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Leaks

In response to:

Betrayal from the September 24, 1987 issue

To the Editors:

Noel Annan’s review of Peter Wright’s book Spycatcher [NYR, September 24] includes a number of comments on the trial in Sydney in November and December 1986, and in particular on the cross-examination of Sir Robert Armstrong by myself.

Noel Annan says at one point:

Out of court Turnbull let loose a bag of dirty tricks. Over dinner he fed the British press and over the phone the Labour party the juiciest bits from Wright’s book.

That statement is quite false. When I was appointed Mr. Wright’s legal representative, I undertook to the Supreme Court that I would not disclose the contents of the manuscript to any person other than those involved in the case, and I have not done so. Portions of the manuscript were leaked to the press and republished in the House of Commons some three months before the trial began. I had no hand in that. Large extracts from the manuscript were leaked to The Independent early this year. I had no hand in that either. Noel Annan’s statement that I was responsible for leaking portions of the manuscript is irresponsible and very defamatory of a practising lawyer, imputing as it does that I breached an obligation to the court. Noel Annan and your otherwise excellent publication owe me an apology.

Malcolm Turnbull

Sydney, Australia

Noel Annan replies:

I accept without question Mr. Turnbull’s denial and am sorry I impugned his professional ethics.

The British press, evidently believing that the defense camp had not missed an opportunity, assumed that someone leaked material to the opposition from the court at Sydney. While I accept Mr. Turnbull’s denial that he was in any way involved in leaking such material, it is surely far-fetched to suggest that the material leaked three months before the trial began was secreted in the bosoms of Labour members of Parliament who waited to produce it at the precise moment when it could do the most damage. To believe that would credit them with a discretion that is second nature to lawyers but rarely found in politicians.

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