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UK: CAAT secures key High Court ruling against BAE and Government

March 5th, 2007

The High Court last week ordered BAE Systems to produce a sworn affidavit divulging how the aerospace giant obtained a confidential and legally privileged document belonging to pressure group Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).

As first reported on (25 January), the documents were leaked to BAE ahead of a court battle that pitched CAAT against the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the Attorney General and the Prime Minister.

The matter concerns the allegation that an investigation by the SFO into claims that BAE bribed Saudi Arabian officials was unlawfully dropped after pressure from the Government.

The document in question contained advice from CAAT's solicitors on a planned judicial review ahead of the decision to drop the corruption probe. It was returned to CAAT voluntarily last month, but BAE has since refused to state how the document came into its possession.

Commenting on the High Court decision, CAAT spokesperson Symon Hill said: "This is a victory not only for CAAT, but for all who care about democracy. When Tony Blair ended the Saudi corruption inquiry, he implied that BAE Systems were above the law. But BAE have been prevented from behaving as they like. We're a step closer to the day when BAE can no longer get away with calling the shots."

As first reported on (18 December 2006), CAAT and environmental and social justice movement The Corner House have instructed a heavyweight team on the action against the Government.

The team includes Blackstone Chambers' Dinah Rose QC and top judicial review silk David Pannick QC.

CAAT argued that judicial review proceedings could be prejudiced if BAE had access to CAAT's confidential legal advice. BAE failed to convince the court that the company had no obligation to reveal the source of the information.

The aerospace giant has until 12 March to produce the affidavit.

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