Office for Judicial Complaints investigates EDO judge

Further to the surprise acquittal of the EDO smashers, the Brighton Argus reports:

“The Office for Judicial Complaints, which deals with objections over the conduct of judges and magistrates, confirmed that an inquiry into how Judge Bathurst-Norman handled the trial is under way.

The move follows a series of complaints from organisations including the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Chief executive Jon Benjamin said: “The judge’s summing up seemed to be more of a character reference for the defendants and an account of the iniquities of Israel and America than a dispassionate appraisal of the evidence.

“Rather than test whether the defence of lawful excuse was available to the accused he appeared more intent on telling the jury why they would be morally wrong not to acquit them.”

You’d hardly think it was the same judge who served Paul Kelleher a 3 month custodial sentence for decapitating a statue of Margaret Thatcher. The jury in an earlier trial had been unable to decide whether he had lawful excuse for his action; Judge Bathurst-Norman ruled that he didn’t.

“I don’t doubt the sincerity of your beliefs,” he said. “Many people share them, particularly in relation to what is happening in Third World countries, and I would be the last person to deny any person the right to freedom of speech and the right to protest against matters which support his beliefs.

“But, when it comes to protest, there is a right way to protest and also a wrong way. The way people banded together last Saturday to demonstrate against the war in Iraq was the right and proper way to make their voices heard. The way you acted to knock the head off a valuable statue of a politician who left power over ten years ago and whose party is no longer the party of government, was very much the wrong way.”

On the other hand, in 2001, he handed down a “remarkably lenient” sentence to a procurement agent for the A. Q. Khan Network (smuggling ring which supports nuclear weapons programmes of Pakistan, North Korea and Iran). He got a fine and suspended sentence.

My guess is that to most people the EDO smashers look erratic and prejudiced, and their acquittal looks like erratic, prejudiced judiciary. But they were supported by Green leader and Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas, who tells SmashEDO that EDO is making bombs in Brighton, although EDO is not making bombs in Brighton. And if it were, providing it wasn’t in contravention of arms embargoes to the Middle East, it would be operating within the law.

The arms trade is a convoluted business, but EDO is operating within the law, isn’t it. And given that, if we’re against weapons, we need to use our opportunities and rights to try to change the laws about their manufacture, and not support the arbitrary smashings of vigilantes.

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18 thoughts on “Office for Judicial Complaints investigates EDO judge

  1. Esther Moncheck

    The Brighton Argus is infamous for its hyperbolic front-page headlines. The one to which your story relates reads: “Judge faces anti-Semitism probe…” whereas actually the OJC probe story is more about his direction of the jury and also possibly his expressed ‘anti-Israel’ sentiments colouring this.

    Last Saturday, we were treated to the Argus’ front page headline: “Sussex man hit by meteorite” and “it’s thought to be the first extra-terrestrial crash landing in the UK for nearly 20 years.”

    The above story was followed up in today’s edition of the Argus with a smaller story: “The mystery surrounding an apparent ‘meteorite’ that fell to earth, almost hitting a cricket spectator, has finally been solved by space experts. Last night Dave Harris, 51, co-founder of the British and Irish Meteorite Society, said: I’m afraid it’s nothing more than a piece of Portland cement with flecks of brick dust and flint in it.”
    Still, it sells a few newspapers and the Argus is very desperate.

    Reply
  2. bob homous

    I think you have misunderstood what happened here. It wasn’t erractic, but a fitting and considered response to war crimes taking place in Gaza.

    The judge is being investigated because the Zionist Federation has accused him of anti-semitism for daring to do his job and present a full summary of the evidence put forward in the trial. He recounted the evidence against Israel, not the Jewish people. If he was anti-semitic he would not have cast the Nazi regime as ‘horrific’. I believe the Nazi’s were also

    This was not a protest, but a necessary act to try and save lives, and protect property.
    Legally, knocking off a statue’s head could not save anyones life, but disrupting the supply chain of bomb racks and arming units used to dispatch Israeli bombs in Gaza from F-16s in January 2009, possibly could.

    Reply
  3. Mira Vogel Post author

    Plenty of antisemitism calls itself antifascism. And trying to dismiss this complaint as a zionist federation action omits the role of the other groups involved. The ojc haven’t thrown out the complaint, have they? We’ll see what the outcome is. Or have you already decided the ojc has been nobbled by the jews – I’m sorry – the zionists? Don’t you think there can be cause for complaint of prejudice if the subject of that prejudice is israel?

    Reply
    1. bob homous

      mira

      cheap shot

      throw the anti-semitism allegation at me now. I never said anything about the jews or the ojc.

      I expect this complaint to be investigated and then dismissed.

      as for prejudice, it depends on what is being said about Israel. All the criticisms I read in the summary were based on evidence provided by the defendants from credible sources, so hardly prejudiced

      Reply
      1. Mira Vogel Post author

        “cheap shot

        throw the anti-semitism allegation at me now. I never said anything about the jews or the ojc.”

        Your cheap arguments beg the question. The arguments you’re making take a bit of decoding, admittedly.

        20 people have been convicted of acts against EDO – but that was when the pretext for those acts was saving the lives of Iraqis. We have to ask, did any others manage to get acquitted on the lawful excuse of saving Iraqi lives? None that we so far know of, and you’d think that Smash EDO defenders would have pointed this out by now if there were. The fatalities in Iraq were off the scale compared to Palestinian fatalities. But somehow when you say you trashed something on behalf of Palestinians, you get let off – here are these smashers getting praised by Bathurst-Norman. You’re not even trying to explain it.

        I’m less certain than you what Ken Clarke et al will decide about this judge’s particularist moralising. The BBC upheld a complaint from Jonathan Hoffman last year, so your conclusion is not foregone. And in any case Palestinians need better advocacy than this.

        Reply
  4. Isca Stieglitz

    I’ve copied this ‘Imaginary Scenario’ again, because it’s only when I imagined the shoe on the other foot, that I realised how dodgy the summation/ direction was.

    I sent a complaint to the OJC, but stuck to the argument, i.e. from my minor legal experience at LSE and King’s London, a judge can direct and advise as to points of law, but not ‘load’ or bias the summation. I never witnessed this kind of conduct by a judge, even in the most controversial of cases.

    Whatever the issue, he biased the jury and this has led to my complaint about his ‘conduct’. Bathurst’s beliefs about Israel/Gaza may well have led to this bias, but I can’t prove or ‘legislate’ for his thoughts. I only know/ believe that the outcome of this case was directly linked to Bathurst’s biased conduct.

    Imaginary scenario –
    I write letters to the Green Party of England & Wales’ Executive-because of their interest in this case; I write letters to my MP etc. about the activities of say ‘Friends of Palestine’ or ‘Stop the War’ and say –
    I ‘believe’ that they have links to unsavoury groups and provide funds which are, down the chain, syphoned off for Hamas military and terrorist activity; killing dissenters/ ‘collaborators’ and civilians (inc. women & children), within Gaza and sending ‘x’ thousand mini-missiles at southern Israeli towns, killing civilians (inc. women & children).
    I am ignored.
    I lobby every person/ group I can.
    I am ignored.
    I demonstrate outside said offices and buildings.
    I am ignored.
    I attempt to take them to court.
    I am ignored and told that these organisations do not have links to groups which are directly responsible for ‘crimes against humanity’, within or without Gaza –
    I have in my mind ‘exhausted all avenues’! Not sure if ‘Smash EDO’ did any of this, but we are told ‘all avenues were exhausted’.
    So, I decide to take direct action. I have now called my group – ‘Smash FoP & STW At the Same Time’. I break into the head offices of ‘Friends of Palestine’ and ‘Stop the War’ and trash the place, especially the computers and the safes where money is kept. I cause £187, 000 worth of damage.
    My defence? Well, I exhausted all channels and I know for sure that the funds coming out of this office go directly or indirectly to funding terrorist activity and hence crimes against humanity.
    FoP and STW deny this. My MP supports me. How would I be treated by a judge & jury?
    The same as the ‘Smash EDO’?

    Naaah, of course not and neither should I be…neither should they have been treated in this way.

    It does not resemble any Judge’s guidance or jury decision within the legal framework that I learned about in law.
    My case sounds even more ridiculous when I read it back to myself!

    Isca Stieglitz

    July 17, 2010 at 8:59 am
    Reply

    Reply
  5. bob homous

    Isca, you are wilfully missing the point.

    The judge summed up the evidence.

    The evidence was not simply a arbitrary belief of the defendants, it was backed up by evidence and in particular the cross examination of the boss of the company with that evidence over several days in court.

    Because of that evidence, and the loss of any credibility of the company man due to his tendency to change his story every five seconds, the jury didn’t believe what they had been told by him when he denied supplying Israel.

    And yes, if you had the evidence, and a belief that there was an immediate threat to property due to the actions of the Green Party, Friends of Palestine, Stop the War you would have the same lawful excuse defence under the criminal damage act.

    If Stop The War were evidently supplying HAMAS with missiles that they were threatening to launch against Israel and there was no other way to stop it but smash up an office; if you were so convinced of this you would risk five years or so in prison for a conspiracy conviction due on the belief, and maybe spend 18months on remand anyway even if you are acquitted; if you are prepared to take the chance of a random jury and a judge with a reputation for convicting and locking up people for simply knocking heads of statues.

    Then you may have a defence.

    However your case is actually ridiculous because you clearly don’t beleive it, because there is no evidence, because you don’t have the courage to put that belief to the test.

    Reply
    1. Mira Vogel Post author

      “credibility of the company man”

      I’m not sure what you mean. Are you saying the EDO man broke some law? If not he’d be on trial himself by now for breaking current restrictions on supplying Israel, imposed after the review of exports to Israel in Jan 09. So, is he on trial, then? Or are you saying that even though EDO aren’t breaking the law, they deserve to be smashed? Clearly, given that all export licences to Israel are assessed against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria, they do not.

      I can’t see how there can be lawful excuse to smash a lawful business. So much else is undone once you start entertaining that. Either you smash and take your sentence, or you carry on trying to get the law changed.

      “And yes, if you had the evidence, and a belief that there was an immediate threat to property due to the actions of the Green Party, Friends of Palestine, Stop the War you would have the same lawful excuse defence under the criminal damage act.”

      No we wouldn’t, nor should we. For example, Viva Palestina support Hamas.
      http://hurryupharry.org/2010/06/11/ihh-speaking-plainly/
      http://hurryupharry.org/2010/03/30/shoot-at-israel/

      Hamas shower bombs on Southern Israel, destroying “property” (your term), and more to the point, people. If they stopped and fulfilled their obligation to be a good neighbour, there’d be an end to the blockade of Gaza. Instead, antisemitism is a core Hamas tenet and the pledge to destroy Israel. But stop Bob (in case you are gathering your kit to rush round there and ransack the offices of Viva Palestina) because of course we reject and condemn any such attack.

      I’m wondering, Bob, are you just somebody who harbours a secret enjoyment of smashing things that you disguise as righteous anger? Can’t you take up kick boxing or something?

      Oh, and since Bob isn’t in the habit of providing links, here’s the summing up: http://www.thejc.com/35771/judge-bathurst-norman-full-summing

      Reply
      1. Mira Vogel Post author

        The more I think about it… Surely Bob you’re arguing for no law at all, just a bunch of arbiters who we can duly all try to bribe, who pontificate about a load of people smashing stuff up they don’t like. Car manufacturers. Abattoirs. Cigarette factories. (Well, they all cost lives, don’t they?)

        What a lottery. And you’re calling us ridiculous?

        Reply
        1. bob homous

          Mira

          The ‘bunch of arbiters’ you are referring to in this case are called the jury.

          If you bribe them there are plenty of laws that will put you away for long time.

          I would advise against it as there is no lawful excuse defence under our legal system for bribing a jury.

          Reply
          1. Mira Vogel Post author

            Perhaps I misunderstood you, Bob H, and you’ve duly reciprocated. You seemed to be comfortable with the inconsistency (inconsistency is a real problem when it comes to law) of finding guilty when Iraqi dead are the pretext for the action, and finding innocent when Gazan dead are the pretext for the action. You also seem to be defending the way Judge B.N. summarised the trial, including a highly irregular summary of the situation in Gaza. I disagree with you. I find it ironic and revealing that B.N. should have complained about double standards favouring Israel.

            It remains that the OJC accepted the request for an investigation, indicating that we shouldn’t consider it vexatious.

  6. Bialik

    I received this reply by email yesterday, 5 August:

    I am writing to you to update you in relation to your complaint against
    His Honour Bathurst-Norman.

    I can inform you that at this stage we have received His Honour
    Bathurst-Norman’s comments regarding this matter, which we have
    considered alongside the transcript of his summing up of the case
    concerned. We have also received advice from the Nominated Judge and the
    matter is now with the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice for
    their consideration. However, I should note that due to the summer
    recess, a decision is unlikely to be taken before the beginning of
    September.

    I will write to you as soon as a decision has been made, and in any
    event, by 17th September 2010.

    Reply
  7. Isca Stieglitz

    @Bob H.- hope this post travels ok; done on a Blackberry.
    I think I didn’t make explicit what I was trying ‘say’ with my imaginary scenario.

    Nevermind. I was thinking more in general terms about: sincere beliefs vs. evidence in informing our actions; possibilities of leading/biased summations and the possibility of influencing a jury; procurement chains and how far down the chain do you go in order to justify your actions and also my own personal take on how/ when/ if to take ‘direct action’.

    I was also trying to explain, (I disagree with you here),that I don’t believe, even if I had proof of funding, (direct or down the chain), of terrorist activity by pro-Palestinian groups, that I would get the same treatment/summation or verdict by judge or jury – there is plenty of evidence, out in the ether or other media, of biased anti-Israel treatment over the Israel-Palestine tragedy. I further feel, that whatever my personal views on Israel-Palestine, that this differing treatment stems from a general bias towards anything ‘Israel/Zionist and often jewish’-zionism is also misunderstood as a monotone entity, which of course it is not.

    Still, being called wilful is like being told off by my mum or Enid Blyton!

    Reply
    1. bob homous

      mira and isca

      you are both still being wilful in your disregard for the facts of this case

      There is no inconsistency. In previous cases the same defence has been sucessfully used to protect victims of indonesian war crimes, victims of UK climate crimes, potential victims of the UK nuclear WMD, and as in the case of the B-52 two, Iraqis about to be bombed by coalition forces.

      So get you historical facts right before you make sweeping claims that its just Israeli war crimes this works against. That is what you would like to believe to justify your false claim that there is something anti-semitic in this action and the judicial response to it. There was not. Blaming the judge is not much use either as all he did was his job by summing up the evidence. The reason this took Israeli war crimes for granted was not his bias, but the fact that the prosecution did not dispute this evidence. All sides agreed this basic fact. Considering the Goldstone Report and numerous other reports, the evidnce was clearly indisputable.
      The truth is hard to take I know, but the Zionist Federation attack on the Judge looks desperately like a smear campaign, and its one that will not succeed. Just because the allegation has been taken up, does not mean it will lead anywhere.

      Meanwhile, the true criminals exposed by all this, EDO MBM have yet to recieve the proper scrutiny they deserve despite years of complaints. So where is the true bias in our system I wonder. seems like the only way to get justice is to get a jury.

      Reply
      1. Mira Vogel Post author

        Well, you’re not giving much to go on except assertions and seem to have an emotional stake in preserving the ruling (strange that you find us wilful), if it’s overturned you’ve decided in advance to blame it on a smear, so all I can do is refer you to our previous comments.

        Reply
  8. Pingback: Formal reprimand for Bathurst-Norman « Greens Engage

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