Blackstone, Matrix silks dash Govt’s BAE defence

Dinah ;Rose ;QC ;of Blackstone Chambers and Philippe Sands QC of Matrix Chambers inflicted an embarrassing High Court defeat on the Government last week (10 April), when judges ruled that a decision by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to drop a corruption investigation into a BAE Systems arms deal with Saudi Arabia was unlawful.

As reported on www.the lawyer.com (10 April), Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Sullivan handed down a damning verdict on the actions of the Government and the SFO.

“No one, whether within this country or outside, is entitled to interfere with the course of our justice,” it read. “It is the failure of Government and the defendant to bear that essential principle in mind that justifies the intervention of this court.”

The decision concluded a judicial review brought after the December 2006 decision by the then Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to drop the investigation into allegations surrounding BAE’s £43bn Al Yamamah arms contract with Saudi Arabia, supposedly on national security grounds.

As first reported by The Lawyer (20 April 2007), the review was brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade and anti-bribery pressure group The Corner House. London personal injury boutique Leigh Day & Co advised both parties, instructing Rose and Sands.

Corner House spokeswoman Susan Hawley said: “The judges have made sure the Government cannot use national security arguments just because a prosecution is not in their interests.”

Treasury solicitors and 11KBW’s Philip Sales QC acted for the director of the SFO Robert Wardle, who is planning to appeal.

Allen & Overy partners Jonathan Hitchin and Arnondo ;Chakrabarti advised BAE, instructing Matrix Chambers’ Clare Montgomery QC.