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Joshua Rozenberg
Thursday 7th October 2010
CPS responds to "Hell on Earth" judge

The Crown Prosecution Service has denied accepting the conclusions of the Goldstone report on Operation Cast Lead, Israel's military action in Gaza nearly two years ago.

The announcement came after the Lord Chief Justice had issued a formal reprimand to George Bathurst Norman, the retired judge who became notorious for telling a jury trying defendants for criminal damage

you may think that perhaps "Hell on Earth" would be an understatement of what the
Gazans endured at that time.

In an earlier blog, I quoted the judge as saying:

...if the Israeli Air Force was committing crimes in the way that the agreed evidence outlines in the unlawful killing of Palestinians in Gaza and in the unlawful causing of damage to property in Gaza, then under the War Crimes Act and other legislation any member of the Israeli Air Force who set foot in this country and who acted in that way would be liable to arrest and prosecution.

Since the judge referred to "agreed evidence", I asked what the Crown Prosecution Service was doing in agreeing that the Israelis were guilty of war crimes.

Today, Roger Coe-Salazar, Chief Crown Prosecutor, CPS South East, replied:

The Crown Prosecution Service opposed admission of the Goldstone Report on the basis of a lack of relevance thereby requiring Judge Bathurst-Norman to formally rule on the matter. The judge decided to admit specific sections of the executive summary. The CPS made it clear that while we accepted the existence of the report, we specifically did not accept the contents of it or the assertions contained within it; such matters are not for the CPS.

It looks from this as if the judge was wrong to refer to the evidence in this context as "agreed".

Meanwhile, a little more details has emerged about the circumstances in which Bathhurst Norman was reprimanded. Individuals who made complaints about the judge were told:

A number of complaints were received on this matter and the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice have decided that they should be resolved in accordance with Regulation 26(1)(e)(i) of the Judicial Discipline (Prescribed Procedures) Regulations 2006 (as amended) on the basis that the complaints are substantiated wholly or in part. The Lord Chief Justice has exercised his disciplinary powers and, with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor, has issued the Judge with a formal reprimand. They found that a number of observations made during the summing up did not arise directly from the evidence at trial and could be seen as an expression of the judge's personal views on a political question.  This was an error.

In coming to this decision the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice have considered the details of the complaints made, the comments of His Honour Bathurst-Norman and the advice of the Nominated Judge.  The decision does not affect nor seek to comment upon the outcome of the trial and the verdict reached by the jury in the case. 

 
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About Joshua Rozenberg

Joshua Rozenberg is an independent legal commentator who presents Law in Action on BBC Radio 4.

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