Our research shows that Mrs Justice Steyn herself inhabits an anti-Brexit echo chamber like the one she controversially ruled to be of no importance when it came to Arron Banks’ reputation. We have found her private Twitter account, the one that signalled her support for her anti-Brexit campaigner husband’s political ambitions. It followed 27 tweeters, two BBC journalists – who, for the purposes of this research, we will consider to be impartial – one anonymous account, and 24 well-known, high-profile remainers. That, to Guido’s mind, constitutes her own self-selected, anti-Brexit echo chamber.
She followed the likes of Faisal Islam, Eddie Izzard, Nick Cohen, Alan Rusbridger, Jon Snow, David Miliband, Robert Peston, David Allen Green, Gary Lineker and Rupert Myers – hard-line remainers all. The fact is that Karen Steyn does not follow a single Brexiteer, all her timeline and the information coming to her on Twitter is from anti-Brexit sources. That is the definition of an echo chamber.
This is important because it is a judicial principle that “apparent bias” arises when, even if the judge does not have an interest in its outcome, there is something in the judge’s conduct or behaviour, their interests, affiliations or their allegiances, that gives rise to a suspicion that they have not decided the case in an impartial manner.
The most famed example in recent years is R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte (No. 2)  1 AC 119, which involved the unprecedented decision by the House of Lords to set aside its own previous judgment based on just the mere possibility of bias.
In that case, Lord Hoffman, who had formed part of the 3-2 majority in the House of Lords trial which decided the former Chilean President had no immunity from arrest, had failed to declare his links to Amnesty International, which had intervened in the appeal. Not only was he an unpaid director of the charitable arm of Amnesty International but his wife had been an administrative assistant to Amnesty International’s London office for 21 years. When this emerged his fellow Law Lords held that: ‘The fact that a person has the necessary training and qualifications to resist any tendency towards bias is not relevant when considering whether there was an appearance of bias.’
In Magill v Porter UKHL 67, the House of Lords adopted the test of ‘what the fair-minded and informed observer would have thought, and whether his conclusion would have been that there was real possibility of bias.’ This is an objective test. When applying the test: ‘It will very often be appropriate to enquire whether the judge knew of the matter relied on as appearing to undermine his impartiality, because if it is shown that he did not know of it the danger of its having influenced his judgment is eliminated and the appearance of possible bias is dispelled.’
It is open to the claimant, Arron Banks, to draw this information to the attention of the Lord Chancellor when asking for the case to be set aside and reheard. The judge should, according to the Bar Standards Council rules, have recused herself because of her husband’s relevant political views and campaigning, which could arguably have prejudiced her views. The evidence of her Twitter account shows she was supportive of his efforts and she herself, on the basis of the people she follows, inhabits an anti-Brexit Twitter echo chamber…
Read her follows list, and their anti-Brexit sentiments in full, below:
Yesterday’s Cadwalladr ruling was confusing at best. While Mrs Justice Steyn ruled the TED Talk Carole Cadwalladr gave was defamatory, she said Banks had failed to prove that its publication caused “serious harm to reputation”. Part of this was based on a belief that Carole’s followers are mainly an #FBPE echo chamber, therefore unlikely to have had their minds changed by the defamatory Russia claim…
It’s since been pointed out to Guido that the husband of Mrs Justice Steyn, Alex Glassbrook, is none other than a Brexit-hating former LibDem candidate who is not unfamiliar with that Twitter echo chamber. Glassbrook stood for the LibDems as their Tooting by-election candidate in 2016, and at the 2017 General Election, where his leaflets said he “was dismayed when our country voted to leave the European Union.”
Justice Steyn, first name Karen, was loyaly supportive of her husband’s electoral efforts. Her Twitter account shows her delighting in the LibDems’ potential at the 2017 election, and retweeting a photo of her husband at a husting where he “brilliantly [represented] #LibDems”
Guido has no intention of impugning the integrity of the judge in this case – just observing that it would have been very fraught over last night’s dinner table had she ruled in favour of the “Hard Brexit” backer her husband pledged to fight…