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20/01/2007

Done and seen to be done.

Amidst the detritus of Mayors celebrating evictions for anti social behaviour and the dawn arrest of the PM’s political liasion officer, I was struck by two things.

One is that Ruth Turner, in common with most of the political class, doesn’t know the meaning of ‘refute’. Ms Turner, you didn’t refute, you repudiated.

More seriously, Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, announced that he will not stand aside from advising the CPS on the ‘cash for honours’ case and even slapped the wrist of Charlie Falconer, Lord Chancellor, for having suggested that he would.

So, a personal friend of the Prime Minister, who attends cabinet meetings and gives legal advice to the government, is potentially to advise the CPS on whether or not to bring proceedings in a case that may involve charges against associates of the Prime Minister and conceivably, if not probably, the Prime Minister himself.

Regardless of Lord Goldsmith’s probity and ability to objectively assess a case, this is an error. Following hot on the heels of a rebuke to the UK over the yanking of the SFO investigation into corruption in the Saudi arms deal with British Aerospace, this doesn’t look good at all.

And that is the point. No man shall sit as judge in his own cause, and neither shall his mates. Not necessarily because this will not result in justice being done, but because it will result in the perception that justice has not been done.

Of course, Lord Goldsmith knows this. It is within his discretion to delegate or assign the role of advising the CPS to someone else. He should do so and his refusal to step aside is incomprehensible. That this matter is to be considered by him before it reaches a court (or not) is no excuse, other than a technical one.

“Nothing is to be done which creates even a suspicion that there has been an improper interference with the course of justice”. Lord Hewart CJ, R. v Sussex Justices Ex p McCarthy.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

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