The Tory appointee holding Julian Assange’s life in her hands

Judge Dame Victoria Sharp’s family have attained high-level positions in the British establishment after being appointed by Conservative ministers.

16 February 2024

Judge Victoria Sharp, standing second from right. (Screengrab: RCJ)

Dame Victoria Sharp has been announced as the High Court judge who will next week rule on Julian Assange’s bid to stop his extradition to the US.

The WikiLeaks publisher has been held as a political prisoner in Belmarsh maximum security jail in London since April 2019. If extradited, he faces a US sentence of 175 years in prison.

One of his previous judges, Westminster chief magistrate Lady Arbuthnot, is married to a former Conservative defence minister and previously received financial benefits from partner organisations of the Foreign Office. 

Another past judge, Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett, is a long standing good friend of the British minister who enabled Assange’s arrest by forcing him out of his asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Dame Victoria’s family also have a particular relationship with the Conservative Party.


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In it together

Her father was Baron Sharp of Grimsdyke, a life peer who was knighted in 1984. He was chair of telephone giant Cable & Wireless throughout the 1980s, and privatised the business after being approached by Margaret Thatcher’s industry secretary Keith Joseph. 

Eric Sharp began his career working in the government’s Ministry of Power. He is mentioned in a WikiLeaks cable in his capacity as chair of US chemicals giant Monsanto, a position he held from 1975-81.  

Dame Victoria’s twin brother Richard was the chair of the BBC from 2021-23, having been appointed to this position by then prime minister Boris Johnson. 

Sharp resigned after a report found he had breached rules on public appointments. He had helped to arrange an up to £800,000 loan guarantee for Johnson while he was prime minister.

Before being appointed as BBC chair, Sharp had donated over £400,000 to the Conservative Party.

Richard Sharp also has a connection to the current prime minister who would likely not be devastated to see Assange traverse the Atlantic. 

Sharp previously spent over 20 years working for banking giant Goldman Sachs and reportedly oversaw the work there of Rishi Sunak during his early years in the finance industry. 


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Dame Victoria was appointed to her lofty position as president of the then Queen’s bench division of the High Court (now the King’s Bench Division), in April 2019 – the first woman to secure the post. 

She gained her role on the advice of then prime minister Theresa May and justice secretary David Gauke. The appointment followed a recommendation from Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett. 

Last year Sharp just lost out being appointed Lady Chief Justice, the highest law officer in the land, when another senior judge, Dame Sue Carr, won the contest between them. 

As a QC before her appointment to the High Court, Sharp acted in several high profile cases, for example representing media corporations Associated Newspapers and Times Newspapers. 

In 2021, Sharp sentenced nine climate protesters from Insulate Britain to prison for a range of two to six months for their peaceful disruption of road infrastructure.

More recently she presided over Brexit donor Aaron Banks’ libel case against journalist Carole Cadwalladr. Sharp ruled that Cadwalladr must pay 60% of Banks’ legal costs, amounting to around £1m. 

The ruling was widely criticised by press freedom groups and media outlets for encouraging the stifling of public interest journalism.

Assange’s case is an even greater demonstration of a similar threat: whether someone who reveals the truth about US and Western foreign policies should be allowed by British authorities to be sent to his effective death at the behest of a foreign power.