Emma Arbuthnot

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Person.png Lady ArbuthnotRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(High Court Judge)
Lady Arbuthnot.jpg
"A disgrace to the English justice system"
BornEmma Louise Broadbent
9 January 1959
Macclesfield, Cheshire
Alma materUniversity of London
SpouseJames Arbuthnot

Emma Louise Arbuthnot, Baroness Arbuthnot of Edrom is a Judge of the High Court of England and Wales, who was appointed on 1 February 2020 and assumed office on 1 February 2021.[1]

Lady Arbuthnot was formerly the Chief Magistrate and Senior District Judge of England and Wales sitting at Westminster Magistrates' Court where all extradition and terrorism-related cases pass through.[2]

She is married to James Arbuthnot, Baron Arbuthnot of Edrom.[3]


Emma Arbuthnot was born in Macclesfield and brought up in London, where she went to a fee-paying French state school.[4] After school she started work before going to the University of London as a mature student where she supported herself by doing office cleaning. She was the first in her family to get a degree and the first to become a lawyer.

Called to the Bar in 1986, Emma Arbuthnot worked on a wide range of cases, in defence and prosecution, specialising in crime, fraud and health and safety offences.

She was appointed as a Deputy District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts) in 2000, a Recorder in 2001 (crime and then family), a full time District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts) in 2005, the Deputy to the Chief Magistrate in 2012 and became the Chief Magistrate for England and Wales in 2016.


Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot granted Uber, the taxi-app firm, a temporary licence to continue operating in London.

But in November 2018 a High Court judge allowed the capital's black cab drivers to appeal against her decision.

Lady Arbuthnot is married to former Conservative MP James Arbuthnot, who works for a strategy firm whose clients invest in Uber, the Sunday Times reported.

In the latest hearing Mr Justice Walker said Uber had "gravely misled the regulator and the court" and granted a judicial review, saying Lady Arbuthnot may have made an error by allowing the temporary licence.

Lady Arbuthnot has said she was not aware of the connection with her husband's work.

Transport for London denied Uber a new licence last year saying the company was not "fit and proper" to operate in the capital.

TfL rejected the application amid fears over Uber's reporting of serious criminal offences and how it carried out background checks on its drivers.

Lady Arbuthnot granted a 15-month "probationary licence", having found the Silicon Valley giant was now "fit and proper" to hold the licence in the capital.

A lawyer for London's black cab drivers said she had failed to explain her potential conflict of interest.

Lady Arbuthnot said she was unaware of the connection, and would not hear any Uber-related cases in future.

A spokesman for the judiciary said:

"It is essential that judges not only are, but are seen to be, absolutely impartial."[5]

Lenny Etheridge tweet

On 19 August 2018, Lenny Etheridge tweeted:

Lest we forget is was Philip Kolvin QC who requested Judge Emma Arbuthnot, whose husband has financial links to Uber, be appointed to sit in judgement on the Uber Reading and London case. The same judge who upheld Julian Assange's arrest warrant, despite charges being dropped.[6]

Arrest Julian Assange

Following the decision in May 2017 by Swedish prosecutors to drop a preliminary investigation into an allegation of rape against Julian Assange, the Metropolitan Police said Assange would be arrested if he left Ecuador's embassy:

“Westminster Magistrates' Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Julian Assange following him failing to surrender to the court on the 29 June 2012. The Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy.”[7]

Assange's lawyers applied to have the UK arrest warrant cancelled.[8]

Scathing ruling

On 13 February 2018, Judge Arbuthnot rejected arguments that the arrest warrant should be discharged because an investigation into the sexual assault allegations by Swedish prosecutors had already been dropped.[9] She heard further legal argument from Mr Assange’s legal team, who claimed it would not be in the interests of justice for the British authorities to take further action against Assange even if he were arrested or brought to court.

His barrister, Mark Summers QC (instructed by Birnberg Peirce), had argued that the case should be discontinued and that Assange had legitimate fears he could be sought by US prosecutors. He also argued that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had called Assange’s current situation “unreasonable” and “disproportionate”.

However Judge Arbuthnot said the warrant should stand and dismissed Mr Assange’s fears about being rendered to the US, saying there was “no evidence” for this.

She added that the UN working group had “misunderstood” what occurred after Assange’s arrest and added that Assange believed he was “above the normal rules of law”, “had thwarted the course of justice”, and failed to attend court.[10]

"A disgrace to the English justice system"

On 14 February 2018, Craig Murray wrote:

The “Judge” who dismissed Assange’s case yesterday was “Lady Arbuthnot of Edrom”, wife to Tory peer, former Tory junior Defence Minister and government whip Lord James Arbuthnot. Not to mention Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel. Arbuthnot was naturally Eton educated, the son of Major Sir John Sinclair Wemyss Arbuthnot. Of course Lady Arbuthnot’s children were all sent to Eton too.

At the first hearing, I was stunned by reports of completely inappropriate comments by Lady Arbuthnot, including responding to representations about Assange’s health by the comment that medical care is available in Wandsworth prison. As the official charade is that Assange is wanted for nothing but jumping bail, for which a custodial sentence is rare, that callous attempt at gallows humour was redolent of Arbuthnot’s Tory mindset. She also remarked – and repeats it in yesterday’s judgement – that Assange has access to fresh air through the Embassy’s balcony.[11] That is simply untrue. The “balcony” floor is 3 feet by 20 inches and gives no opportunity to exercise. Julian does not have access to it. He is confined to a small area within the Embassy, which still has to function. The balcony is off the Ambassador’s office. He has been given access to it on average about twice a year. But “Lady” Arbuthnot showed a very selective attitude to getting at the truth.

The truth is that just last week the evidence was published which inarguably proves that the questioning for sexual allegations was only ever a charade to secure Assange in custody for deportation to the US, to face charges for publishing the USA’s dirty secrets. In 2013 Sweden wished to drop the investigation and the arrest warrant, and was subject to strong persuasion from the Crown Prosecution Service to maintain the warrant. This included emails from the CPS telling the Swedes “Don’t you dare” drop the case, and most tellingly of all “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.” That last exposes the entire pretence in just one sentence.

It is worth noting it was not the servile UK corporate media, but the Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi and the Italian newspaper Le Repubblica which obtained these emails through dogged freedom of information requests and High Court proceedings. These revealed the quite stunning truth that the CPS had systematically destroyed most of the highly incriminating correspondence, with only accidental copies of a few emails surviving to be produced in response to the FOI request.

The CPS emails devastate the official charade, which is precisely that this is just a normal extradition case. Furthermore it is admitted at para 43 of “Lady” Arbuthnot’s judgement that the Crown Prosecution Service actively referred the Swedish authorities to Wikileaks activities in the United States as a reason not to drop the arrest warrant, a fact which the UK mainstream media has still never reported and which obviates “Lady” Arbuthnot’s trite observation that there is no evidence that Sweden would have extradited Assange to the USA.

Perhaps most stunning of all “Lady” Arbuthnot opines at para 44 that

“I cannot determine from the extracts of correspondence whether the lawyer in the extradition unit acted inappropriately” in preventng the Swedes from dropping the case and referring them to Wikileaks activities vis a vis the USA. Whereas in fact:
a) It provides irrefutable proof that this was never about the frankly unbelievable Swedish sexual allegations, which were always just a pretext for getting Assange into custody over Wikileaks’ publications
b) The reason she only has “extracts” of the correspondence is that the Crown Prosecution Service, as openly admitted in the High Court, tried to destroy all this correspondence, itself an illegal act. "Lady" Arbuthnot gives them the benefit of their illegality, against all legal principle.

“Lady” Arbuthnot takes it upon herself to contradict the judgement of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, every one of whose members is a much more eminent lawyer than “Lady” Arbuthnot. The UK had of course every opportunity to raise the points made by Lady Arbuthnot in its appeal to the UN, which appeal also failed. “Lady” Arbuthnot’s attempt to undermine a judgement by going back and disputing the actual facts of the case, with no opportunity to answer, is, to say the least, a creative piece of judicial process. But as with her failure to pursue the CPS’ destruction of evidence, it is just an example of her most obvious bias.

“Lady” Arbuthnot set out with one clear and evident purpose, to assist the Crown.

“Lady” Arbuthnot has perhaps performed an unwitting public service by the brazen nature of her partiality, which exposes beyond refutation the charade of legal process behind the effort to arrest Assange, in reality over the publication of USA secrets. The second half of Para 57 of the judgement sets out how, following his arrest for “jumping bail”, the American extradition request on espionage charges will be handled.

I should like to conclude that “Lady” Arbuthnot is a disgrace to the English justice system, but I fear she is rather typical of it. This intellectually corrupt, openly biased, callous Tory shill is rather a disgrace to humanity itself.[12]

Full 5-day extradition hearing

Julian Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy on 11 April 2019 and appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court where District Judge Michael Snow remanded him to the high-security Belmarsh Prison until 2 May 2019,[13] when he was sentenced by Judge Deborah Taylor at Southwark Crown Court to 50 weeks in jail for breaching his bail conditions in 2012.[14]

On 30 May 2019, Julian Assange's solicitor Gareth Peirce told Judge Arbuthnot at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London that Assange was too ill to appear by video link from Belmarsh Prison for the hearing in relation to his possible extradition to the US. The date for the next hearing was confirmed as 12 June 2019 and Judge Arbuthnot suggested that it might take place in Belmarsh Prison, where Assange is being held, if convenient for all parties.[15]

On 14 June 2019, Judge Arbuthnot presided over a procedural hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court when she decided that a full 5-day extradition hearing should begin on 24 February 2020.[16]

Conflicts of interest

On 4 September 2020, the Daily Maverick reported:

As far as is known, Lady Arbuthnot has never declared any conflicts of interest in the Assange case and has never formally recused herself. It has been reported that Arbuthnot stepped aside from directly hearing the case because of a “perception of bias”, but it was not elucidated what this related to. This refusal means Assange’s defence team cannot revisit her previous rulings.

A Freedom of Information request sent by Declassified to the UK Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in August asking what this “perception of bias” pertained to — and whether Lady Arbuthnot had played a role in appointing the junior judge now ruling in the case — was rejected.

The MOJ said the information could not be disclosed because the request was “asking for an explanation” rather than “recorded information”. It further told Declassified it “does not hold any information” on what date the decision was made for Lady Arbuthnot to step aside from the case. The same questions put to Westminster Magistrates' Court also went unanswered.

Declassified previously revealed that the MOJ has blocked the release of basic information about the current presiding judge in the case, Vanessa Baraitser, in what appears to be an irregular application of the Freedom of Information Act. Baraitser, who was likely chosen by Lady Arbuthnot, has a 96% extradition record, according to publicly available information.[17]


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Abuses show Assange case was never about lawblog post27 May 2019Jonathan CookCraig Murray says: "As a summary of the truly breathtaking series of legal abuses by states against Julian Assange, that the corporate and state media has been deliberately distorting and hiding for a decade, this excellent account by Jonathan Cook cannot be bettered."
Document:All Pretence is Over in Persecution of Assangeblog post14 February 2018Craig Murray“Lady” Arbuthnot has perhaps performed an unwitting public service by the brazen nature of her partiality, which exposes beyond refutation the charade of legal process behind the effort to arrest Assange, in reality over the publication of USA secrets.
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