ABC trial

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The ABC Trial was a trial of charges under sections 1 and 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 trial in United Kingdom. It took place in 1978 and is named after the three defendants: Crispin Aubrey,[1] John Berry and Duncan Campbell. Aubrey was a journalist for Time Out, John Berry was a former corporal in signals intelligence (SIGINT), and Duncan Campbell was an investigative journalist.

One of the prosecution witnesses was an anonymous SIGINT officer, referred to as Colonel B. He was later identified as Colonel Hugh Anthony Johnstone, due to his publications in open Army journals.[2]

The trial found that the information came almost entirely from open publications, some from the United States. The defendants were found guilty, but no custodial sentences were imposed.[2]


  • 18 February 1977: Aubrey and Campbell (the two journalists) interviewed Berry
  • 20 February 1977: All three men were arrested and charged under section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 (Berry was charged with "communicating classified information to unauthorised persons", and Campbell and Aubrey with "unauthorised receipt of classified information")
  • 24 May 1977: Further charges were added under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act
  • 9 August 1977: Additional charge under section 1 against Duncan Campbell, for collecting information
  • November 1977: Committal hearing at Tottenham Magistrates Court. First appearance of Colonel B as a prosecution witness.
  • 5 September 1978: Trial opened at the Old Bailey before Mr Justice Willis
  • 18 September 1978: Trial stopped after jury foreman was exposed as a former SAS officer
  • 3 October 1978: Second trial opened before Mr Justice Mars-Jones
  • 24 October 1978: All section 1 charges were dropped
  • 14 November 1978: Aubrey and Berry were convicted by the jury
  • 16 November 1978: Campbell was convicted by the jury
  • 17 November 1978: All three defendants received non-custodial sentences


  1. ^ Duncan Campbell (30 September 2012). "Crispin Aubrey obituary | Environment |". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
  2. ^ a b Duncan Campbell (3 August 2015). "Global spy system ECHELON confirmed at last - by leaked Snowden files". The Register. Retrieved 25 August 2015.

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