Thursday, November 18, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: UK Taxpayers Are Funding High Court Case Against Vince Cable Brought by US Death Row Killers

Tonight on my LBC Show we spent an hour of the progamme discussing the judicial review currently taking place in the High Court over the decision by Vince Cable to allow an export licence to be granted to a UK company which exports a drug called sodium thiopental. It's a drug used by US prison authorities to inject prisoners on Death Row. It helps kill them.

An organisation called REPRIEVE is backing a judicial review in the High Court over Cable's decision. On the programme I interviewed a lawyer from REPRIEVE called Sophie Walker. We discussed why she thought Vince Cable's decision was wrong and immoral. She talked about the fact that the case was being brought by two Death Row prisoners, Edmund Zagorski and Ralph Baze and that they were being represented in the High Court by the London law firm Leigh & Day.

I then enquired who was paying their legal costs, as Judicial Reviews lasting four days are not exactly cheap. You could have knocked me down with a feather when she said they were being funded by legal aid. It was a jaw dropping moment. What sort of country allows foreign murderers to bring cases against its own government and funds them through the generosity of their own tax payers? That way lies madness. Well, it's happening. Assuming Sophie Walker, who is a lawyer herself, realised what she was saying and she was right, it's happening right here, right now. Unbelievable. Let me repeat it. UK taxpayers are paying the legal costs of US convicted murderers. On what planet could that be considered a reasonable thing to expect UK taxpayers to do? I'll tell you where. On a planet where our priorities have become so twisted that there will be some warped woolly thinking liberal who will make an attempt to justify it.

Edmund Zagorski was convicted of shooting John Dotson and Jimmy Porter, then slitting their throats and robbing them in Robertson County, Tennessee in April 1983. Ralph Baze shot and killed two Kentucky police officers as they attempted to serve a warrant on him in 1992.

And you're paying their legal costs.

Makes you proud to be British, doesn't it?

I hope questions will be asked in Parliament about this.

UPDATE: Grant has kindly put the interview in Youtube for you to listen to. Scroll in to 7.15 for the bit about legal aid if you want to skip the premable.


Evsie said...

Agreed, agreed, and agreed. This situation is utterly absurd... but let's not hold this extremely rare example of abuse of the system up as a reason to reform it. The cuts coming to legal aid are more important than using a Daily-Mail-esque tactic of holding up one extreme to justify hammering normal people in normal situations.

I'm sure, Iain, that you're not doing that here, and are merely shocked about this one case - but with the media attention on the cuts to legal aid at the moment, it wouldn't surprise me if some on the right tried to use this kind of justification.

Pitt The Blogger said...

This will not do. This simply will not do.

When Cameron said:

"We are all in this together"

I didn't realise he meant the term so expansively.

End it Prime Minister, or appear weak and lose votes.

Your choice.

OldSlaughter said...

If this runs you can credit yourself with another scoop!

You also raised the issue about whether a libertarian could support the death penalty (you seemed to think no) and also you seemed to suggest that somebody supporting human rights should be against the penalty.

Both worthy of discussion

Jimmy said...

I'm beginning to think that in Britain at least a libertarian is just a tory who does drugs. Mind you, Cable presumably still calls himself a liberal.

"Makes you proud to be British, doesn't it?"

Actually yes.

Richard Manns said...

It should be clarified that sodium thiopental is, and has always been, primarily an anaesthetic.

You can kill with it, but the Americans don't. They anaesthetise the intended before paralysing the muscles and stopping the heart.

Its far greater use is for Caesarian section and veterinary anaesthesia.

Tapestry said...

Cherie Blair must be behind this, with her push for human rights laws, and her personal need for vast sums of money.

Cherie Antoinette in fact.

Ollie said...

I'm not quite sure I see the problem here. This is not an appeal, or the like, this is judicial review. Vince Cable has made a decision that needs reviewing (if we can't deport people who will suffer the death penalty, it seems bizarre that we can export the drugs used to actually kill them), so of course the British taxpayer should fund it - judicial review funding follows the decision-maker, not the applicant. This is, and always has been, the rule. Appeals are all about the individual person (so it's correct that funding should follow the person) whereas JR is all about the quality of the decision (so it's right that funding should follow the decision.)

This has nothing to do with 'liberalism' or the any other ideology, and you really must learn to calm down. Once you realise (or accept, assuming you already know) the nature of JR, this whole thread of yours becomes a nonsense.

Thorpe said...

Evsie has a very good point about over-reacting, but in this case I think it would be correct for the Judicial Review to sling this case out.

Almost anything can be used to kill people. Sodium Thiopental is clearly a medicine (it's on the WHO List of Essential Medicines, for goodness sake).

What next? Ban the sale of British rope to US companies in case it is used to hang someone? What about BAE Systems? Some of their stuff is actually designed to kill people.

A clear pre-condition of receiving legal aid should be that you are a British Citizen, or at the very least legally domiciled in Britain.

Lady Finchley said...

This is shocking but alas not surprising. Legal Aid is an utter shambles and has been for some time. The ordinary British citizen cannot afford access to the legal system but apparently foreign criminals can. And if you do manage to qualify for legal aid you can expect the process to be chaotic with lawyers unable to even get Legal Aid on the phone.

What is it with the judges in this country? Why do they have such a love for crackpot and the 'yuman rites'of terrorists, criminals and the like.

Not a sheep said...

After 13 years of a Labour governmnet full of lawyers and spouses of lawyers what do you expect?

Cynic said...


Your article is outrageous. If we don't give them legal aid how will all the "Human Rights Lawyers" in the UK survive - nay, pay the school fees for their children?

Indeed, by publishing this you could be accused of causing them distress and alarm leading to a charge of Harassment under Section 5 of the Public Order Act. Even now, some of them may he hurrying down to court to lodge an action against you for even questioning this.

Simon Lewis said...

Im sorry, but why is this anything to do with the Labour government. Jeez, blame them for everything. Wake up and get real. Tell me, why when all the Tories blamed the FSA for the financial crisis has the govt u-turned and not taken away their powers. I never see any comments from Tories on these issues..

Unknown said...

More humble members of the bar face a huge drop in income as a result of legal aid budget reforms. Those at the top of the tree will continue to charge telephone number fees. Solicitors in this area will continue to have time sheets which defy the laws of physics, which solicitors at the bottom of the heap struggle to be paid a living wage in a monopsonistic market.

Access to justice is an issue and insurance is not the answer as most people who have had to use it will testify. One is, therefore, just left speechless at this story.

Unknown said...

Just read Oliver's post. How far detached from reality can you get? Oliver sounds as if he knows, technically, what he is talking about, but how do his points alter the bigger picture? The principle remains exactly the same which is that the court is entertaining an application which ultimately benefits these people.

Can Oliver justify the use of judicial review to this end; there are those who question judicial review's use. It is a relative innovation in our system.

Unknown said...

Leigh Day, legal aid and the shafting of the taxpayer is a common theme - see coverage yesterday of the judicial review they are currently pursuing to stop the rebuilding of the Royal Liverpool Hospital on behalf of a legally aided American citizen with a political axe to grind:

London lawyers, American claimant, London-based legal aid board - Liverpool shafted.

Victor, NW Kent said...

It seems that the UK is obliged to pay for everything that happens anywhere in the world. Our government willingly assents to this. Even Conservative loyalists like me are getting very upset by the continual drain of our resources to bail out everybody and everything.

Brian said...

Isn't the judicial review to ascertain whether the Business Secretary is exercising his powers or discretion within the law? It's part of the mechanics, the checks and balances, of government to ensure that a Minister doesn't exercise his powers ultra vires or unfairly. Without judicial review we would be ruled by an arbitrary tyranny. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Did Bill O'Frights and Magna Carter die in vain?
My only grouse is the extortionate fees m'learned friends collect for their performances - perhaps disgruntled MPs' secretaries ought to retrain as barristers? Just a bit of free advice.

Penfold said...

I don't believe it!!

Who on earth agreed this piece of ridiculous funding. Whomsoever needs to dragged before the court of public opinion, excoriated and made to pay themselves. This is outrageous.

Frankly it's time we brought back the death penalty, and devil take the Europeans and naysayers. a referendum would sought that out, tout de suite.

Thorpe said...

@ Oliver.

Sodium Thiopental is an anaesthetic with a multitude of uses for both humans and animals. For example, it's used in Caesarian sections, as one of the beneficial effects is that the mother is anaesthetised while the foetus is not. It forms a core part of the WHO essential drugs list. It is not used to kill American prisoners - merely to anaesthetise them. Any drug given in overdose has the potential to be fatal, but there is no suggestion that Sodium Thiopental is given in lethal doses in US executions.

That established, the rest of your argument is academic, unless you honestly feel that any export from the UK should be banned if it could possibly have any lethal effect.

Anonymous said...

' end it prime minister' IO bet he wished he could but I suspect its not within the authority of the PM or Home Sec to interfere in individual cases.

I am a bit surprised that the USA cannot make its own sodium thiopental.

Its better known as sodium pentothal - the 'truth drug'. It has many other uses - in psychiatry and as an anasthetic - so I can see why it is a legitimate export.

this is just a scam.

OldSlaughter said...

"I'm beginning to think that in Britain at least a libertarian is just a tory who does drugs"


Quote of the month.

Unknown said...

Brian should read 'The New Despotism' by Lord Hewitt. He was a dispeptic old LCJ between the wars who loathed the emerging concept of administrative law, which was quite new to English law.

He fought a losing battle, but it is interesting to revisit his views given the shambles of the Human Rights Act which has put the judiciary in direct conflict with our elected representatives.

However clever lawyers wish to be with judicial review, let us ask the old legal question, cui bono? That answers itself in this case.

Anoneumouse said...

In Europe but not ruled by Europe said.........

Brian said...

As well as the Report of the Donoughmore Committee on Ministers' Powers?

Anonymous said...

Thorpe - from what I read there have been occasions where Sodium Thiopental has been used on its own in executions. But I do not think that dilutes your argument.

From what I read there is a supplier if the drug in the USA but it has had production problems ...
'Hospira, located in Lake Forest, Illinois, is the FDA approved lethal drug manufacturer for the U.S. Hospira has blamed the shortage of the drug due to unspecified problems with it’s raw-material suppliers. All this controversy will end once Hospira resumes making the lethal drug next year as they say they will not have new batches until then'

smartpam said...

never mind legal aid, what about the millions being paid to would-be terrorists who hate the UK and probably most people in it. They're getting more than most of us can save in a lifetime. Totally unfair and they'll probably use the money to try to kill us - and then get compensated again when they fail to blow themselves up.

Grumblestiltskin said...

Probably worth pointing out that Sodium Thiopental is a widely used anaesthetic agent - most people who have had their appendix out will have had this drug. It is perfectly safe when used in anaesthesia, so I cannot see why anyone can object to it being exported.

That there is a Court Case on this subject is absurd; that the taxpayer is paying American murderers to bring it is scandalous.