Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Wednesday, 2 May 2007 15:53 UK

Bush-Blair memo leak jury warned

Civil servant David Keogh, 50, and MP's researcher Leo O'Connor, 44
David Keogh and Leo O'Connor stand trial at the Old Bailey

Jurors in the case of two men accused of leaking a memo about a meeting between Tony Blair and George Bush have been told to put aside views on Iraq.

Civil servant David Keogh, 50, and political researcher Leo O'Connor, 44, both from Northampton, deny three charges under the Official Secrets Act.

The memo was based on a meeting at the White House on 16 April 2004.

David Perry, QC, prosecuting, said Iraq was obviously a controversial issue but that was irrelevant to their guilt.

The jury has been shown the memo but the contents have not been made public and the trial has frequently gone into closed session.

Making his closing speech Mr Perry told the Old Bailey jury: "We may all have concerns about the situation in Iraq.

"For all I know you may be opposed to the government's view or you may support it wholeheartedly or you may be neutral. It does not matter.

"Similarly you may approve or disapprove of what the United States does.

'Soldiers risking lives'

"The real point is that there are British troops in Iraq risking their lives on a daily basis and trying to install order and calm."

Mr Perry said the publication of the memo would have posed a significant risk of making the situation in Iraq worse and British soldiers would have "borne the brunt of it".

Tony Blair and George W Bush
The meeting took place in the Oval Office

The memo was drawn up by Matthew Rycroft, who was Mr Blair's private secretary on foreign affairs.

Mr Rycroft, now Britain's ambassador to Bosnia, has told the court the two leaders discussed Iraq and notes of what was said was contained in the memo.

Mr Keogh has admitted photocopying the memo and passing it on to Mr O'Connor, who worked as a researcher for the then Labour MP for Northampton South, Tony Clarke.

Mr Clarke immediately notified the police.

Mr Keogh has told the court he felt it was his moral duty to get the contents of the memo into the public domain and has denied it would have damaged British interests.

'Cavalier' attitude

He said: "Mr Keogh's attitude to the question of damage was cavalier.

"It showed a lack of proper concern for the consequences of the disclosure. This case has demonstrated why the Official Secrets Act is designed to operate in the way it does."

Mr Perry said it was not up to individual civil servants to decide what information was damaging to Britain's interests and what was not.

It (the Official Secrets Act) is the interest of the nation, the people, us
David Perry QC

He said Mr Rycroft had specifically marked the memo "secret" because if its contents had been published it would be damaging to Britain's defence and international relations.

Mr Perry said: "The Official Secrets Act is designed to protect information which demonstrably requires protection in the public interest. It is not because of a private interest, or in a particular politician's interest...It is the interest of the nation, the people, us."

Memo was 'embarrassing'

Mr Keogh has told the court he believed information in the memo would have been "embarrassing" for another country, but not "damaging" to Britain.

But Mr Perry said international diplomacy was based on trust and if the contents of confidential discussions between Britain's prime minister and another world leader were to leak out it would undermine Britain's ability to conduct international relations.

Mr Perry reminded the jury that Mr Blair's foreign relations adviser, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, who gave evidence at the trial, had said this was the "bedrock of trust" upon which international relations was based.

Mr Perry also ridiculed Mr O'Connor's claims that he had always intended for the memo to be returned to Downing Street.

Defence counsel for Mr Keogh and Mr O'Connor are expected to make their closing statements on Thursday.

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