Europe’s human rights court: Polish system deprived barrister of fair trial

The ruling echoes criticism from democracy advocates and the EU that Poland's judicial reforms raise rule of law concerns.

Europe’s human rights court: Polish system deprived barrister of fair trial

The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday unanimously ruled that a Polish disciplinary chamber for judges had deprived a Polish barrister of her right to a fair trial.

The barrister, Joanna Reczkowicz, argued that the chamber, known as the Disciplinary Chamber of the Polish Supreme Court, had not been legally established and lacked the independence to properly rule in her appeal of a three-year suspension. She pointed to the fact that the chamber’s members are not elected by judges, but by Poland’s lower house of parliament.

While the European Court of Human Rights did not weigh in on the overall legality of the chamber, it did conclude that Reczkowicz lost her right to a fair trial as laid out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

In its ruling, the court agreed with Reczkowicz that political influence had tainted the disciplinary chamber, given the involvement of the legislative and executive branches in appointing members.

The court ordered the Polish government to pay Reczkowicz €15,000 in damages and €420 for expenses.

Established in 2017, the disciplinary chamber has been criticized by democracy advocates who argue it is essentially a political body and symptomatic of a broader erosion of democratic norms in Poland, which has become the target of regular EU criticism.

On Tuesday, the European Commission rebuked Poland over its judicial reforms in a report assessing the rule of law landscape among EU countries.

The disciplinary chamber itself has also faced rebukes from the EU’s top court. Last week, the Court of Justice said the chamber violates EU law.

Meanwhile, a top Polish court has struck back at such EU measures, ruling last week that the country didn’t have to apply Court of Justice rulings affecting the judiciary.

Reczkowicz is also far from the first person to turn to the European Court of Human Rights over Poland’s judiciary reforms. Since 2018, the court said Thursday, there have been 38 complaints filed to the court regarding recent changes to Poland’s judicial system.

The European Court of Human Rights is an international body created to interpret the European Convention on Human Rights. It is not a part of the EU.

Source : Politico EU More   

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Banker Lex Greensill given ‘extraordinary’ access to UK government, review finds

Supply-chain finance firm hired ex-Prime Minister David Cameron as an adviser.

Banker Lex Greensill given ‘extraordinary’ access to UK government, review finds

Banker Lex Greensill was gifted “extraordinarily privileged” access to the U.K. government, allowing him “to promote a product which did not, in fact, provide material benefits,” an official review concluded Thursday.

The review, by lawyer and former government adviser Nigel Boardman, comes amid fresh scrutiny of lobbying and transparency arrangements in the U.K. after it was reported that former Prime Minister David Cameron, hired as an adviser to Greensill, repeatedly pressed senior officials and ministers for access to a state-run coronavirus lending scheme.

Greensill’s collapse in March put jobs at a major steel manufacturer at risk and prompted the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority to launch an investigation into its “potentially criminal” failure.

Boardman’s review looked into Greensill’s interactions with the U.K. government, first as a roving adviser on supply-chain finance during Cameron’s time in office, and then as the company lobbying Whitehall departments once the former prime minister had left government.

The review chief, a government non-executive director who stepped down to conduct the review, reserved much of his criticism for the late Jeremy Heywood, who served as the U.K.’s most senior civil servant and died of cancer in 2018.

Boardman found Heywood was “primarily responsible for Mr Greensill being given a role in government,” and noted that potential conflicts of interest “should have been considered more fully” in the process of appointing Greensill to his government job.

The financier, Boardman said, was “not only given access through Lord Heywood’s introductions to several departments in Whitehall” but was “also able to leverage his position, using the facilities of No. 10 [Downing Street], to hold meetings with major companies.”

His work in government “could have been of benefit to his incipient business and was of immediate benefit to his former employer, Citibank,” for whom Heywood had previously worked, Boardman concludes, but its value to the public was questionable.

Heywood’s widow Suzanne has already accused Boardman of making the late cabinet secretary, who was seen as invaluable by successive prime ministers, “the fall guy for events that occurred long after his death.”

Cameron ‘did not breach’ rules

Cameron, who bombarded ministers and officials with messages in 2020 as Greensill tried to secure access to the Treasury scheme, “did not breach the current lobbying rules and his actions were not unlawful,” Boardman found.

Under Westminster’s existing lobbying transparency set-up, only a small portion of lobbyists — those working as third-party, “consultant” influencers — are required to register their activity. Britain’s revolving door watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, can publicly admonish ex-ministers for lobbying, but cannot sanction them.

Cameron told the review that his methods of communication — through text messages and emails — were “not the right way for a former prime minister to engage with government” — and Boardman says he “should have considered further the impact of his frequent contacts with government during a time of crisis.”

Boardman was not asked to come up with plans to reform the U.K.’s lobbying set-up, and separate inquiries by U.K. lawmakers continue.

He acknowledges arguments that Whitehall’s processes for managing outside approaches are “insufficiently transparent,” and says “some of these observations are justified” by the Greensill saga, repeating a call for clearer guidance on how government appoints people from the outside.

But while those lobbying the government “used strong methods,” Boardman says the low take-up of supply chain finance schemes in government — and the fact the Treasury rejected Cameron’s approaches — “attests to the fact that ministers and civil servants made the proper” call. The U.K.’s “current system and those operating within it worked well,” he finds.

In a statement, Cameron welcomed the review, saying it “provides further confirmation that I broke no rules” and “makes plain that I was not responsible for bringing Lex Greensill into Government or any of the arrangements connected to this.”

He added: “I was open about my relationship with Greensill Capital, and acknowledge the importance of being explicit in this regard.”

Labour, however, branded the report a “classic Boris Johnson cover-up and whitewash to protect the government.”

Deputy leader Angela Rayner argued Britain’s lobbying rules “do more harm than good by giving a veil of legitimacy to the rampant cronyism, sleaze and dodgy lobbying that is polluting our democracy under the Tories.”

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service: Pro Financial Services. From the eurozone, banking union, CMU, and more, our specialized journalists keep you on top of the topics driving the Financial Services policy agenda. Email for a complimentary trial.
Source : Politico EU More   

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