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Lord Neuberger at centre of Binyam Mohamed row

10 February 2010

The Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, is at the centre of a row after he admitting toning down criticism of the security services in the Court of Appeal’s judgment on Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed.

The Court of Appeal ruled that seven paragraphs relating to Mohamed’s treatment at the hands of security services in Pakistan, which featured in a High Court judgment but were not published, should now be released.

Lord Neuberger was responding to objections from Jonathan Sumption QC, acting for the foreign secretary, who claimed a paragraph in the judgment “constituted an exceptionally damaging criticism of the good faith of the security service as a whole”.

Richard Stein, partner at Leigh Day & Co, acted for Mohamed. He described Sumption’s successful objection to the draft judgment as an “extraordinary twist”.

He went on: “After the judges released their draft judgments to the lawyers in the case last Friday, the government’s barrister, Jonathan Sumption QC, took the highly unusual step of writing to the Master of the Rolls asking him to tone down his criticism of the security services.

“The Master of the Rolls subsequently acceded to this request before judgment was handed down in the public form today.

“Leigh Day & Co and lawyers representing the other parties to the proceedings were only informed of this intervention yesterday morning and before they were able to respond to this highly unusual step, the Master of the Rolls informed the parties that he had amended his judgment as requested.

“In court this morning, the Master of the Rolls conceded that all parties should have been given an opportunity to respond to Mr Sumption’s submissions before the judgment was amended.

“Leigh Day & Co and the other lawyers involved have now been given an opportunity to do so and there remains the possibility that the judgment will once again amended to reinstate the original criticisms.”

Jamie Beagent, solicitor at Leigh Day, added that the firm was drafting submissions to be handed to the Master of the Rolls by Friday.

Only when submissions were received from all the parties would be make a decision on whether to re-amend today’s judgment, Beagent said.

A clerk at Jonathan Sumption’s chambers, Brick Court, said: “As the case is still ongoing Mr Sumption is unable to comment.”

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