« The Claimant, for reasons best known to himself, enjoyed having his bottom shaved… »

Qui a dit que le droit est ennuyant? Il est vrai que le droit des sûretés letton, un peu, peut-être, mais enfin, il est tout de même des moments où ce n’est pas si assomant que ça.

Vous connaissez mon intérêt pour le droit anglo-saxon. Voilà un jugement qui vous décevra pas.

De quoi s’agit-il? Des moeurs sexuelles de Max Mosley, président de nationalité britannique de la Fédération internationale de l’automobile (qui organise les courses de Formule 1). Un de ces tabloïds anglais qui font la honte de Fleet Street, News of the World, avait jugé bon de publier un article, avec photos à la clé (et vidéo sur son site) d’une séance de sado-masochisme de quelques heures que Max Mosley (68 ans quand même) avait eu avec cinq femmes rémunérées pour cela – il apparaîtrait que les activités sexuelles au sens conventionnel du terme étaient périphériques, illustrant ainsi l’admirable excentricité des moeurs sexuelles anglaises, qui a tant contribué aux succès du KGB

Or, une des cinq professionnelles était munie d’une caméra installée dans son soutien-gorge par News of the World – dont une équipe technique était installée dans une camionnette en bas de l’immeuble où se tenait cette aimable séance – en échange de 25.000£ – mais le crime ne payant pas, elle ne fût finalement rétribuée qu’à hauteur de 12.000£…

News of the World ne s’était pas contenté d’annoncer au monde les détails de la vie sexuelle de Max Mosley, mais avait axé la publicité donnée à cette affaire, qui fît la une du journal (« F1 boss has sick Nazi orgy with 5 hookers – Son of Hitler-loving fascist in sex shame« ) , sur les déguisements nazis des participants et un jeu de rôle autour d’une thématique « camp de concentration ». Pour ceux qui ne le sauraient pas, Max Mosley est le fils du leader fasciste britannique, Sir Oswald Mosley, chef du British Union of Fascists puis l’Union Movement, interné durant la seconde guerre mondiale pour ses connivences avec l’Allemagne nazie et Hitler, ce dernier l’ayant marié par ailleurs marié à l’aristocrate nazie Diana Mitford, membre des légendaires Mitford Sisters – l’une des soeurs se prénommait Unity Valkyrie et fût une intime de Hitler, tandis qu’une autre, Jessica, fût journaliste communiste aux Etats-Unis dans un temps où la question la plus terrifiante qu’on pouvait se voir poser était « Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party? » – vous voyez, quand je parlais d’excentricité, ce n’était pas une clause de style…

Max Mosley, né en 1940, fût jusqu’à l’âge de vingt ans militant de l’Union Movement de son père, avant de prendre publiquement ses distances avec l’idéologie fasciste. Comme vous vous en doutez, il attaqua en justice News of the World, invoquant la violation de sa vie privée résultant de la violation de la confiance (« breach of confidence« ) qu’il pouvait légitimement placer dans le fait que la femme indélicate garde leur session sado-masochiste confidentielle.

La High Court a déterminé sa décision sur l’allégation de nazisme autour de la séance de sado-masochisme litigieuse – selon Mr Justice Eady, le juge ayant tranché l’affaire, seul cet aspect là aurait mérité d’être porté à l’attention du public – encore eût-il fallu que cette allégation soit vraie. Or, examinant le film pris clandestinement par l’informatrice de News of the World, le juge n’a pu décelé d’aspect indiquant une connotation nazie – si Max Mosley, germanophone (eh oui…), parlait bien en allemand à certains moments des ébats, c’est parce qu’une des cinq femmes dont il s’était entouré l’était également.

Mais il faut ici que je vous donne un exemple de ce qu’est un jugement anglo-saxon. Je ne suis pas un admirateur inconditionnel du droit français, et encore moins des tribunaux de ce pays (à l’exception des tribunaux administratifs), et la lecture d’un jugement ou d’un arrêt français, souvent lapidaire, offre rarement des bonheurs de lecture (Stendhal affirmait lire une page du Code civil de 1804 – il est vrai admirablement rédigé – chaque soir avant de se coucher afin de trouver de l’inspiration en matière de style – il n’aurait pu écrire Le Rouge et le Noir en s’inspirant de la prose stérile et ésotérique de la Cour de Cassation…). Rien de tel au Royaume-Uni. Il faudra donc une cinquantaine de pages pour Mr Justice Eady pour accueillir l’action de Max Mosley et lui accorder 60.000£ de dommages-intérêts.

Et ça nous permet ainsi de lire ceci (point 53 du jugement):

Mr Thurlbeck also relied upon the fact that the Claimant was « shaved ». Concentration camp inmates were also shaved. Yet, as Mr Price pointed out, they had their heads shaved. The Claimant, for reasons best known to himself, enjoyed having his bottom shaved – apparently for its own sake rather than because of any supposed Nazi connotation. He explained to me that while this service was being performed he was (no doubt unwisely) « shaking with laughter ». I naturally could not check from the DVD, as it was not his face that was on display.

Traduction libre:

Mr Thurlbeck (1) s’appuyait également sur le fait que le demandeur (2) était rasé. Le demandeur, pour des raisons connues de lui seul, aime se faire raser le derrière – apparemment sans lien avec de prétendues connotations nazies. Il m’a explique que pendant que ce service était presté, « il était secoué » – sans doute imprudemment – « par une crise de fou rire ». Je ne pouvais naturellement pas vérifier sur le DVD, puisque ce n’était pas son visage qui était filmé.

So British!

(1) Le journaliste de News of the World ayant écrit les articles incriminés.

(2) Max Mosley.

Le divorce de Paul Mc Cartney – un peu de voyeurisme judiciaire…

L’avantage des jugements des juridictions de tradition anglo-saxonne c’est leur caractère exhaustif: là où un arrêt de la Cour de cassation française est brève (et donc obscure) comme un haïku, un jugement de la Cour suprême US ou de la House of Lords fera facilement 50 ou 100 pages. Petit exemple: le récent divorce de Paul Mc Cartney. Un jugement de la High Court (comme son nom ne l’indique pas, il s’agit d’un tribunal de première instance) du 17 mars 2008 consacre ainsi 58 pages aux détails intimes du mariage et du divorce de l’ex-couple Paul Mc Cartney et Heather Mills:

50. After the marriage the nature of their relationship changed. At paragraph 17 of his January 2007 affidavit he said:
“After our marriage, the nature of our relationship to my mind, changed significantly. I was and remain fairly old-fashioned about marriage. We decided upon a proper wedding for that reason – I did not want any suggestion that we were in any way furtive or ashamed about our marriage. I believed it was for life and that it put everything on a very different footing. I drew up a Will to include Heather which I executed on 5 June 2002. We stopped using contraception the night we were married. There was never any question of us doing so before the wedding. Heather had one miscarriage before Beatrice was conceived in the first year of our marriage. Neither of us contemplated children without marriage.”

52. In my judgment, in assessing this issue, the background is of importance. The husband’s wife, Linda, had died in 1998. Their marriage endured for some 30 years. Repeatedly in his evidence the husband described how even during his relationship with the wife in 1999 to 2002 he was grieving for Linda. I have no doubt the husband found the wife very attractive. But equally I have no doubt that he was still very emotionally tied to Linda.
53. It is not without significance that until the husband married the wife he wore the wedding ring given to him by Linda. Upon being married to the wife he removed it and it was replaced by a ring given to him by the wife.
54. The wife for her part must have felt rather swept off her feet by a man as famous as the husband. I think this may well have warped her perception leading her to indulge in make-belief. The objective facts simply do not support her case.
55. Cohabitation, moving seamlessly into and beyond marriage, normally involves in my judgment, a mutual commitment by two parties to make their lives together both in emotional and practical terms. Cohabitation is normally but not necessarily in one location. There is often a pooling of resources, both in money and property terms. Loans between cohabitants may be forgiven.

57. I do not accept the wife’s case that the property in Heather Road in Beverly Hills was purchased for her. The husband’s explanation for putting it into Mr Whalley’s name is the more credible, namely to disguise the fact that the husband had bought it. He told me that when a star buys a house in Beverley Hills it goes onto a map showing where the stars live. The husband did not want unwelcome and unwanted visits. The husband and wife, the husband accepted, did call it “Heather House” because it was in Heather Road just as they called Cavendish Avenue “Cavendish”. I saw a DVD in which the wife could be seen in the property saying that “Heather House” was “my house” in rather a jocular way (apparently without contradiction by the husband) but that was, I find, wishful thinking on her part. I find that the husband never said to her that it was her house or that he would put it in her name. He accepted that later on in the marriage that the wife said to him that she wanted it (and other of the husband’s properties) to be transferred into her name but that was at a stage when the marriage was not good.

68. The wife complains that in April 2001 or thereabouts she was offered a contract by Marks and Spencers to model bras over a 12 month period for £1m but that the husband would not allow her to undertake to do it. Her evidence was that he forbade her. The only document produced by the wife in connection with this offer is an e-mail from Jaime Brent, a creative director from Beckenham. There is nothing in it about any remuneration. The husband’s evidence was that even if such a contract for that sum was in the offing (which he doubted), nevertheless he and the wife discussed it and decided together that as they were in a relationship it was not appropriate for her to be seen modelling bras. She agreed. He also told me that if she had insisted he would not have opposed her. In my judgment the husband’s evidence is much more likely to be true.

99. I have to say that the wife’s evidence that in some way she was the husband’s “psychologist”, even allowing for hyperbole, is typical of her make-belief. I reject her evidence that she, vis-à-vis the husband, was anything more than a kind and loving person who was deeply in love with him, helped him through his grieving and like any new wife tried to integrate into their relationship the children of his former marriage. I wholly reject her account that she rekindled the husband’s professional flame and gave him back his confidence.

142. Mr Mostyn put to her that that was a fraudulent attempt to extract money from the husband.
143. In my judgment it is unnecessary to go so far as to characterise what the wife attempted as fraudulent. However, it is not an episode that does her any credit whatsoever. Either she knew or must have known that there were no loans on Thames Reach, yet she tried to suggest that there were and thereby obtain monies by underhand means.
144. Her attempts when cross-examined to suggest that she may have got in a muddle and confused this property with others, to my mind, had a hollow ring. In the light of the husband’s generosity towards her, as I have set out, I find the wife’s behaviour distinctly distasteful. In any event, as Mr Mostyn rightly submitted, it damages her overall credibility.

172. For 10 months of the near 4 year marriage the husband was touring. This entailed first class international travel, first class hotels, and internal private flights. The husband and wife went on expensive and sometimes exotic holidays. They lived well. They often flew by private jet and /or helicopter. They always flew first class if flying with a commercial airline. The wife had an allowance of £360,000 p.a. The husband paid all the major bills. But that said, their lifestyle in their homes, particularly in England, was comparatively simple. The Cabin was a very modest property. They largely stayed in and did not eat out. They enjoyed riding and yoga. There was no round the clock security. The security in Sussex was provided by the farm workers. There was no live-in staff. The parties did not spend their time on yachts or, in the memorable phrase of the celebrated economist, Prof. J.K.Galbraith, on “conspicuous consumption”. They spent time in New York and at 11, Pintail, a modest holiday home. They never visited the Scottish properties.
173. I am satisfied that the wife has expected, and unreasonably, that such a lifestyle would not only continue but was her entitlement. She did not moderate her spending after separation. I entirely accept that when a marriage breaks down, the maelstrom of a broken relationship may well envelop both spouses and make it very difficult for them to re-order their lives, particularly financial. But I have no doubt that in the wife’s mindset, there was an element that she was going to spend (in the 15 month period) in order thereby to hope to prove that a budget in excess of £3m p.a. put forward in her Form E in September 2006 was justifiable.

191. I accept that since April 2006 the wife has had a bad press. She is entitled to feel that she has been ridiculed even vilified. To some extent she is her own worst enemy. She has an explosive and volatile character. She cannot have done herself any good in the eyes of potential purchasers of her services as a TV presenter, public speaker and a model, by her outbursts in her TV interviews in October and November 2007. Nevertheless the fact is that at present she is at a disadvantage.

211. I shall now analyse the wife’s budget.
212. It is based on a number of matters. She claims for seven fully staffed properties with full-time housekeepers in the annual sum of £645,000. She claims holiday expenditure of £499,000 p.a. (including private and helicopter flights of £185,000), £125,000 p.a. for her clothes, £30,000 p.a. for equestrian activities (she no longer rides), £39,000 p.a. for wine (she does not drink alcohol), £43,000 p.a. for a driver, £20,000 p.a. for a carer, and professional fees of £190,000 p.a. All these items Mr Mostyn submits are theoretically recognised heads of expenditure but “extraordinarily exaggerated”.

249. The conduct complained of by the wife can be summarised as follows. Prior to their separation at the end of April 2006 the husband treated the wife abusively and/or violently culminating in the unhappy events of 25 April 2006 upon which, in her oral submissions, she placed great reliance. He abused alcohol and drugs. He was possessive and jealous. He failed to protect the wife from the attention of the media. He was insensitive to her disability. Furthermore, it is alleged that post separation the husband manipulated and colluded with the press against the wife and has failed to enforce confidentiality by his friends and associates. The wife blames the husband for the leaking to the media of her Answer and Cross-Petition which alleges in strong terms unreasonable behaviour by the husband against her. The husband has failed to provide her with a sufficient degree of security from the media and generally he has behaved badly.

Petit détail: le jugement, publié sur le site des tribunaux britanniques, contient cependant un avertissement contre toute publication non-autorisée préalablement par le juge, Mr Justice Bennett:

THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE BENNETT
This judgment is being handed down in private on 17 March 2008. It consists of 58 pages and has been signed and dated by the judge. It may not be reported unless the judge has given leave. It is a contempt of court for any person to publish the contents of this judgment without first obtaining a direction for permission to report from the judge.

La dernière partie du jugement précise:

324. During the course of the wife’s evidence Mr Mostyn asked her if she would consent to an order, subject to any leave to report being granted by the judge, prohibiting both the husband and herself and any persons acting on their behalf from publishing, disclosing, or in any way revealing without the consent of the other, the evidence, correspondence, transcripts or judgments in this case, the terms of the financial award and any marital confidences; and if consent was not forthcoming then the party seeking publication should be able to seek the permission of a Family Division Judge.
325. The wife agreed to a consent order being made in those terms.
326. I agree to make such an order. Both parties want it and in the exceptional circumstances of this case it is just and fair to make such an order. I shall also attach a penal notice to this part of my order. But I should warn each of the parties that if either of them personally or through their associates transgresses, then the consequences for committing a contempt of court may be dire. The penal notice will make that clear.
327. Mr Mostyn also suggested that I should issue a warning to the media not to publish matters covered by my order and that to do so would amount to a contempt of court. I am confident that the media realise that both the Children Act and the ancillary relief proceedings have been conducted in private in accordance with the relevant rules of court and are confidential. I am also confident that the media will respect the privacy and confidentiality of both sets of proceedings. Beyond that nothing more needs to be said.

Vous voyez, blogguer est une occupation dangereuse…

Les tribunaux anglais, c’est quand même autre chose

L’actualité de ces dernières semaines a comporté deux informations judiciaires intéressantes, touchant éminemment au domaine politique.

Dans un premier jugement, la High Court (comme son nom ne l’indique pas, il s’agit du tribunal de première instance, compétent en matières civiles, commerciales, pénales et administratives, le Royaume-Uni en général et l’Angleterre et le Pays de Galles en particulier n’ayant pas plusieurs ordres juridictionnels, comme la France ou (hélas) le Maroc) a ainsi ordonné la reprise d’une enquête administrative du Serious Fraud Office sur les pots-de-vin d’un milliard de livres sterling versés au prince Bandar Bin Sultan lors d’une série pharaonesque de vente d’armes britanniques à l’Arabie séoudite. Ce scandale avait défrayé la chronique, et surtout la décision du gouvernement britannique d’ordonner la fin de l’enquête administrative pour « raisons diplomatiques ». Des ONG britaniques avaient alors décidé d’initier une action en justice contre la décision de ne pas enquêter sur le scandale – et la High Court leur a récemment donné raison.

Le jugement de la High Court du 10 avril 2008 dans l’affaire The Queen on the Application of Corner House Research and Campaign Against Arms Trade v. The Director of the Serious Fraud Office and BAE Systems PLC est dévastateur pour le gouvernement, et plus encore pour le régime cleptocrate et théocratique séoudien. Pour ce dernier, il est révélé qu’il fît des menaces directes contre le Royaume-Uni, ne menaçant non seulement de représailles commercialles, ce qui est de bonne guerre, mais aussi sécuritaires – en clair, la fin de la coopération sécuritaire et la perspective d’attentats terroristes sur le sol britannique (« if the investigation was not stopped, there would be no contract for the export of Typhoon aircraft and the previous close intelligence and diplomatic relationship would cease » – point 4 du jugement). Imaginons un instant que ces menaces aient été proférées par la Syrie, l’Iran, le Vénézuela ou la Corée du Nord… Enfin, sortons de notre songe et poursuivons notre lecture:

Ministers advised the Attorney General and the Director that if the investigation continued those threats would be carried out; the consequences would be grave, both for the arms trade and for the safety of British citizens and service personnel. In the light of what he regarded as the grave risk to life, if the threat was carried out, the Director decided to stop the investigation. (pt. 5)

Face aux menaces séoudiennes, qui mettaient en danger la vie de citoyens britanniques, le gouvernement britannique s’est couché de bonne grâce. C’est ce que constate Lord Justice Moses (rejoint par Mr Justice Sullivan) dans son jugement:

The defendant in name, although in reality the Government, contends that the Director was entitled to surrender to the threat. The law is powerless to resist the specific and, as it turns out, successful attempt by a foreign government to pervert the course of justice in the United Kingdom, by causing the investigation to be halted. The court must, so it is argued, accept that whilst the threats and their consequences are « a matter of regret », they are a « part of life ».

So bleak a picture of the impotence of the law invites at least dismay, if not outrage. The danger of so heated a reaction is that it generates steam; this obscures the search for legal principle. The challenge, triggered by this application, is to identify a legal principle which may be deployed in defence of so blatant a threat. However abject the surrender to that threat, if there is no identifiable legal principle by which the threat may be resisted, then the court must itself acquiesce in the capitulation. (pts. 6 & 7)

Lord Justice Moses rappelle que les questions de politique étrangère sont généralement exclues de la compétence des tribunaux:

The separation of power between the executive and the courts requires the courts not to trespass on what Lord Phillips CJ described as one of the forbidden areas, a decision affecting foreign policy (R on the application of Abbasi v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2002] EWCA 1598 § 106). In a case touching foreign relations and national security the duty of decision on the merits is assigned to the elected arm of government. Even when the court ensures that the Government complies with formal requirements and acts rationally, the law accords to the executive an especially wide margin of discretion (R (Al Rawi) v Foreign Secretary [2007] 2 WLR 1219 § 148). The courts are under no less an obligation to respect and maintain the boundary between their role and the role of government than the executive. (pt. 56)

Mais il rappelle que dans le cas présent, il ne s’agit pas de considérations de politique étrangère, mais de réaction de soumission à des menaces:

The essential point, as we see it, derives from the threat uttered, it is said, by Prince Bandar to the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff. The nature and implications of that explicit threat have a significant impact on this application. The challenge was originally resisted, in part, on the basis that the Director was entitled to discontinue the investigation as a result of the very grave threats to national and international security (see e.g. Detailed Grounds of Resistance § 10). But there is an ambiguity in the use of the word threat in that context. Threat as used in response to the claimants’ original challenge meant no more than risk. The Director’s decision was taken after assessment of the risk to security. But the grounds of resistance did not mention the fact that representatives of a foreign state had issued a specific threat as to the consequences which would flow from a refusal to halt the investigation. It is one thing to assess the risk of damage which might flow from continuing an investigation, quite another to submit to a threat designed to compel the investigator to call a halt. When the threat involves the criminal jurisdiction of this country, then the issue is no longer a matter only for Government, the courts are bound to consider what steps they must take to preserve the integrity of the criminal justice system. (pt. 57)

Voilà donc la distinction faite par la High Court: si le gouvernement peut parfaitement prendre en compte les conséquences diplomatiques d’une décision d’enquêter sur une affaire de corruption et, sur cette base, décider de ne pas poursuivre l’enquête, il ne peut cèder à une menace directe et spécifique sans menacer l’intégrité du système de la justice pénale. Suit ensuite des développements sur les rôles respectifs du gouvernement et des tribunaux dans le système constitutionnel britannique:

The constitutional principle of the separation of powers requires the courts to resist encroachment on the territory for which they are responsible. In the instant application, the Government’s response has failed to recognise that the threat uttered was not simply directed at this country’s commercial, diplomatic and security interests; it was aimed at its legal system. (pt. 57)

Had such a threat been made by one who was subject to the criminal law of this country, he would risk being charged with an attempt to pervert the course of justice. The course of justice includes the process of criminal investigation (R v Cotter [2002] 2 Cr App R. 29 at § 30 and 31). But whether or not a criminal offence might have been committed, the essential feature is that it was the administration of public justice which was traduced, it was the exercise of the Director’s statutory powers which was halted.

Threats to the administration of public justice within the United Kingdom are the concern primarily of the courts, not the executive. It is the responsibility of the court to provide protection. (…) The rationale for the court’s intervention is its responsibility to protect the rule of law. Simon Brown LJ’s words were obiter but the sources to which he referred establish a well-settled principle. The surrender of a public authority to threat or pressure undermines the rule of law (see Lawton LJ’s emphatic response to those who sought to frustrate the exercise of statutory powers in R v Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, ex p. CEGB [1982] QB 458,472-3, cited by Simon Brown LJ at p.61). That principle must apply with even greater force where the exercise of statutory powers in relation to the administration of justice has been halted by threats. (pts. 59 & 60)

La leçon de droit constitutionnel devient plus incisive:

The Government’s answer is that the courts are powerless to assist in resisting when the explicit threat has been made by a foreign state. Saudi Arabia is not under our control; accordingly the court must accept that there was nothing the Director could do, still less that the court can do now. Mr Sales said, as we have already recalled, that whilst it is a matter of regret, what happened was a part of life. The court cannot intervene but should leave the Government to judge the best course to adopt in response to the threat.

This dispiriting submission derived from the uncontroversial proposition that the courts in England will not adjudicate upon acts done abroad by virtue of sovereign authority (see Buttes Gas v Hammer [1982]AC 888 at 931G-932F and R v Bow Street Magistrate ex p. Pinochet(no.3) [2000] 1 A.C. 147 at 210).

The legal relationships of the different branches of government, and the separation of powers depend on internal constitutional arrangements. They are of no concern to foreign states (see Lord Millett in R v Lyons [2003] 1 AC 976 at § 105).
Mr Sales’ submission appears to us not to be one of principle but rather one of practicality: resistance is useless, the judgement of the Government is that the Saudi Arabian government will not listen and the authorities in the United Kingdom must surrender. That argument reveals the extent to which the Government has failed to appreciate the role of the courts in upholding and protecting the rule of law.

The courts protect the rule of law by upholding the principle that when making decisions in the exercise of his statutory power an independent prosecutor is not entitled to surrender to the threat of a third party, even when that third party is a foreign state. The courts are entitled to exercise their own judgment as to how best they may protect the rule of law, even in cases where it is threatened from abroad. In the exercise of that judgment we are of the view that a resolute refusal to buckle to such a threat is the only way the law can resist.

Surrender deprives the law of any power to resist for the future. In ex p. Phoenix Aviation, Simon Brown LJ criticised the public authorities who failed to consider what he described as the awesome implications for the rule of law, and the inevitable impact upon the ever more enthusiastic future conduct of the protesters [p.62]. The context of the threat, in the present case, was the investigation of making bribes to foreign public officials, an offence introduced in 2001. If the Government is correct, there exists a powerful temptation for those who wish to halt an investigation to make sure that their threats are difficult to resist. Surrender merely encourages those with power, in a position of strategic and political importance, to repeat such threats, in the knowledge that the courts will not interfere with the decision of a prosecutor to surrender. After all, it was that appreciation which, no doubt, prompted the representatives of the Saudi Arabian government to deliver the threat. Had they known, or been told, that the threat was futile because any decision to cave in would be struck down by the courts, it might never have been uttered or it might have been withdrawn.

Certainly, for the future, those who wish to deliver a threat designed to interfere with our internal, domestic system of law, need to be told that they cannot achieve their objective. Any attempt to force a decision on those responsible for the administration of justice will fail, just as any similar attempt by the executive within the United Kingdom would fail. (pts. 73 à 75, 77 à 80)

Les juges critiquent ensuite la soumission lâche du gouvernement britannique, qui n’a même pas essayé de résister aux menaces séoudiennes:

There is no evidence whatever that any consideration was given as to how to persuade the Saudis to withdraw the threat, let alone any attempt made to resist the threat. The Director did not himself consider this issue. His assessment of the threat and its consequences relied on the advice of others. There is nothing to suggest that those advising him on this issue had made any attempt to resist the threat. They merely transmitted the threat to the Director, and explained the consequences if it was carried out. When this question was raised, in argument, Mr Sales responded that that issue was not one which the defendant had come to court to meet. Moreover, he suggested the court should assume that due consideration had been given as to whether the Saudis might be persuaded to withdraw their threat and as to how its consequences might be avoided.

We are not prepared to make any such assumption. It is not implicit in Mr Wardle’s statement. The defendant and Government were well aware that the accusation was that they had surrendered too readily; it was for them to show not only that the consequences of the threat were dire but that the threat itself could not be mitigated or withdrawn. (…)

No-one suggested to those uttering the threat that it was futile, that the United Kingdom’s system of democracy forbad pressure being exerted on an independent prosecutor whether by the domestic executive or by anyone else; no-one even hinted that the courts would strive to protect the rule of law and protect the independence of the prosecutor by striking down any decision he might be tempted to make in submission to the threat. If, as we are asked to accept, the Saudis would not be interested in our internal, domestic constitutional arrangements, it is plausible they would understand the enormity of the interference with the United Kingdom’s sovereignty, when a foreign power seeks to interfere with the internal administration of the criminal law. It is not difficult to imagine what they would think if we attempted to interfere with their criminal justice system. (…)

The Director failed to appreciate that protection of the rule of law demanded that he should not yield to the threat. Nor was adequate consideration given to the damage to national security and to the rule of law by submission to the threat. No-one took any steps to explain that the attempt to halt the investigation by making threats could not, by law, succeed. The Saudi threat would have been an exercise in futility, had anyone acknowledged that principle. We are driven to the conclusion that the Director’s submission to the threat was unlawful. (pts. 87, 88, 90 et 102)

La conclusion de la High Court est sans appel – au figuré seulement, puisque le Serious Fraud Office a annoncé sa décision de saisir la House of Lords, qui est la cour suprême en Angleterre et au Pays de Galles (et en Ecosse en matière civile):

The claimants succeed on the ground that the Director and Government failed to recognise that the rule of law required the decision to discontinue to be reached as an exercise of independent judgment, in pursuance of the power conferred by statute. To preserve the integrity and independence of that judgment demanded resistance to the pressure exerted by means of a specific threat. That threat was intended to prevent the Director from pursuing the course of investigation he had chosen to adopt. It achieved its purpose.

The court has a responsibility to secure the rule of law. The Director was required to satisfy the court that all that could reasonably be done had been done to resist the threat. He has failed to do so. He submitted too readily because he, like the executive, concentrated on the effects which were feared should the threat be carried out and not on how the threat might be resisted. No-one, whether within this country or outside is entitled to interfere with the course of our justice. It is the failure of Government and the defendant to bear that essential principle in mind that justifies the intervention of this court. We shall hear further argument as to the nature of such intervention. But we intervene in fulfilment of our responsibility to protect the independence of the Director and of our criminal justice system from threat. On 11 December 2006, the Prime Minister said that this was the clearest case for intervention in the public interest he had seen. We agree.

Affaire à suivre donc, et il n’est pas dit que la House of Lords, si elle décide de juger l’affaire, prenne une décision identique à celle de la High Court.

Dans une autre décision récente, la House of Lords a par contre rejeté l’action initiée par les familles de deux soldats britanniques morts en Irak, invoquant par ricochet l’article 2 de la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme (CEDH) protégeant le droit à la vie afin d’obtenir la création par le gouvernement d’une commission d’enquête indépendante sur les conditions de l’entrée en guerre du Royaume-Uni, et tout particulièrement sur la légalité de cette guerre. La House of Lords a donc décidé dans l’affaire Regina (on the application of Gentle (FC) and another (FC)) v The Prime Minister and others, à l’unanimité des neuf juges, que l’article 2 de la CEDH n’imposait pas l’existence d’un mécanisme permettant de déterminer la légalité d’une participation à une guerre préalablement à celle-ci. Le raisonnement implicite des Law Lords est en fait que la décision d’aller en guerre n’est pas une décision qui est de la compétence des tribunaux, mais d’autres organes constitutionnels – parlement et gouvernement – c’est donc un exemple proche de la théorie dite de l’acte de gouvernement, bien connue en droit administratif français. Une décision qu’on peut difficilement qualifier de décevante, car on ne pouvait raisonnablement s’attendre à autre chose.

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