seen as a landmark in British legal history, raising serious questions about the validity of the 1911 Official Secrets Act and the public's "right to know". Shortly after his resignation on 16 February 1985, The Observer began to serialize Ponting's book The Right to Know: the inside story of the Belgrano affair. The Conservative government reacted by tightening up UK secrets legislation, introducing the Official Secrets Act 1989.

Before the trial, a jury could take the view that if an action could be seen to be in the public interest, that might justify the right of the individual to take that action.

As a result of the 1989 modification, that defence was removed. After this enactment, it was taken that '"public interest" is what the government of the day says it is.' One further fact which influenced Mr Ponting's unexpected acquittal was that he submitted the documents to an MP, who was, in effect, upholding the right of Parliament not to be lied to by the government of the day.

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