Jonathan Swift, the High Court judge who has rejected Julian Assange’s appeal against extradition to the US, has a long history of working for the government departments that are now persecuting the WikiLeaks founder.
Swift, who ruled against Assange on 6 June, was formerly the government’s favorite barrister. He worked as “First Treasury Counsel” – the government’s top lawyer – from 2006 to 2014, a position in which he advised and represented the government in major litigation.
Swift acted for the Defense and Home Secretaries in at least nine cases, Declassified has found. He also acted for the Cabinet Office, Justice Secretary and the Treasury, during his time as First Treasury Counsel. Swift also represented the Foreign Office in at least two legal cases, in 2011 and 2015.
While barristers are independent, those who regularly represent the government in the highest-profile cases have to be “cleared” to do so, including via security vetting, Declassified understands. When he stepped down as First Treasury Counsel in March 2014, the attorney general’s office “expressed their appreciation for Jonathan’s valuable support, advice and advocacy during his period as FTC.”
It was reported in 2013 that Swift had been paid nearly a million pounds – £975,075 – over the previous three years for representing the government.
Swift now presides over Assange’s extradition case being fought by the Home Office for whom he previously worked.
As with previous judges who have ruled against Assange, the case raises serious concerns about institutional conflicts of interests at the heart of the UK legal system.
Swift was appointed a deputy high court judge in 2016 and a full judge in August 2018. A June 2018 interview with Swift in a legal publication noted that his “favorite clients were the security and intelligence agencies” referring to his time as First Treasury Counsel.
“They take preparation and evidence-gathering seriously: a real commitment to getting things right”, he was quoted as saying. The interview also mentioned Swift was undertaking work for “foreign governments” although Declassified has not been able to establish which governments these were.