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Re extradition hearing of Mr Julian Paul Assange. Request for CVP live feed broadcast recordings etc

Niki Konstantinidis made this Freedom of Information request to Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service

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Niki Konstantinidis

Dear Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service,
My FOI request relates to the extradition hearing (which started Monday, 7 September at the Central Criminal Court (‘the Court’) before District Judge Baraitser) of Australian editor, publisher, journalist Mr Julian Paul Assange (DOB 03.07.1971), detainee on remand at HMP Belmarsh (Prisoner no: A9379AY).
Regarding the live feed broadcast linking arrangements, I was given several written assurances by Ms Laura King (Business Change Manager, Operational Transformation Team | HMCTS London). Ms King stated that '[t]he Judge has now confirmed that observers, trial monitors and other interested parties can attend the hearing virtually via the Cloud Video Platform (CVP)'.
It is common knowledge that the above access was revoked for ambiguous reasons and that the Court's Cloud Video Platform (CVP) service was fraught with countless problems.
Considering that open justice was consistently impeded by alleged technical problems, I seek the following information, for the period commencing in February 2020 until 5 October 2020 (except where otherwise indicated):
1/ The total number of hearings in progress in the Central Criminal Court, from 7 September to 5 October and the identification details of the courtrooms.
2/ The total number of journalists accredited by District Judge Baraitser (or, if by another officeholder, please provide name and office) to follow the hearing (virtually or physically), as well as their names, names of their media organisations and all selection criteria.
3/ The names of all journalists (and their media organisations) allowed physically into the main courtroom and the selection criteria enabling their entry and attendance.
4/ The total number of journalists refused accreditation by District Judge Baraitser (or, if by another officeholder, please provide name and office) to follow the hearing (virtually or physically), as well as their names, names of their media organisations and all criteria for rejection.
5/ The total number of observers, trial monitors and other interested parties that applied to be present during the hearing (virtually or physically), as well as their names, names of their organisations and selection/deselection criteria applied by District Judge Baraitser (or, if by another officeholder, please provide name and office).
6/ The names and positions of persons who had three seats reserved (in the main courtroom) by the District Judge Baraitser (or, if by another officeholder, please provide name and office) for all or part of the hearing.
7/ Social distancing and other Covid19 rules applying to all courtrooms and premises of the Court.
8/ Social distancing and other Covid19 rules applying to premises accommodating Mr Assange’s extradition hearing.
9/ Documentation (including technical reports) regarding issues related to live feed broadcast linking (connection, streaming etc.).
10/ CVP or other live feed broadcast recordings (or back-ups) of Mr Assange’s extradition hearing (cloud-based, virtual or remote).
11/ Document Retention Policy regarding CVP or other live feed broadcast recordings (cloud-based, virtual or remote).
12/ Document Retention Policy applied to Mr Assange’s extradition hearing (if different from above).
13/ The name(s) of security firms used by or at the Court in respect of Mr Assange's extradition hearing (and, if possible, the terms of their hire).
14/ The number of courtrooms that have a glass cage to contain a defendant.
15/ The frequency of use of such glass cage in extradition hearings and the underlying criteria for such use.
16/ The name(s) and offices of the persons ordering the use of said glass cage in the case of Mr Assange and all related documentation.
17/ A list of the names of defendants (or the names of the cases) held in a glass cage during extradition hearings and dates of said hearings.
18/ During Mr Assange’s extradition hearing, what facilities were made available to attendees with disabilities or vulnerabilities? What facilities are usually available in the Court for disabled or vulnerable people?
Please note that the term ‘Court’ includes security firms or staff hired or contracted by the Court.
I ask that the electronic management system be interrogated using the terms 'Julian Paul Assange Wikileaks', together or separately, in relation to this FOI request. I seek a copy of the results that are generated by these searches, sorted by date for each report.
Regarding hardcopy records, I wish to be given the opportunity to inspect such records (s. 11(1)(b) FOIA). Where this is not reasonably practicable, I request to inspect copies instead. If it is not reasonably practicable to allow inspection, please communicate the information by other means.
Wherever possible, please provide the information in digital form via email.
Any refusal notice under the FOIA needs to explain exactly which exemption is engaged and why.
The information requested is not ‘Special category data’ (i.e., personal data about an individual’s race, ethnic origin, politics, religion, trade union membership, genetics, biometrics etc. --Article 9 of the GDPR).
The general need for transparency regarding public bodies constitutes a sufficiently pressing public interest in transparency about the issues the requested information relates to. A democratic society must never ration justice and "justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done".
In the circumstances hereof, I submit that the HMCTS should not rely on the cost of compliance limits identified in Section 12, due to the overwhelming public interest in open justice. However, if the HMCTS does intend to rely on section 12, please provide advice and assistance, under the Section 16 obligations of the Act, as to how I can refine my request.
If you can identify any ways that my request could be refined I would be grateful for any further advice and assistance.
If you have any queries please don’t hesitate to contact me at the above email address and I will be very happy to clarify what I am asking for.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.

Yours faithfully,

Niki Konstantinidis

LondonKILO, Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service

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Dear Niki Konstantinidis,

 

Please see attached the acknowledgement to your request.

 

Regards,

 

Knowledge & Information Liaison Officer

Knowledge and Information Liaison Unit | London Regional Support Unit |
3^rd Floor | First Avenue House | 42-49 High Holborn | London | WC1V 6NP |
DX160010 Kingsway 7

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Alam, Fakrul, Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service

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Dear Niki Konstantinidis,

 

Please see the attached response to your request (our reference
201006017).

 

 

Knowledge and Information Officer
Knowledge and Information Liaison Unit | London Regional Support Unit |
3^rd Floor | First Avenue House | 42-49 High Holborn | London | WC1V 6NP |
DX160010 Kingsway 7

Web: [1]www.gov.uk/hmcts

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Niki Konstantinidis

Dear Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service's handling of my FOI request 'Re extradition hearing of Mr Julian Paul Assange. Request for CVP live feed broadcast recordings etc'.

References herein to the ‘Court’ are references to the Westminster Magistrates Court, irrespective of where it may have been seating (Central Criminal Court, Woolwich Court or other).

Firstly, I note that Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service has overlooked the fact that my FOI request relates primarily to the period commencing in February 2020 until 5 October 2020.
Secondly, I note that Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service has consistently relied on Section 40(2) of the FOIA to refuse information requested in respect of organisations. Organisations are not individuals and thus the requested information does not constitute personal data, as defined by the DPA and is not exempt from disclosure under FOIA.
Thirdly, it is worthwhile noting that every possible effort seems to have been made by the Court to keep this high-profile public trial away from public scrutiny. In an article by Reporters Without Borders (https://rsf.org/en/news/usuk-julian-assa...) the following was revealed about the reality of transparency and ‘open justice’:
‘However, at the start of proceedings on 7 September, RSF received a further communication from the court, stating: “The judge has regretfully decided not to grant requests for members of the public to attend the Julian Assange hearing via CVP...she is concerned about her ability to maintain the integrity of the court if members of the public are able to attend the hearing remotely.” On 8 September, Vincent nonetheless attempted to access the CVP via the link that had been provided, and was admitted to the waiting room before being removed and unable to log in again. Amnesty International and other NGOs also reported having their access revoked, along with a number of political observers.’

I seek an internal review, particularly regarding the following:

Q2/ The total number of journalists accredited by District Judge Baraitser (or, if by another officeholder, please provide name and office) to follow the hearing (virtually or physically), as well as their names, names of their media organisations and all selection criteria.
Regarding Q2), Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service fails to fully respond to my FOI request. Although Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service states that 93 journalists were accredited and given access to attend the hearing virtually, it fails to explain how Section 40(2) of the FOIA applies to the names of media organisations. As stated above, organisations are not individuals and therefore Section 40(2) of the FOIA cannot apply to them. Furthermore, journalists covering a high-profile public hearing such as the Assange extradition hearing, publish reports under their own names and have no expectation of their names being protected under FOIA.
Thus, I reiterate my request, in particular in respect of the names of media organisations and all selection criteria.

Q3/ The names of all journalists (and their media organisations) allowed physically into the main courtroom and the selection criteria enabling their entry and attendance.
Regarding Q3), Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service fails to fully respond to my FOI request. Although Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service states that only 1 accredited journalist was allowed into the main courtroom, it fails to explain how Section 40(2) of the FOIA applies to disclosure of his name. Charlie Dan Jones, himself, revealed his identity on Twitter and other social media. Even if Section 40(2) of the FOIA did apply to Charlie Dan Jones as an individual (which, in my view, does not), Charlie Dan Jones by his own words and conduct gave consent freely to the specific disclosure, with the understanding that his personal data would be disclosed under FOIA and therefore potentially to the world at large.
Charlie Dan Jones tweeted that he was in the main courtroom for the media organisation CourtNewsUK.
According to the CourtNewsUK website (https://courtnewsuk.co.uk/terms_and_cond...), CourtNewsUK is, in fact, Central News Ltd.
“Who we are
In this privacy policy references to “we”, “us” and “our” are to Central News Ltd. References to “our website” or “the website” are to www.courtnewsuk.co.uk
CENTRAL NEWS LIMITED (Company number 03597393) has its Registered office address at The Old Mill, Kings Mill Kings Mill Lane, South Nutfield, Redhill, England, RH1 5NB and is is a private limited company, incorporated on 14 July 1998.
As stated above, organisations are not individuals and thus the requested information does not constitute personal data.
Therefore, please provide the requested information, and in particular, all the information showing how Charlie Dan Jones and Central News Ltd (CourtNewsUK) met the Court’s selection criteria over and above all other accredited journalists.

Q5/ The total number of observers, trial monitors and other interested parties that applied to be present during the hearing (virtually or physically), as well as their names, names of their organisations and selection/deselection criteria applied by District Judge Baraitser (or, if by another officeholder, please provide name and office).
Regarding Q5), Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service fails to fully respond to the FOI request. The names of 20 non-government organisations cannot be considered to be personal data exempt under Section 40(2) of the FOIA. Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service has not specified whether the ‘other interested parties’ were individuals or organisations, or, if individuals, whether they were there in a private or representative capacity.
RSF’s Director of International Campaigns, Rebecca Vincent, said her organisation treated Assange's trial as an ‘international press monitoring condition’. (please see https://youtu.be/q-Bl7VBSr9c).
‘Finally, we have concerns about extensive barriers to open justice, which made it nearly impossible for us to do our jobs as NGO observers and monitor proceedings.’ (see https://rsf.org/en/news/usuk-julian-assa...).
Please provide all the requested information, including the deselection criteria applied by the Court to deselect, revoke or restrict access to the abovementioned observers, trial monitors and other interested parties.

Q6/ The names and positions of persons who had three seats reserved (in the main courtroom) by the District Judge Baraitser (or, if by another officeholder, please provide name and office) for all or part of the hearing.
Regarding Q6), in light of the plethora of complaints by the public, by observers, trial monitors and other interested parties regarding ‘open justice’, this FOI request presents a legitimate interest including the general requirement for transparency in the issue that the information in question relates to. In such circumstances, the public interest outweighs any private interest of the said three individuals.

Q7/ Social distancing and other Covid19 rules applying to all courtrooms and premises of the Court.
The responses to Q7 & 8) are inadequate. Please provide the full text of all social distancing rules requested, including all information on ‘mitigation apparatus’.

Q9/ Documentation (including technical reports) regarding issues related to live feed broadcast linking (connection, streaming etc.).
The FOIA covers any recorded information. Recorded information includes printed documents, computer files, letters, emails, photographs, and sound or video recordings.
Your answer to Q9) (i.e., ‘No documents are kept’) is unclear. A public authority has obligations as to processing of complaints, record-keeping and other administrative matters regarding the use of appropriate resources. It must ensure that equipment used to facilitate proceedings and ensure a fair trial is fit for purpose.
Despite multiple complaints from the outset of this extradition case, made to the Court and other authorities (including my own complaints to the Court; e.g., an email sent on 24/09/2020) Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service states ‘No documents are kept’.
Please respond appropriately to this Q9), ensuring that an explanation is provided as to the why ‘No documents are kept’ in the Assange case regarding this ongoing problem impeding Julian Assange's fundamental human right to a fair trial.

Q13/ The name(s) of security firms used by or at the Court in respect of Mr Assange's extradition hearing (and, if possible, the terms of their hire).
Your response to Q13) does not address my FOI request. Surely Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service is aware of the name(s) of security firms used in respect of Mr Assange's extradition hearing and the terms of their hire.

Q14/ The number of courtrooms that have a glass cage to contain a defendant.
Q15/ The frequency of use of such glass cage in extradition hearings and the underlying criteria for such use.
Your response to Q14 & 15) was: ‘None of the courts within the Central Criminal Court have a glass cage, defendants are required to go sit in the dock unless otherwise instructed by the judiciary.’ This response is inadequate. Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service is well aware of the reference being to the glass dock (referred to by many journalists and by the public as a ‘glass cage’). Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service should respond by providing the requested information in respect of both the Central Criminal Court and Woolwich Court, given that my FOI request relates to the period commencing in February 2020 until 5 October 2020 (except where otherwise indicated).
Save error on my part, there is no statutory requirement or judicial authority requiring the use of glass docks in UK courts.
Please provide the requested information including prisoner escort custody contracts allegedly ensuring appropriate security in the courtroom.

17/ A list of the names of defendants (or the names of the cases) held in a glass cage during extradition hearings and dates of said hearings.
As stated above, Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service is well aware of the reference being to the glass dock. The names of defendants (or the names of the cases) are on the public record, and as such, there is no impediment to disclosure.

18/ During Mr Assange’s extradition hearing, what facilities were made available to attendees with disabilities or vulnerabilities? What facilities are usually available in the Court for disabled or vulnerable people?”
The legal observer with a mandate from the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers notified the court in advance. I also wrote to the court on her behalf. This person was not accommodated appropriately and was forced to climb several flights of stairs on a daily basis and to sit in the adjacent courtroom in cold temperatures (around 16 degrees celsius).
I therefore expect information as to why this particular person was not afforded facilities available to attendees with disabilities or vulnerabilities.

In other respects, in light of the responses given by Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service to Q11) & Q12), please provide all information retained under the relevant Document Retention Policy, regarding CVP or other live feed broadcast recordings (cloud-based, virtual or remote).

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/r...

Yours faithfully,

Niki Konstantinidis

LondonKILO, Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service

1 Attachment

Dear Niki,

 

Please see the attached acknowledgment to your request (our reference
201107005).

 

Regards

 

Knowledge and Information Officer
Knowledge and Information Liaison Unit | London Regional Support Unit |
3^rd Floor | First Avenue House | 42-49 High Holborn | London | WC1V 6NP |
DX160010 Kingsway 7

Web: [1]www.gov.uk/hmcts

 

Unless a higher marking is specified please treat this email as: OFFICIAL

 

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LondonKILO, Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service

1 Attachment

Dear Niki Konstantinidu,

 

Please see the attached response to your request (our reference
201107005).

 

Regards,

 

Knowledge and Information Officer
Knowledge and Information Liaison Unit | London Regional Support Unit |
3^rd Floor | First Avenue House | 42-49 High Holborn | London | WC1V 6NP |
DX160010 Kingsway 7

Web: [1]www.gov.uk/hmcts

 

Unless a higher marking is specified please treat this email as: OFFICIAL

 

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LondonKILO, Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service

1 Attachment

Dear Niki Konstantinidis,

 

Please see the attached amended response to your request (our reference
201006017)

 

Knowledge and Information Officer
Knowledge and Information Liaison Unit | London Regional Support Unit |
3^rd Floor | First Avenue House | 42-49 High Holborn | London | WC1V 6NP |
DX160010 Kingsway 7

Web: [1]www.gov.uk/hmcts

 

Unless a higher marking is specified please treat this email as: OFFICIAL

Click [2]here to provide some feedback and help improve our service.

[3]Here is how HMCTS uses personal data about you

 

[4]Coronavirus (COVID-19): courts and tribunals planning and preparation

 

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We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are Niki Konstantinidis please sign in and let everyone know.