Britain’s Ministry of Justice is blocking the release of basic information about the judge who is to rule on Julian Assange’s extradition, reports Declassified UK.
By Mark Curtis and Matt Kennard
Declassified UK has discovered that Julian Assange’s judge, Vanessa Baraitser, has ordered extradition in 96 percent of the cases she has presided over for which information is publicly available.
Baraitser was appointed a district judge in October 2011 based at the Chief Magistrate’s Office in London, after being admitted as a solicitor in 1994. Next to no other information is available about her in the public domain.
Baraitser has been criticised for a number of her judgments so far concerning Assange, who has been incarcerated in a maximum security prison, HMP Belmarsh in London, since April 2019. These decisions include refusing Assange’s request for emergency bail during the Covid-19 pandemic and making him sit behind a glass screen during the hearing, rather than with his lawyers.
Declassified recently revealed that Assange is one of just two of the 797 inmates in Belmarsh being held for violating bail conditions. Over 20 percent of inmates are held for murder.
Declassified has also seen evidence that the UK Home Office is blocking the release of information about Home Secretary Priti Patel’s role in the Assange extradition case.
A request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was sent by Declassified to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) on February 28, 2020 requesting a list of all the cases on which Baraitser has ruled since she was appointed in 2011. The MOJ noted in response that it was obliged to send a reply within 20 working days.
Two months later, on April 29, 2020, an information officer at the HM Courts and Tribunals Service responded that it could “confirm” that it held “some of the information that you have requested”.
But the request was rejected since the officer claimed it was not consistent with the Constitutional Reform Act. “The judiciary is not a public body for the purposes of FOIA… and requests asking to disclose all the cases a named judge ruled on are therefore outside the scope of the FOIA,” the officer stated.
The officer added that the “information requested would in any event be exempt from disclosure… because it contains personal data about the cases ruled on by an individual judge”, and that “personal data can only be released if to do so would not contravene any of the data protection principles” in the Data Protection Act.
A British barrister, who wished to remain anonymous, but who is not involved with the Assange case, told Declassified: “The resistance to disclosure here is curious. A court is a public authority for the purposes of the Human Rights Act and a judge is an officer of the court. It is therefore more than surprising that the first refusal argued that, for the purposes of the FOIA, there is no public body here subject to disclosure.”
The barrister added: “The alternative argument on data doesn’t stack up. A court acts in public. There is no default anonymity of the names of cases, unless children are involved or other certain limited circumstances, nor the judges who rule on them. Justice has to be seen to be done.”
Despite the HM Courts and Tribunals Service invoking a data protection clause, Declassified was able to view a host of cases with full names and details in Westlaw, a paid-for legal database. The press has also reported on a number of extradition cases involving Baraitser.
An internal review into the rejection of Declassified’s freedom of information (FOI) request upheld the rejection.
On April 10, 2020 Declassified sent an identical information request to the MOJ asking for a case list for a different district judge, Justin Barron, who was appointed on the same day as Baraitser in October 2011.
This request was answered by the MOJ swiftly, within 17 days, compared to two months with Baraitser. The information officer also noted that it “holds all the information you have requested” rather than “some” in the case of Baraitser. It is unclear why the HM Courts and Tribunals Service would hold only partial information on Baraitser, but not on Barron.
On this occasion, the request was not blocked. Instead, the information officer asked for further clarification about the information being sought, suggesting issues such as final hearing dates, the defendants’ names and what the defendants were charged with.
Declassified clarified that it wanted the list to include “the date, the defendant, the charge and the judge’s decision”.
The officer eventually declined the request, stating that it “would exceed the cost limit set out in the FOIA”, but adding: “Although we cannot answer your request at the moment, we may be able to answer a refined request within the cost limit.”
With Baraitser’s identical records, the possibility of refining the search was never offered – two “absolute” exemptions being applied to the request from the start.
Despite the rejection by the MOJ, Declassified has found 24 extradition cases that Baraitser ruled on from November 2015 to May 2019, discovered using the media archive Factiva and Westlaw. Of these 24 cases, Baraitser ordered the extradition of 23 of the defendants, a 96 percent extradition record from publicly available evidence.
Baraitser has ordered the extradition of defendants to at least 11 countries in this period, including one person to the U.S. Six of the extraditions, or 26 percent of the rulings, were successfully appealed.
In one case, Baraitser’s decision to extradite was overturned because the appeal judge “attached considerable weight to the likely impact of extradition upon the health and wellbeing of the defendant’s wife”, who “will be left with very little support”.
Recently, Baraitser controversially refused to guarantee anonymity to Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, which led her to publicly reveal her relationship with Assange and their two children.
The appointment of Baraitser to preside over the Assange case remains controversial and the decision untransparent. It is likely that Chief Magistrate Lady Emma Arbuthnot was involved in the decision to appoint Baraitser to the case.
The chief magistrate has a “leadership responsibility” for the roughly 300 district and deputy judges across England and Wales. Arbuthnot hears “many of the most sensitive or complex cases in the magistrates’ courts and in particular extradition and special jurisdiction cases”.
Arbuthnot’s role also includes “supporting and guiding” district judges such as Baraitser and “liaising with the senior judiciary and presiding judges” on the cases they are ruling on.
But Arbuthnot’s role in the Assange case is mired in controversy and conflicts of interest due to her family’s connections to the British military and intelligence establishment, as Declassified has previously revealed. Arbuthnot has personally received financial benefits from partner organisations of the UK Foreign Office, which in 2018 called Assange a “miserable little worm”.
Arbuthnot directly ruled on the Assange case in 2018-19 and has never formally recused herself from it. According to a statement given to Private Eye, she stepped aside because of a “perception of bias”, but it was not elucidated what this related to.
Since Arbuthnot has not formally recused herself, Assange’s defence team cannot revisit her rulings while it also could have left open the possibility of her choosing which of her junior judges was to preside over the Assange case.
In a key judgment in February 2018, Arbuthnot rejected the findings of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention – a body composed of international legal experts – that Assange was being “arbitrarily detained”, characterised Assange’s stay in the embassy as “voluntary” and concluded Assange’s health and mental state was of minor importance.
In a second ruling a week later, Arbuthnot dismissed Assange’s fears of U.K. extradition. “I accept that Mr Assange had expressed fears of being returned to the United States from a very early stage in the Swedish extradition proceedings but… I do not find that Mr Assange’s fears were reasonable,” she said.
In May 2019, soon after Assange was seized from his asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy by British police, the U.S. government requested his extradition on charges that could see him imprisoned for 175 years.
Declassified also made a request under the Freedom of Information Act for a list of all the cases heard at Woolwich Crown Court, near Belmarsh, for 2019. Baraitser had controversially moved Assange’s hearing to Woolwich — which is often used for terrorism cases — before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. It has now been moved back to the Old Bailey, the central criminal court of England and Wales.
This request, sent on March 31, 2020, was again rejected. The MOJ officer stated: “I can confirm that the MOJ holds the information that you have requested. All of the information is exempt from disclosure under section 32 of the FOIA because it is held in a court record.”
It added that: “Section 32 is an absolute exemption and there is no duty to consider the public interest in disclosure.”
Despite daily lists of the cases heard at Woolwich being freely available online, including names of defendants, an internal review conducted at Declassified’s request reached the same conclusion.
On May 15, 2020, Declassified sent a further FOI request, this time to the Home Office, asking for information on any phone calls or emails made or received by the current Home Secretary Priti Patel concerning the Assange case.
The Home Office replied: “We neither confirm nor deny whether we hold any information, within the scope of your request.” It added that the reason was “to protect personal data”.
But, in January 2020, Declassified had requested the same information for the period when Sajid Javid was home secretary, April 2018 – July 2019. In this case, the Home Office responded: “We have carried out a thorough search and we have established that the Home Office does not hold the information that you have requested.”
The responses from the Home Office appear to indicate that Patel has had communications regarding Assange during her tenure as home secretary, but that the government is reluctant to disclose this information. The Assange case continues to set a legal precedent in being mired in opacity and conflicts of interest.
Patel — who is also linked to Arbuthnot’s husband, Lord Arbuthnot — will sign off Assange’s extradition to the U.S. if it is ordered by Baraitser.
Matt Kennard is head of investigations, and Mark Curtis is editor, at Declassified UK. They tweet at @kennardmatt and @markcurtis30. Follow Declassified on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Sign up to receive Declassified’s monthly newsletter here.
Like it’s US counterpart, the UK’s so called justice system is one big game of Let’s Pretend.
One thing fails me: with so many alleged violations, why is the defence team not submitting the case to the European Court of Human Rights?
That is an appeal court and would follow appeals to the British High Court and Supreme Court should Assange lose.
Unwilling to oblige in a FOIA request sounds like a secret society to me (CYA).
A BELIEF that a (FOIA) request would exceed an amount is sufficient to deny a request is a Fuccillo (HUGE) size loophole to deny revealing and biased nature of a corrupt system.
Portuguese translation at hXXps://www.resistir.info/varios/assange_baraitser_31jul20.html
Assange stands no chance of justice in the UK, or any of the ‘five ayes’ cuntries.
UK government is corrupt;
UK MSM is corrupt;
UK Judiciary is corrupt;
And yet, a large number of the UK population think everything is hunky dory !
Brainwashing by the media, deference to ‘authority’ and poor and biased education is mainly to blame. The Nazi’s were able to succeed because people were happy to ignore what was happening all around them, we are on the same route – so is the USA.
Speak the truth, tell others. The corrupt and evil hate for people to be aware of what is really going on.
Just another license to kill.
Britain has always been ruled by fascholes, with a lot of window dressing.
Baraitser’s approval rate is 96%. What’s the rate of other judges? What’s the overall average rate? We need to know that to properly assess Baraitser.
Mr. Marshall, might I suggest you help gather that information – and pass it on/publish it – rather than simply trying to put the burden of checking it on the shoulders of Messirs Kennard and Curtis? There’s surely something you could help with, right? ;-)
Thank you for all you do…
Excuse me. I mean Baraitser, not Arbuthnot.
Justice !!What Justice ??THE JUSTICE SYSTEM in the UK is ROTTEN to the core it starts with the PRIME MINISTER.
There is no Justice in Britain since the Tories and New Labour destroyed not only the NHS but the state. George Galloway says it all.
Here’s another extradition case Baraitser discharged.
“Kathryn Howarth succeeds in obtaining the discharge of a Romanian EAW before District Judge Baraitser. Issues at the extradition hearing included section 2, Article 3 (prison conditions – concerning the conditions in Focsani prison) and Article 8. The section 2 issue was hotly contested by counsel for the prosecution, who argued that the authority of Edutanu v Romania  EWHC 124 (Admin) did not apply. Kathryn persuaded the judge otherwise and she discharged the entire EAW. ”
A Google search lists more extradition requests that Baraitser did not grant.
“On 18 January 2016, District Judge Baraitser discharged Ms Gebhardt from a Polish extradition request on Article 8 grounds. Ms Gerbhardt was requested to serve a two year sentence for an offence of fraud dating back to 1998, which was activated in 2005. Ms Gebhardt had since moved to Germany and is now sole carer for her 8-year-old daughter. The District Judge found that extradition would be a disproportionate interference with Ms Gebhardt’s and her daughter’s family rights”
The learned lady can reject the extradition, or keep looking over her shoulder for the rest of her miserable life.
People should be writing Lady Arbuthnot telling her that she is exposed, that she will be held accountable if anything happens to Julian and that she must remove Judge Baraitser immediately for her perpetual violations of British law.
Address for Lady Emma Arbuthnot Sr. Chief Magistrates Office 181 Marylebone Road London NW 1 5BR DX 13551, Marylebone 9
Priscilla Felia, thank you for posting Lady Emma Arbuthnot’s address. (I’m a financial supporter of Mr. Assange & his legal team).
Blessings on you and all the other good folks out there…
Some people are above the law. Period.
The Assange case is tantamount to the UK and US rule of law killing itself in “a thousand tiny cuts”. The scale of obvious bribery to Arbuthnot, Baraitser, all “officers” in UK that did lap dog duty outside Embassy I can hardly fathom. Makes you wonder if the biggest criminals aren’t embedded in judicial systems. He was arbitrarily detained (which they referred to as arrested) after being dragged out of Embassy over a year ago in violation of so many international laws and treaties and country’s own laws. His “bail violation” of a crime that never was committed, nor was there even a charge laid on him has been over for months and months. The facts are so difficult to find, due to every MSM journalistic rag in the world making it up as they go. My friend in US who has a law degree was astounded at the fact that Baraitser agreed for journalists to publish his partner’s name (with small children). Unprecedented. If our countries survive with a legal system intact (debatable in US with BLM and Defund Police)- how can they claim hegemony when challenged by China if they are in violation of their own laws in such a publicly blatant way? I don’t care about “who rules the world” nonsense. But, don’t put a finger in the eye of the rest of the planet and expect to be applauded for your virtuous rigor on the world stage.
Yes, the UK justice system has been maliciously subverted to serve the interests of the likes of Patel and the Arbuthnots.
James Arbuthnot and his wife Emma Louise (nee Broadbent) are well-documented war profiteers. “James Arbuthnot is the chairman of the advisory board of the UK division of multinational defence and security systems manufacturer Thales.”
The Arbuthnots’ rabid hatred towards Assange is not difficult to explain since Assange has exposed war crimes committed by the US/UK troops during the Wars for Israel. The war profiteers (and ‘judge’ Emma’s pet Baraitser) can not wait to see Assange dead, and they have no sympathy for Ms. Morris and her two small children fathered by Assange.
PS: why the Arbuthnots are so exceptionally ugly?
Anna, excellent post! (and your PS was spot-on! ;-) )
Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot is married to former Conservative MP James Arbuthnot, a key figure not only in the British military and intelligence establishment, but also in the pro-Israel Lobby in the UK.
Lady Arbuthnot’s husband was parliamentary chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel (2005-2012).
Right-wing MP Priti Patel, a former vice-chair of the Conservative Friends of Israel, was sacked from Theresa May’s cabinet in November 2017 after media revelations that she secretly held 12 meetings with senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Following these meetings Patel lobbied for UK involvement in Israeli operations in the Golan Heights and called for Britain to begin sending military aid to Israel. Patel loudly protested that May’s Foreign Secretary “Boris [Johnson] knew about” her meetings with Israeli officials.
After Patel was sacked, self-described “passionate Zionist” Johnson accelerated his own campaign of pro-Israel advocacy in the Foreign Office in 2018. And in July 2019, newly elected Prime Minister Johnson appointed Patel as Home Secretary.
Since WikiLeaks disclosed material about Israel in the leak of United States diplomatic cables on 28 November 2010, pro-Israel propagandists in the UK and US have relentlessly attempted to smear Assange with alleged “links” to “anti-Semitism”.
Cadogan Parry, thank you for posting that important information. I am reasonably informed about the Assange saga, but was unaware of some of what you wrote.
I aways believed that UK stood for United Kingdom. Apparently not, as anyone can see that Julian Assange has had his rights taken away and the curious legal system would prefer to have him off’d by the United States. Well, it’s perfectly clear , what with the United States love of killing——–that UK now stands for UNHINGED KILLERS.
Brits, judges included, are still just lap dogs for America. It was once a proud country until the U.S. started buying it up in the ’60s.
The refusal to release information that is already publicly available from other sources speaks volumes. It is all about the power of Empire. Their “rule of law” is mere window dressing that is being made up as they go along. If we had a REAL main stream press all of this would have been exposed to the public long ago, and Julian would be a free man. The shameful behavior of “The Mighty Wurlitzer” exposes them as nothing more than shills for Empire duping the masses on a daily basis. I hope I live long enough to see these evil people get their comeuppance.
Me too, Skip, me too. Cowards..no, they are lickspittles, eager beaver suckers from the plutocratic tit.
Does Lady A. even know Julian is from Australia and not the United States? Her quote in the 31st paragraph makes me wonder when she “dismissed Assange’s fear of U.K. extradition” (“returned to the United States”).
That struck me, too, though I wondered whether it was a deliberate obfuscation. “Sent” sounds more extra-judicial.
Two unrelated points.
1. Assange started serving the 50 week sentence for breaching bail fifteen months ago. He is only being held on remand for US extradition.
2. If Patel is hit by a bus or a political force her party cannot withstand then she will NOT sign off on the extradition.
Amnesty is on board and mainstream media is showing signs of deep instability regarding Assange. After being documented for a decade, the idea of abuse of process in the UK is actually on the verge of breaking out and regardless of how Baraitser rules there is no way Britain can maintain a farce like this without consistent media backing. Profound support for Asssange has come from 60 mins in Australia and it is starting to surface with the ABC too. You can’t firewall facts, logic or consequent changes of sentiment between these countries.
I took a look at ‘Singh v Germany’, the only case where Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled not to extradite. I found the prosecution’s appeal, which includes the crimes allegedly committed by the defendant. hXXps://www.casemine.com/judgement/uk/5ca6e7d12c94e01e252696b6
It is obviously a stitch-up under the aegis of yankee authorities. Some of her rulings have been criminal violations of the rule of law. She is an enemy of the rule of law.
Indeed, exiled off mainstreet, she is – as are the Tories and the “New Labour” lot all enemies of the rule of law. Clearly, or so it would seem, these utter ar**holes have decided that they alone determine (under US pressure, no doubt – but what does that say about their spinal columns?) what constitutes “the rule of law.”