By Angus Hohenboken
The 40-year-old Australian now has 14 days to apply to reopen the case, in a turn of evens described as “extraordinary” by legal experts. It is the first time in its history the Supreme Court has agreed to consider an emergency challenge to one of its rulings.
The President of the Supreme Court Lord Phillips told a packed courtroom that the scales tipped against Assange with a majority of five of the seven judges sitting on the case.
Assange and his mother Christine missed the handing down of the judgment after apparently becoming stuck in traffic, but his lawyer Dinah Rose QC immediately flagged her intention to challenge the judgment.
She argued that the case had been decided on a point of law in the Vienna Convention on the Interpretation of Treaties that was not raised by either the defense or the prosecution during the appeal hearing.
In assessing the merits of the case judges debated the French translation of the words judicial authority. Outside court Assange’s solicitor Gareth Peirce confirmed his legal team would make an application to reopen the case.
“The majority of judges decided that the custom and practice of the European community in effect trumped the law,” she said.
“The minority of judges considered that the words judicial authority mean what they say, a court and the law, as we understand it in this country.” British legal expert Joshua Rozenberg described the development as “extraordinatry”.
“It would be very embarrassing if the supreme court felt the need to reopen the case and it’s extraordinary, isn’t it, that they might have considered something which they gave the parties no opportunity to argue.”
Vaughn Smith said the legal marathon surrounding the judgment was significant in itself. “This suggests pretty clearly that Julian has done the country some good,” Mr Smith said. “It was clearly an issue that needed to go to the Supreme Court.”
“I think it’s quite amusing if you’re an Englishman that it appears that parliament was confused on the basis of a misunderstanding of a French word. That seems strange.”