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Review launched into ex-spy’s secret trial

A review has been launched into the secret trial and jailing of a former spy given the pseudonym “Alan Johns”.

Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Grant Donaldson will lead the review into arrangements for federal criminal proceedings about disclosures of national security information.

The unusual case of the former military intelligence officer only came to light after he launched a court challenge against the prison for tipping off police about a memoir he was writing.

There were secret federal government orders in place banning sharing of information on the man’s identity, with police asking guards to warn them of any risk of those orders being breached.

The man, also known as Witness J, graduated from the Royal Military College at Duntroon.

He served in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan before being thrown behind bars, the ABC reported.

Australian Federal Police officers raided his brother’s home, while authorities also restricted the man’s access to emails.

He launched legal action to have his email access restored and asked the court to rule on whether prison authorities should have tipped off police about the memoir.

The applications were ultimately denied.

Mr Donaldson said in a statement on Tuesday he would be particularly considering whether arrangements for such court proceedings were “proportionate to threats to national security”.

He has invited public submissions and will hold a public hearing in Canberra on June 9.

Law Council president Dr Jacoba Brasch said the principle of open justice was important in criminal proceedings.

“It goes to the heart of a person’s right to a fair trial, in that justice according to law must not only be done but must be seen to be done,” Dr Brasch said in a statement.

“The application of the NSI Act in the ‘Alan Johns’ matter led to a person being charged, arraigned, pleading guilty, being sentenced and completing their sentence with minimal-to-no public knowledge of the details of the offending, due to consent orders being made under the NSI Act.

“The resumption of this inquiry will allow independent examination of whether the NSI Act should, as a matter of policy, applied in this way, especially in the prosecution of official secrecy offences by current or former Commonwealth officials and others such as their legal advisors.”

The Law Council supports a minimum requirement for at least some details of charges and orders to always be publicly disclosed.

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