Supreme Court has jurisdiction to consider secret ruling

The Supreme Court has jurisdiction to deliver a ruling in a case based upon evidence that was given behind closed doors, it was decided this week (19 March).

Lord Neuberger, president of the court, convened a nine-strong panel to hear Iran bank Mellat attempt to challenge sanctions against it put in place in 2009. Fountain Court’s Michael Brindle QC is leading the appeal.

A statement by the court said while it had jurisdiction it would refuse to exercise the right unless persuaded to do otherwise by counsel.

A statement read: “For reasons, to be given later, the court has decided that it has jurisdiction to consider the closed judgment of Mitting J, which it would only do if, during the conduct of the substantive appeal in open court, it was persuaded that it was necessary to do for the purpose of fairly disposing of the appeal.

“On the basis of the submissions it has so far received, the court is not convinced that it is so necessary.”

Jonathan Swift of 11KBW has been instructed for the Treasury in the case and argued that the court should examine a closed ruling delivered by Mr Justice Mitting against the bank.

Sanctions were imposed against the bank after it was alleged to have become involved in helping to indirectly fund Iran’s nuclear programme.

Bank Mellat, which is currently prevented from operating in the UK, is looking to overturn that ruling. In the Court of Appeal it was represented by Stephenson Harwood and 4 Stone Buildings’ Jonathan Crow QC. At the Supreme Court the case is being run by Zaiwalla & Co name partner Sarosh Zaiwalla and Brindle.

The case highlights the controversial secret courts system due to be expanded under the Justice and Security Bill, which saw several high-profile Liberal Democrat resignations at the party conference recently.

The bank said it has been unable to defend itself against allegations that it indirectly facilitated Iran’s nuclear programme, with the evidence hidden from public view in closed proceedings.

Blackstone Chambers’ Dinah Rose QC has been instructed to intervene in the case by Liberty to oppose the prospect of a closed ruling.