Lady Emma Arbuthnot, the Westminster chief magistrate enmeshed in a conflict of interest, will no longer be presiding over the extradition proceedings of imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, said WikiLeaks lawyer Jen Robinson, at an event in Sydney on Friday night .
“Yes, there was some controversy about her sitting on the case,” Robinson said.
“She won’t be sitting on the case going forward.”
Robinson told Australian journalist Quentin Dempster at the event that she was “not sure” who would take over from Arbuthnot.
Robinson made her remarks in response to a question from the audience about Arbuthnot’s reported conflict of interest in the case. Robinson did not provide further details. She spoke in future tense, but it is not clear if she was referring to Arbuthnot maintaining supervision of the case while turning over the courtroom duties to another judge, which she did weeks ago, retaining the right to influence rulings, or whether Arbuthnot has recused herself from the case. Consortium News has contacted Robinson to provide clarification.
— Consortium News (@Consortiumnews) November 16, 2019
On Thursday, Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis of the Daily Maverick reported:
“Lady Arbuthnot has recently appointed a district judge to rule on Assange’s extradition case, but remains the supervising legal figure in the process. According to the UK courts service, the chief magistrate is ‘responsible for… supporting and guiding district judge colleagues.’”
The report said that Arbuthnot’s husband, Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom, a former British defense minister, “has financial links to the British military establishment, including institutions and individuals exposed by WikiLeaks.” It said the judge herself had also received gifts “including from a military and cybersecurity company exposed by WikiLeaks.”
The Daily Maverick reported further on Friday:
“The son of Lady Emma Arbuthnot, the Westminster chief magistrate overseeing the extradition proceedings of Julian Assange, is the vice-president and cyber-security adviser of a firm heavily invested in a company founded by GCHQ and MI5 which seeks to stop data leaks, it can be revealed.
Alexander Arbuthnot’s employer, the private equity firm Vitruvian Partners, has a multimillion-pound investment in Darktrace, a cyber-security company which is also staffed by officials recruited directly from the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
These intelligence agencies are behind the US government’s prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secret documents. Darktrace has also had access to two former UK prime ministers and former US President Barack Obama.
The revelations raise further concerns about potential conflicts of interests and appearance of bias concerning Lady Arbuthnot and the ties of her family members to the UK and US military and intelligence establishments. Lady Arbuthnot’s husband is Lord James Arbuthnot, a former UK defence minister who has extensive links to the UK military community.
“Members of the public must be confident that magistrates are impartial and independent. If you know that your impartiality or independence is compromised in a particular case you must withdraw at once… Nor should you hear any case which you already know something about or which touches upon an activity in which you are involved”.
Our understanding is that Lady Arbuthnot has failed to disclose any potential conflicts of interest in her role as judge or chief magistrate.
Lady Arbuthnot is known to have stepped aside from adjudicating two other cases due to potential conflicts of interest, but only after investigations by the media.