The Lead Presiding Judge on the South Eastern Circuit has described the complaints of defence barristers about who was to preside over the re-trial of case against a number of Sun journalists as “absurd” and “misconceived”.
Mr Justice Sweeney, was responding to defence submissions demanding an explanation of why the judge in the re-trial of four Sun journalists had been replaced, saying “that it had created very serious public disquiet”.
However the Judge dismissed the argument as misconceived and issued a hard hitting judgement which can be read in full here saying that any suggestion that any particular judge would favour one side or other represented a “sad day.”
The row began during pre-trial hearings for the re-trial of The Sun’s head of news Chris Pharo, former managing editor Graham Dudman, reporter Jamie Pyatt and former deputy news editor Ben O’Driscoll. All four have pleaded not guilty on charges relating to allegations of payments to public officials for stories and last month a jury could not agree a verdict.
Speaking to a packed court, the High Court Judge explained that the change of trial judge was due to administrative and timetabling reasons and would have no impact on the trial. He said “This is simply the replacement, for good reason as one would surely expect, of one fair judge by another fair judge”. He added that “there was no legitimate fear that the independence and integrity of the judicial selection process has been compromised”.
Mr Justice Sweeney concluded by telling the lawyers representing the News UK staff that he “hoped that, in the future, submissions of this kind will not be made without the most careful prior consideration”.