Hazel Press

Matrix Chambers, CPS and SPA vs. Assange and journalism

On 26 November 2012, Aaron Watkins, an extradition and human rights lawyer at Cherie Blair's Matrix Chambers, which acted for Sweden in 'Julian Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority (SPA) - June 2012, received an email enquiry concerning the legal basis of an article entitled 'Mutual Legal Assistance, Disclosure and Abuse of Process'. However, rather than reply or ignore the request, Watkins forwarded the email (see below) to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lawyer Paul Close, who then forwarded it to Marianne Ny, the Göteborg prosecutor responsible for reopening and delaying the Assange case. Close included comments about the article in two emails to Ny.

 

The first email stated that no one from Matrix would "under any circumstances" respond to journalistic enquiries, and that Karin Rosander, SPA's Director of Communication should be put "on notice". Despite this urgency, Close dismissed the legal premise of the article by stating that official documents sent to the Home Office by Ny could be "completely ignored" because they had "no 'official' [or other] standing whatsoever". Close then told Ny: "I am sure you can guess what I would just love to send you as a Christmas present". In the second email Close suggested that he could write any CPS press office replies ("in very few words") to jounalists' questions about the Assange case.

 

An earlier email (January 2011) saw Close advising Ny that "it would not be prudent" to question Assange in the UK, because "the defence would without any doubt seek to turn the event to its advantage". Close then states that he "will send further substantive advice following receipt of outstanding defence documents".

 

According to CPS guidelines on conduct, lawyers must "strive to be, and to be seen to be, consistent, independent, fair and impartial", and the CPS 'Statement of Independence' issued to all staff in 2004, states: "These characteristics of fairness, impartiality and integrity are central to the independence of the prosecutor and our independence is of fundamental constitutional importance. It is a force for human rights and justice in society. It is critical in defending diversity and in protecting the weak from the strong and the individual from the group. This is a question of public trust."

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November 2, 2015