Assange Case Management Hearing Report, April 27, 2020

Julian Assange Extradition Case Management Hearing
Monday 27 April 2020
Westminster Magistrates Court
Before District Judge Vanessa Baraitser

James Lewis QC for US Government
Edward Fitzgerald QC Assange
Mark Summers QC Assange

(Defendant not present due to illness)

Proceedings commence 10.05

Edward Fitzgerald QC opened by making an application for the second part of the extradition hearing to be postponed due to the current virus emergency making it impossible for the defence to consult their client noting that “Apart from short phone calls we’ve had no direct access to Mr Assange for over a month.” He argued that “Without an adjournment we cannot even get the necessary access to prepare the case.”

The QC then said “it’s not in the interests of open justice to hold the case with some more of these inferior videolinks.”

Without direct access to Mr Assange, the defence said, they could not take proper instructions and therefore their case would be hampered. Fitzgerald added: “He has only this one chance to place his case before you and the fate that he faces if extradited is one that puts his very life at risk. Mr Assange will be facing a David and Goliath battle with his hands tied behind his back.”

He also noted that despite the ruling of the court at the last hearing, Assange did not get to meet his lawyers as planned in the holding cells at Woolwich Crown Court on April 22. He told the court that it was the defence view that “Bringing the defendant from the prison to the court is dangerous for both him and prison staff.” He added that the prosecution itself agreed that it would not be safe to proceed at this stage.

He then asked for the case to be adjourned until September.

James Lewis QC for US Government then rose to say that due to the “extraordinary times,” he agreed with the defence motion.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser then gave her ruling, she said it was key to avoid delay, especially when the defendant was in custody. The judge told the court that it was important to use innovative solutions to avoid the administration of justice being derailed by the current health emergency. She said however, that as it was impossible to physically present defendants in court, she would postpone the 18 May date for the second part of the hearing. She said the next three week period available at Woolwich Crown Court would be from 2 November.

The defence asked for time to consult his client, the court then adjourned until 4 May at 10am