Assange’s Judge Is Longtime Friend of Minister Who Oversaw Arrest

Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis report on the personal ties between two men with major roles – one past and the other pending — in the case of the WikiLeaks publisher. 

Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett Burnett. (Magistrate’s Association)

By Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis
Declassified UK

Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett, the judge who will soon decide Julian Assange’s fate, is a close personal friend of Sir Alan Duncan, who as foreign minister arranged Assange’s eviction from the Ecuadorian embassy. 

The two have known each other since their student days at Oxford in the 1970s, when Duncan called Burnett “the Judge.” Burnett and his wife attended Duncan’s birthday dinner at a members-only London club in 2017, when Burnett was a judge at the court of appeal.

Now the most powerful judge in England and Wales, Burnett will soon rule on Assange’s extradition case. The founder of WikiLeaks faces life imprisonment in the U.S.. 

In his recently published diaries, In The Thick of It, Duncan wrote in July 2017: “My good friend and Oxford contemporary Ian Burnett is announced as the next Lord Chief Justice.” 

He continued: “At Oxford we always called him ‘the Judge’ and they always called me ‘Prime Minister’, but Ian’s the one who’s got there.” 

In an emailed response to Declassified, Lord Chief Justice Burnett confirmed he and Duncan have been “friends since university days”.

Duncan studied politics and economics at St John’s College, Oxford from 1976-79, while Burnett studied jurisprudence at Pembroke College in the same period.

‘Miserable Little Worm’ 

Duncan’s diaries also show that as foreign minister he spoke privately to Lord Chief Justice Burnett in May 2019, a conversation that was not logged in government records. Burnett briefed him on a dinner he’d had with then Prime Minister Theresa May two days before. 

But Duncan told Declassified: “There was nothing that was required to be ‘logged in government records’.” He and Burnett both said nothing related to their roles as a minister or judge was discussed. 

Alan Duncan. (Chris McAndrew, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Duncan served as foreign minister for Europe and the Americas from 2016-19. He was the key official in the U.K. government campaign to force Assange from the embassy. 

As minister, Duncan did not hide his opposition to Julian Assange, calling him a “miserable little worm” in Parliament in March 2018. 

In his diaries, Duncan refers to the “supposed human rights of Julian Assange.” He admits to arranging a Daily Mail hit piece on Assange that was published the day after the journalist’s arrest in April 2019. 

Duncan watched U.K. police pulling the WikiLeaks publisher from the Ecuadorian embassy via a live-feed in the Operations Room at the top of the Foreign Office. 

He later admitted he was “trying to keep the smirk off [his] face” and hosted drinks at his parliamentary office for the team involved in the eviction.

Duncan then flew to Ecuador to meet President Lenín Moreno in order to “say thank you” for handing over Assange. Duncan reported he gave Moreno “a beautiful porcelain plate from the Buckingham Palace gift shop.” 

“Job done,” he added.

‘Generous Present’

Duncan’s diaries also highlight a birthday dinner held for him in June 2017 that was attended by Burnett and his wife. The dinner, held at the private Beefsteak club in London the day before the general election, was a “generous present from David Ross,” Duncan noted. 

Ross, a businessman and co-founder of Carphone Warehouse, has funded an array of Conservative MPs, including Duncan, and gave the Conservative Party £250,000 to fight the 2019 election. 

Other guests included the Syrian-Saudi billionaire businessman Wafic Saïd. Long close to the Saudi royal family, Saïd helped negotiate the massive U.K.-Saudi arms deal known as al-Yamamah in the 1980s. 

Saïd’s wife, Rosemary, who was also in attendance, is another major donor to the Conservative Party and has funded Boris Johnson. She was a guest at David Cameron’s “Leader’s Group” meetings of key party donors. 

Other attendees at Duncan’s birthday dinner included William Hague, Duncan’s close colleague and friend, who was foreign secretary when the U.K. decided not to recognize the asylum granted to Assange by the Ecuadorian government. 

Also present was Salma Shah, an adviser to Sajid Javid when, as home secretary, he controversially certified the initial U.S. extradition request for Assange.

Sir Alan Duncan and Lord Chief Justice Burnett both told Declassified they have never discussed the Julian Assange case with each other.

Matt Kennard is head of investigations, and Mark Curtis is editor, at Declassified UK (@DeclassifiedUK), an investigative journalism organisation focused on U.K. foreign, military and intelligence policies. They tweet at @DCKennard and @MarkCurtis30.

This article is from Declassified UK.


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13 comments for “Assange’s Judge Is Longtime Friend of Minister Who Oversaw Arrest

  1. Ray Peterson
    December 4, 2021 at 13:46

    No doubt is a voice in the wilderness for press freedom
    and against the CIA assault on journalism and its democratic duty to report the truth.
    But one has to wonder, especially from Craig Murray’s observations of Baraitser’s
    court theatrics, was her decision to declare Julian unfit for extradition just a
    legal maneuver and ploy to make an appeal for his extradition more certain? After all,
    if he was so emotionally fragile, why did she deny him bail?

  2. John Gilberts
    December 3, 2021 at 20:58

    Very impressive and incriminating piece. As are those whiskey blossoms on his lordship’s face.,,

  3. Zim
    December 3, 2021 at 13:40

    This could only be more called a ‘kangaroo court’ if it was held in Australia. What a joke the UK & US justice systems have become.

  4. NoOneYouKnow
    December 3, 2021 at 13:24

    Our so-called rulers are scum.

  5. Richard Coleman
    December 3, 2021 at 12:57

    It’s small comfort to Julian who will undoubtedly die in prison, but he will be remembered long after the names of his persecutors and defamers are forgotten.


  6. Vera Gottlieb
    December 3, 2021 at 09:56

    Isn’t Justice supposed to be blind??? Obviously not so blind when it comes to favours, eh? The Yanx and the Brits: two peas in the same pod. Asses of evil…

    • JonT
      December 4, 2021 at 06:49

      Well there’s no doubt about Duncan’s feelings toward Julian Assange now. Thank goodness Duncan did not become PM. If he can not see or does not want to see the injustice here, then he does not deserve to be an MP.

  7. Me Myself
    December 3, 2021 at 08:48

    The right thing to do would be for the entire government to recuse itself, but where would that leave us, oh ya FREE…

  8. Sam F
    December 3, 2021 at 07:35

    An excellent expose of the utter corruption of public officials by oligarchy gold.
    Judges have no moral or legal principles: all is for indirect personal gain.
    They are primitive tribalist savages, praising the lord and waving their flag.
    Their sole skill is in lying, cheating, and stealing for their tribe.
    Without democracy, we can expect no better public officials.
    Neither the US nor UK will ever restore democracy.
    Liberty and Justice for Gangsters! Glory be to Gold!

    • Gert Glende
      December 3, 2021 at 16:38

      Very well stated unfortunately that’s the way it is, I guess people aren’t poor enough to revolt.

  9. Ray Peterson
    December 2, 2021 at 19:33

    It is sickening how the military corporate elite rule over what’s considered
    justice, and the name calling a habit of fascists.
    Assange published truth to a world of lies and there are
    no Christian authorities Pope, or Bishop of Canterbury publicly
    calling for his release.
    How telling that truth is slaughtered during the Christmas season

    • Vera Gottlieb
      December 3, 2021 at 09:57

      It is slaughtered year ’round.

    • cjonsson1
      December 4, 2021 at 20:51

      The guilt of governments and security agencies is screaming like a fire alarm.
      Why else would complete injustice and cruelty against Julian Assange be allowed to continue?
      Wake up global public and make this stop. Be rude, in their faces with the truth.
      Shame those judges the way they deserve to be, loudly admonishing them until crimes against humanity are acknowledged.
      Are we going to allow Julian to die for us? Governments don’t work anymore. Elections don’t work either.
      Take matters into your own hands and fight back any way you can.

Comments are closed.