UK

Papers about Profumo scandal man 'should be public'

Stephen Ward Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Stephen Ward is thought to have committed suicide on the final day of his trial at the Old Bailey

A decision to keep documents relating to a man who was at the centre of the Profumo sex scandal hidden should be overturned, a leading lawyer has said.

The Information Commissioner is to be asked to overrule a decision by the National Archives to keep the documents about the trial of Stephen Ward hidden.

The submission is being made by lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC.

It is believed Ward killed himself as his trial for living off immoral earnings was ending.

Ward, an artist and osteopath living in London, had in 1961 introduced 21-year-old reputed call girl Christine Keeler to the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo.

The minister and Ms Keeler - who is also thought to have had relations with an attache at the Russian embassy, Yevgeny Ivanov - started an affair.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The file is currently set to be closed until 2046 - 100 years after the birth of Mandy Rice-Davies

When challenged, Profumo initially denied the relationship - but was later forced to admit that he had lied in March 1963, in a scandal that threatened to topple the Conservative government of the time.

Ward, who many believe was a victim of a cover-up, is understood to have killed himself on the last day of his trial at the Old Bailey, where he was found guilty of living off the immoral earnings of Ms Keeler and her friend Mandy Rice-Davies, who were referred to at the time of the court case as prostitutes.

Mr Robertson, the author of Stephen Ward was Innocent, OK, said that he was making the appeal because keeping documents about Ward's trial hidden "was irrational and ignores the public interest and the interests of history in discovering the truth about Ward's conviction, which is widely viewed as a miscarriage of justice".

'Scapegoat'

He added: "Releasing the official trial transcript is important to work out why Ward was ever prosecuted, and it will assist the case for overturning his conviction."

The National Archives refused Mr Robertson access to most of its file on Ward, which is believed to include the police statements used to charge him with living off the earnings of Ms Keeler and Ms Rice-Davies.

Mr Robertson argues in his book that neither woman was a prostitute, and both in fact lived off Ward's earnings as a celebrated osteopath and portrait artist.

The file on Ward is currently closed from public view until 2046, because this is 100 years after the birth of Ms Rice-Davies, the youngest of the trial witnesses.

The Information Commissioner is set to make a decision to see if it can be opened earlier.

According to Mr Robertson, this "will cast an important new light on one of the worst miscarriages of justice in modern British history, and help explain how Stephen Ward was made the scapegoat for the Profumo affair by prosecuting him for crimes that neither he nor anyone else ever committed".

A spokesman for the National Archives said it did not want to provide a comment.

A spokesman for the Information Commissioner's Office said it had not yet received Mr Robertson's submission.