Assange saga concludes

The decade-long pursuit of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for espionage in respect of his publication of classified (secret) information relating to national security has finally ended with a plea bargain. Pursuant to an order of the High Court on 25 June 2024 his bail conditions were varied so he could fly to US District Court in Saipan, in the Northern Mariana Islands (pictured), a Territory of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean, in order to enter his guilty plea and be sentenced in a US courtroom. Thereafter he flew back to his native Australia, and is barred from re-entering the United States without permission.

Under the deal Assange admitted his role in a conspiracy (with then US army intelligence agent Chelsea Manning) to violate the US Espionage Act, and was sentenced to 62 months’ detention — equivalent to the time he has served on remand in a high-security London prison while challenging extradition.

His case over the years has resulted in a number of law reports, including most notably Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority (Nos 1 and 2) [2012] UKSC 22; [2012] 2 AC 471 concerning the European arrest warrant under which Sweden originally (in 2010) sought to extradite him for sexual offences, which he resisted in fear of the risk of further extradition from there to the USA, and spent the next few years seeking asylum (or a sort of secular sanctuary) in the Ecuadorean embassy. We’ve been covering the story ever since: see Weekly Notes, 22 August 2014.

For more on this:


Post Office Horizon IT scandal

The unravelling of confidence in the honesty and ability of senior management of the Post Office and their developer Fujitsu continues apace as yet more witnesses are exposed to the forensic sunlight of Sir Wyn Williams’s public inquiry. Last week it was the turn of Gareth Jenkins, the “distinguished engineer” from Fujitsu tasked with providing expert evidence to some of the most egregious prosecutions of sub-postmasters, and described by another witness (see below) as an “unreliable god” but apparently not the doctor (PhD holder) as which he was billed in some of the PO lawyers’ advice. Whatever his expertise or lack of it, in relation to the Horizon software, he also appears not to have had a particularly firm grasp on the duties of an expert witness.

Here is an extract from the account by Nick Wallis on his Post Office Scandal blog:

“On Tuesday Gareth Jenkins was quite certain he had no idea what the duties of an expert witness were until 2020. Today we discovered he was sent an email in 2006 explaining what the duties of an expert witness were, whilst he was being asked to provide evidence to the Post Office in preparation for the criminal trial of a Subpostmaster.

Jenkins went on to be described as the Post Office’s expert witness in several prosecutions, including that of Seema Misra in 2010.

The first half hour of Jenkins’ evidence today was taken up with Jason Beer taking him through the document chains which proved Jenkins was sent an email relating to the criminal prosecution of a Subpostmaster, in which the responsibilities of an expert witness were laid out in an attached letter in some detail.

Having established that this document did reach him, Jenkins apologised.”

For more on this, see:

The person who described Jenkins as an unreliable god was Anthony de Garr Robinson KC, leading counsel for the Post Office in the Horizon Issues trial during Bates v Post Office, whose own evidence to the inquiry was covered in an earlier post from Wallis, De Garr Robinson’s Jenkins problem. The question was whether, if not not why not, to call Jenkins as a witness in the Bates litigation.

This is also discussed by Prof Richard Moorhead, in his Thoughts on the Post Office Scandal, in The Secrets Peril. He has done two other posts on de Garr Robinson’s evidence, Remote truth and Putting privilege at the centre of things.

Afghanistan war crimes inquiry

The independent public inquiry chaired by Lord Justice Haddon-Cave has also had problems with computer evidence. Under its terms of reference the inquiry was set up to investigate and report on “alleged unlawful activity by United Kingdom Special Forces (‘UK Special Forces’) in their conduct of deliberate detention operations (‘DDO’) in Afghanistan during the period mid-2010 to mid-2013”, and to determine whether the previous investigations carried out by the Royal Military Police (‘RMP’) were “timely, rigorous, comprehensive, properly conducted and effective”. Through a series of public and private hearings, the inquiry has heard from senior politicians, Afghan people, and members of the UK special forces, among others.

The BBC reports that a previously deleted cache of data that could hold crucial evidence has been now made available. It appears that despite instructions from RMP to the contrary, a contractor hired by UK Special Forces (UKSF) during an earlier murder investigation ran a program on the server in 2016 designed to permanently erase previously deleted files. But the public inquiry team has now secured backups of the server — part of a Special Forces communications system codenamed “Sonata” — believed to have been created before the files were erased. Those backups are believed to contain “information about SAS operations on which members of the elite regiment were suspected of unlawfully killing unarmed Afghan detainees and civilians”.

Other problems that have delayed the inquiry include the failure of the Ministry of Defence to hand over documents in a timely manner. The next phase of the inquiry, which is due to examine a series of specific incidents in detail, has been delayed by at least six months.

Undercover Police inquiry

The so-called SpyCops inquiry into undercover policing, which believe it or not has been going since 2016 (see Weekly Notes, 25 March 2016), has finally prompted the Metropolitan Police to issue a series of wide-ranging apologies to campaigners for the “indefensible” use of undercover officers to spy on them.

The inquiry, led by the retired judge Sir John Mitting (who took over from the late Sir Christopher Pitchford in July 2017), has been scrutinising the conduct of about 139 undercover officers who apparently spied on more than 1,000 political groups since 1968. It was set up by Theresa May in 2014 after it emerged that undercover officers had spied on the campaign run by the family of Stephen Lawrence who were fighting for justice after their son was murdered by racists.

According to The Guardian, the force said it was “particularly indefensible that many of the anti-racism campaigns” that were spied on “were seeking justice for members of the Black and Asian communities in London and were attempting to hold the [Metropolitan police] itself accountable for the way in which it policed those communities”.

Data protection

Post Office leaks SPM personal data

Still with the IT issues, the Post Office has reported itself to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after accidentally publishing the names and addresses of the 555 people involved in suing the Post Office in the Bates litigation in 2019. (That should, of course, be the Sir Alan Bates litigation, now, following the campaigner’s recent conferment of a knighthood.)

In an article entitled Post Office accidentally leaks names and addresses of wrongfully convicted operators, the Guardian reports that

“The incident has angered post office operators — some of whom are still waiting for compensation. Many have had their lives ruined and suffered bankruptcy, prison sentences and homelessness after they were wrongly prosecuted in what MPs have described as the worst miscarriage of justice in British legal history.”

Really, you have to wonder, can the Post Office do ANYTHING right?


Naomi: from cat walk to court work

The Victoria and Albert Museum are currently hosting an exhibition entitled NAOMI IN FASHION, which they say is the first exhibition of its kind exploring the extraordinary career of fashion model Naomi Campbell. From now till next April, the museum says, “we celebrate her creative collaborations, activism and far-reaching cultural impact”.

But what about her contribution to privacy law? Rest assured: among all her other sparkly garments, her famous law suit will not be forgotten.

In September a conference organised and funded by the Society of Legal Scholars and Matrix Chambers will be marking the 20th anniversary of her famous victory over the prying paps in Campbell v MGN Ltd [2004] UKHL 22; [2004] 2 AC 457. As a post on Inforrm’s blog, Conference: Campbell at Twenty explains:

“The case, which famously involved the publication by the Mirror of a story about supermodel Naomi Campbell attending narcotics anonymous meetings, established the tort of misuse of private information.

Privacy law at the time was at a crucial inflection point in England and Wales. Merely seven months earlier, in Wainwright v Home Office [2003] UKHL 53, [2004] 2 AC 406, the House of Lords had rejected an invitation to recognise a general invasion of privacy action in English law. While this basic position was maintained in Campbell, the tenor of the later decision is fundamentally different, with the court fashioning breach of confidence into an action protecting against the wrongful publication of private information (see at [15]). Undoubtedly, the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) played a critical role in this shift. The unauthorised strip-search which led to the claim against the Home Office in Wainwright had occurred before the HRA had come into effect. In Campbell, where the Mirror’s story was published post-HRA, Lord Nicholls explicitly said that the fast growth of the protection of various aspects of privacy had been ‘spurred’ by the HRA’s enactment (at [11]). Breach of confidence had now ‘firmly shaken off the limiting constraint of the need for an initial confidential relationship’ (at [14]). And with it, a new era was heralded in.”

The conference will be held in London on 19 and 20 September 2024 at Toynbee Hall (next to Aldgate East underground station). Details of how to participate are included in Inforrm’s blog post.

Election Manifestos

Land Law lures

We did a roundup of manifesto pledges in last week’s special, but forgot to add some posts on the Nearly Legal blog relating to housing law. These can be found here:

They don’t seem to have bothered with Reform UK or the devolved national parties.

Recent case summaries from ICLR

A selection of recently published WLR Daily case summaries from ICLR.4

CHILDREN — Care order — Fact finding hearing: In re D and A (Fact Finding: Research Literature), 19 Jun 2024 [2024] EWCA Civ 663; [2024] WLR(D) 282, CA

CONTRACT — Terms — Breach: King Crude Carriers SA v Ridgebury November LLC, 27 Jun 2024 [2024] EWCA Civ 719; [2024] WLR(D) 298, CA

CRIME — Proceeds of crime — Criminal property: R (World Uyghur Congress) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (R (World Uyghur Congress) v National Crime Agency), 27 Jun 2024 [2024] EWCA Civ 715; [2024] WLR(D) 292, CA

DEFAMATION — Parties — Trade union: Prospect v Evans, 20 Jun 2024 [2024] EWHC 1533 (KB); [2024] WLR(D) 276, KBD

DEFAMATION — Privilege — Qualified: Harcombe v Associated Newspapers Ltd, 25 Jun 2024 [2024] EWHC 1523 (KB); [2024] WLR(D) 295, KBD

ESTOPPEL — Conduct, by — Proprietary estoppel: Winter v Winter, 21 Jun 2024 [2024] EWCA Civ 699; [2024] WLR(D) 287, CA

EXECUTION — Warrant of control — Breach of statutory procedure: Burton v Ministry of Justice, 21 Jun 2024 [2024] EWCA Civ 681; [2024] WLR(D) 284, CA

POLICE — Pension — Disablement gratuity: Chief Constable of Derbyshire Constabulary v Clark (Chief Constable of West Midlands Constabulary v Bell), 19 Jun 2024 [2024] EWCA Civ 676; [2024] WLR(D) 281, CA

PLANNING — Development — Environmental assessment: R (Finch) v Surrey County Council, 20 Jun 2024 [2024] UKSC 20; [2024] WLR(D) 275, SC(E)

PLANNING — Planning permission — Conditions: C G Fry and Son Ltd v Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, 28 Jun 2024 [2024] EWCA Civ 730; [2024] WLR(D) 300, CA

PRACTICE — Pleadings — Striking out: Mueen-Uddin v Secretary of State for the Home Department, 20 Jun 2024 [2024] UKSC 21; [2024] 3 WLR 244; [2024] WLR(D) 283, SC(E)

REVENUE — Corporation tax — Capital allowances: Altrad Services Ltd v Revenue and Customs Comrs (Robert Wiseman and Sons Ltd v Revenue and Customs Comrs), 28 Jun 2024 [2024] EWCA Civ 720; [2024] WLR(D) 299, CA

Recent case comments on ICLR

Expert commentary from firms, chambers and legal bloggers recently indexed on ICLR.4 includes:

Law & Religion UK: An unfortunate sequence of events: In re St Bartholomew, Bristol [2024] ECC Bri 1, Const Ct

Landmark Chambers: Home Office’s failure to collect and monitor data on asylum accommodation for pregnant and new mothers held to be unlawful: R (DXK) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2024] EWHC 579 (Admin); [2024] 4 WLR 46; [2024] WLR(D) 144, KBD

5RB chambers: Supreme Court allows appeal in part in George v Cannell [2024] UKSC 19; Press summary, SC(E)

5RB chambers: Preliminary issues determined in ‘The Lost King’ film claim: Taylor v Pathe Productions Ltd & Ors [2024] EWHC 1475 (KB), KBD

Transparency Project: The tricky task of making a Child Arrangements Order: directive or undefined? (and how to seek clarification from the judge?): AZ v BX (Child Arrangements Order: Appeal) [2024] EWHC 1528 (Fam), Fam D

Law & Religion UK: Illegal disposal of pews: Re Church of St Michael, Bath, Twerton-on-Avon [2024] ECC B&W 1, Const Ct

Law Society Gazette: Court of Appeal criticises judge who ‘entered the arena to an impermissible extent’: Hima v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2024] EWCA Civ 680, CA

Legal Futures: Law firm fails with defamation claim over Trustpilot reviews: BW Legal Services Ltd v Trustpilot A/S [2024] EWHC 1449 (KB), KBD

And finally…

Tweet of the week

The Supreme Court may have let Trump off Scotus-free, but the New York court had the courage of his (34) convictions. Sentencing has been delayed.

Honi soit qui mal y pence.

That’s it for now! Thanks for reading, and thanks for all your toots, tweets, posts and links. Work hard, be kind, take care.

This post was written by Paul Magrath, Head of Product Development and Online Content. It does not necessarily represent the opinions of ICLR as an organisation.

Featured image: Mañagaha Island, Saipan: photo by Buffaboy (Wikimedia commons)