Former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, has taken the United Kingdom to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, in a bid to quash his conviction by a London court. In one of the grounds of the appeal, the former governor alleged that identified corrupt British Police Officers were responsible for the conduct of the case against him.
“The application concerns an unusual provision of United Kingdom law: Section 17 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). “It prohibits any reference, in any proceedings, to an intercepted communication or its contents – e.g. an intercepted phone call – in circumstances in which its origin as an intercepted communication is disclosed or could be inferred.
The United Kingdom is virtually unique in having such a provision: intercepted communications are used routinely as evidence in court proceedings throughout Europe and the rest of the world.” The lawyers alleged that the operation of Section 17 of RIPA, as applied in the highly unusual circumstances of his case, resulted in a violation of his client’s rights pursuant to Article 6 of ECHR. It was further argued that Britain’s failure to obey its own laws has rendered every other thing that followed, including Ibori’s guilty plea later, defective.
The former governor’s appeal was also said to have been predicated on the disclosure of new material after he had pleaded guilty to criminal offences. “At one of the court’s sittings, “Ms Sasha Wass QC (‘SWQC’), who had previously been instructed to prosecute the Applicant (Ibori), sent a note to the Court of Appeal (‘the Wass Note’). “It was a highly unusual note because it provided information, which could easily identify the source of the new material on which the applicant’s appeal was based. However, in a reverse twist, such disclosure is prohibited in all court proceedings by Section 17 of RIPA. “In response to the Wass Note, and in an effort to attempt to comply with Section 17 of RIPA for the remainder of the hearing, the Court of Appeal imposed ‘Ground Rules’ on the parties. This limited what the applicant’s counsel could refer to in his submissions.
“The applicant submitted to the Court of Appeal – and submits in this application – that Section 17 of RIPA, combined with the ‘Ground Rules’, prevented him from properly developing his submissions before the Court of Appeal. As a result his appeal hearing was unfair. “The above is the crux of the matter. It is the major plank on which Ibori’s case rests. Ibori appealed to the EU Court of Appeal because a London Appeal Court refused to interrogate this submission and actually ruled that the issue of what is now known as “the Wass Note” was a no-go area. “This made Ibori to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights because Britain denied him his rights to fair trial – which is recognised everywhere in the free world,” the lawyers added.