Irwin Mitchell loses Saudi prince state immunity appeal

The Court of Appeal (CoA) has thrown out an appeal by two Saudi princes who wanted a case against them be heard behind closed doors.

Prince Mishal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his son, HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Mishal Bin Al Saud switched legal teams for the appeal, bringing in Irwin Mitchell partner Jeremy Marshall in place of Clifford Chance partner Ian Roxborough.

Roxborough instructed Blackstone Chambers’ Tim Otty QC in the first instance but Marshall turned to Alun Jones QC of Great James Street Chambers for the appeal (16 April 2013).

Today, the pair appeared before Lord Justices Kay, Richards and Briggs to argue that details of the case, which is being pursued by Apex Global Management, should remain secret. Jones contended that to break the secrecy around the case would in effect breach their rights to a private and family life under article 8 of the European convention on human rights.

The Guardian and Financial Times had intervened in the case, instructing Doughty Street’s Guy Vassall-Adams to argue that they should have access to court documents relating to the case as it was being heard in London. They will now have access to the court papers on the case.

The appeal judges upheld the ruling given by Mr Justice Morgan rejecting a witness statement put to the court in February by Roxborough that the defendants risked “death and reprisals” should the dispute be heard in open court (20 February 2013).

The appellate court also rejected claims that the pair were entitled to diplomatic immunity under the State Immunity Act 1978, claiming to be members of the household of King Abdullah.

Next week the pair will attempt to have the case thrown out of the London courts on the grounds that it is out of jurisdiction. If unsuccessful the dispute will be heard in open court in January next year.

Howard Kennedy FSI partner Steven Morris instructed Blackstone’s Robert Howe QC and Shaheed Fatima for the respondents Apex Global Management and Faisal Almhairat.

In a statement Morris said: “My clients are very pleased indeed at this outcome and the fact that they are now a step closer to being able to resolve the substantive litigation with the princes.

“In addition to this application relating to sovereign immunity, the princes have made a number of other applications to the court of a preliminary and essentially procedural nature. These applications have delayed the progress of the substantive litigation between my clients and the princes, although a trial date has been fixed commencing in January 2014.”

For the appellants Prince Mishal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Mishal Bin Al Saud

Irwin Mitchell partner Jeremy Marshall instructed Alun Jones QC of Great James Street Chambers

For the respondents Apex Global Management Limited and Faisal Almhairat

Howard Kennedy FSI partner Steven Morris instructed Blackstone’s Robert Howe QC and Shaheed Fatima

For the interveners Guardian Media Group and Financial Times

Doughty Street Chambers’ Guy Vassall-Adams