Dinah Rose QC apologises to court for handing Sumption letter to press

  • Print
  • Comments (8)

Readers' comments (8)

  • So much for the Rule of Law and independence of the judiciary. Since when does the Government dictate to the courts what may or may not be included in their judgments? This case is disturbing not only because Sumption QC's letter was not copied to all the other Counsel, as it should have been, but, more fundamentally, because the Court acted immediately on Sumption QC's complaint, without inviting submissions from the other Counsel. This is a basic procedural requirement, as even a law student would know.
    Court displays lack of judgment in relation to judgment. Oh dear.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Dinah rose has nothing to apologise for: the letter was referred to in Open Court. Why shouldn't the public know that the government was attempting to water-down the judgment. It was a sneaky letter and must have been sent secretly on instructions Sumption should be ashamed.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • far from apologising dinah neds to be appluded. somption's conduct is very sad

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Read what Joshua Rozenberg has to say in this in his blog, quoted below:
    False 'Sumptions
    Jonathan Sumption QC may have a brain the size of a planet but that hasn't stopped his clients in the British government from distancing themselves from the infamous letter he sent to three senior appeal judges on Monday.
    In an unprecedented move, the Director General of MI5 has written a newspaper article insisting that the Security Service "co-operates willingly" with the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee.
    The suggestion that "officials of the service deliberately misled Intelligence and Security Committee" came in Sumption's letter inviting the judges to remove paragraph 168 of their judgments in the Binyam Mohammed case. Ironically, the whole point of the court's ruling was that seven paragraphs should not have been removed from an earlier judgment.
    Exactly what Lord Neuberger said in the original version of paragraph 168 is not in the public domain; the Master of the Rolls modified his draft before giving judgment on Wednesday. But several sources have told me that Sumption exaggerated its effect when he described the paragraph as, for example, "an exceptionally damaging criticism of the good faith of the Security Service as a whole".
    The over-egging comes naturally; Sumption is a powerful advocate and he has simply put his case at its highest. His assertion that Lord Neuberger's observations "are likely to receive more public attention than any other part of the judgments" would probably not have been true if he had not drawn attention to them.
    Worse than this, though, is the thinly-veiled attack on his opponent, Dinah Rose QC, that has appeared on the Lawyer website. The magazine reports that she was "forced to apologise" to the court "after it emerged that she had passed the letter to the press after the judgment was handed down".
    In fact, Rose was fully entitled to make copies available to reporters once the letter had been discussed in open court.
    Rule 31.22 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 says:
    (1) A party to whom a document has been disclosed may use the document only for the purpose of the proceedings in which it is disclosed, except where
    (a) the document has been read to or by the court, or referred to, at a hearing which has been held in public...
    The rule goes on to say that the court may restrict publication at the request of a party. But no such application was made by Foreign Secretary's counsel Pushpinder Saini QC. Sumption himself was not in court for the hearing on Wednesday.
    The onus was on Sumption or Saini to request confidentiality, not on Rose to seek the court's consent for acting on instructions. Her apology to the court was a courtesy, not an admission of wrongdoing.
    Nobody emerges well from this episode. The judges appeared distinctly edgy on Wednesday but they were entitled to assume that a letter marked "cc Dinah Rose QC" would have been shown to her at the same time as it was shown to them. They were also entitled to assume that a letter sent to them by one party to a case would be circulated to all other parties. Neither of these happened.
    The court has asked for written representations on whether paragraph 168 should be published as originally drafted. In the interests of his clients, Sumption should support publication. And if he really wants to write Lord Neuberger's judgments for him, he should resign from the Judicial Appointments Commission and apply for a job on the High Court Bench. Who knows where he might end up?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Dinah Rose mentioned CPR 31.22 when the court reconvened-Had Mr Rozenberg left the building at that stage? Lord Neuberger responded as follows:
    "So are you saying that my draft judgment is a public document? It was also mentioned in court this morning"
    Noone emerges with credit. Indeed it is astonishing that experienced leading counsel have conducted themselves in this way-eg Jonathan Sumption QC's misleading 'cc' and an obvious attempt to have a private dialogue with the judge -A BCC pupil wouldn't last long if they attempted to use that tactic.
    As the 6 February 2010 letter refers to the draft judgment , it should have been obvious to leading counsel that it could not be disclosed at that stage.
    The authorities are clear on this point:
    "It is apparent that very good reasons are required for departing from the normal rule of publicity. In the present case such good reasons have, in my view, been shown. The documents in issue are closely related to the very subject matter which the Claimant is seeking to protect by means of this action for breach of confidence. In my judgment, and for the reasons I have given, the Claimant has established at this stage at least an arguable case that they contain private confidential information of a sensitive nature. " HRH the Prince of Wales v Associated Newspapers Ltd [2006] EWHC 11 §15
    Lord Judge agreed with Ms Rose that advocates can take stands "if justified" but did not seem to agree with her view that it was justified on Wednesday morning.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Its always been my understanding that the letter should have been disclosed to ALL the parties BEFORE the handing down so that they might put forward their views.
    Therefore if anyone has made a mistake it's (dare I say it) the Master of the Rolls

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • To CC or not CC - was it a conspiracy or a cock up? Sometimes when I look for conspiracies I find cock ups.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • "So are you saying that my draft judgment is a public document? It was also mentioned in court this morning"
    Lord Neuberger MR may have forgotten that his draft was subject to an express embargo imposed by, er, him. Not so the letter, which had been mentioned in open Court by counsel representing HMG. I nonetheless think that Ms Rose QC may have pounced rather too rapidly, given the particular context of the discussion. I doubt that Mr Saini QC (who always plays a very straight bat and is blameless in all this) intended his passing reference to the letter in the course of arranging for submissions to be made on its content to have the effect which it did.
    I think that the story reflects somewhat poorly on Mr Sumption QC for seeking to dictate terms to the Court after the close of argument, and on the Court for allowing itself, even on an interim basis, to be dictated to. As for harming the relationship between the executive and the judiciary, that harm has been wrought already by the executive's contempt for constitutionality and the rule of law, demonstrated over many years and under successive administrations, but particularly acutely in the very recent past.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

Mandatory Required Fields

Mandatory

Comments that are in breach or potential breach of our terms and conditions in particular clause 8, may not be published or, if published, may subsequently be taken down. In addition we may remove any comment where a complaint is made in respect of it. These actions are at our sole discretion.

  • Print
  • Comments (8)