UK government refuses to release information about Assange judge who has 96% extradition record

On the 31st July, 2020, Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis write

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Justice is blocking the release of basic information about the judge who is to rule on Julian Assange’s extradition to the US in what appears to be an irregular application of the Freedom of Information Act, it can be revealed.

Declassified has also discovered that the judge, Vanessa Baraitser, has ordered extradition in 96% 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% 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.

The article covers many intrigues including:

  • the difference in response between an FOI request on Judge Baraitser arguing the judiciary is not a public body versus the FOI request on Justin Barron where the FOI cost limit required a reduced FOI request.
  • Baraitser has a 96% conviction rating on extradition trials, with a subsequent 26% rate of overturn by appeal
  • An FOI request for all cases held at Woolwich Crown Court was denied
  • Chief Magistrate Arbuthnot has a leader ship role in the case, possibly including selection of Judge Baraitser, yet has a conflict of interest due to her family’s connections to the British military and intelligence establishment
  • An FOI on phone calls Home Secretary Priti Patel concerning the Assange case was denied, yet the Home Office appears to indicate that Patel has had communications regarding Assange during her tenure as home secretary.
  • Patel is also linked to Arbuthnot’s husband, Lord Arbuthnot and will sign off Assange’s extradition to the US if it is ordered by Baraitser

Read whole article in the Daily Maverick’s Declassified UK or follow on Declassified UK on twitter