Guardian mulls appeal over extradition case documents

The Guardian newspaper is examining ways to appeal a ruling that press and media are not entitled to copies of skeleton arguments, documents or other exhibits placed before a magistrates’ court.

The decision came as Lord Justice Sullivan and Mr Justice Silber of the Divisional Court rejected an appeal by the Guardian News and Media yesterday.

GNM had appealed against the refusal of a district judge at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court to allow it to have copies of or access to documents put before the court in extradition proceedings against London-based solicitor Jeffrey Tesler and Wojciech Chodan, a former executive of an American company.

The United States wanted the two men extradited in connection with allegations that they had been involved in bribery of Nigerian officials.

The Divisional Court held yesterday that the District Judge was correct in her decision.

Guardian News and Media said the company was examining the possibility of an appeal.

“We are not sure what the route of appeal might be, but we are definitely examining our options,” said a spokeswoman.

The Guardian’s first applied for disclosure of a number of documents in the extradition case when District Judge Caroline Tubbs gave judgment in the case of Tesler in March this year.

The documents, which were put before the court and mentioned in oral argument, included skeleton arguments prepared by counsel, affidavits by a US official, and various correspondence.

But District Judge Tubbs declined to order disclosure, saying that she had no inherent jurisdiction to do so.

In addition, nothing was disclosed or discussed in the documents which had not already been dealt with in oral argument in open court, she said.

Guardian News and Media appealed by way of case stated, and applied for judicial review of the District Judge’s decision.

Gavin Millar QC, for the newspaper, argued that the principle of open justice required first that in criminal cases, all evidence communicated to the court should be available for inspection by the press if it could show an adequate reason for its production, and second that nothing should be done to discourage or frustrate the publication to a wider public of fair and accurate reports of proceedings.

The court could only depart from the general rule that justice should be administered in public where the nature or circumstances of the particular proceedings were such that the application of the general rule in its entirety would frustrate or render impracticable the administration of justice or would damage some other public interest.

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