Once again Eileen Chubb from Compassion in Care and The Whistler raises the alarm that Judge’s conduct presiding in the Julian Assange Extradition Case is indicative that he is not receiving a fair hearing neither does it adhere to the principals of open justice.
Let’s follow her example!! She posted her letter:
On 21st October 2019 during a Julian Assange Case Management hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser announced she was transferring the venue of the Main US Extradition hearing in February 2020 from Westminster Magistrates Court to Belmarsh Magistrates Court. The Court in Belmarsh can only accommodate 5 or 6 members of the public. In such an important Extradition Court case with implications for Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression and serious implications for democratic accountability, interest in this case is high. Due to its nature and implications, public interest demands the public is able to exercise its Constitutional Right to open justice by attending and watching the court hearing proceedings closely. The same public interest demands that media access to court is such that no de facto restrictions are put on their reporting due to lack of space available for members of the press.
On the 21st October 41 members of the public sat in the Court’s public gallery, filling it. Among them there were former and current politicians, former diplomats, journalists, representatives of Civil Society NGOs for the protection of whistleblowers, of freedom of expression, academics, trade unionists, at least one retiree from the armed forces. There were at least 30 journalists both present in the court room and awaiting outside the court room but still inside the building for an opportunity to do their reporting. There were also a further 200 people outside the Court building protesting as they could not attend the court at the public gallery.
For the Main US Extradition hearing we anticipate at least 500 members of the public wanting to physically attend court and at least 90 journalists who would wish to cover this court case by attending court. Belmarsh Magistrates Court is not fit to accommodate either the public nor the media.
I would like to quote Sir Ernest Ryder: “Open justice […] is that courts and their judgments must be open to scrutiny by the public, and the media. […]. It is that publicity – openness – is the great antiseptic. That it is, as Bentham had it, ‘the very soul of justice. The keenest spur to exertion, and the surest of all guards against improbity. It keeps the judge. . ., while trying, under trial’. A judge observed while judging is an attentive judge. A judge observed is, as Lord Neuberger MR observed in the case of Al-Rawi, a democratically accountable judge. When justice slips out of sight, this is lost and the prospect of arbitrary, incompetent or unlawful conduct raises its head. [https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/ryder-spt-open-justice-luxembourg-feb-2018.pdf]
Please intervene to prevent this violation of our constitutional right to attend the court hearing and establish that Julian Assange’s Court hearing will remain at Westminster Magistrates Court and that provisions will be made for the court to be fit for purpose considering the high interest in this case.
Mrs Emmy Butlin