Birmingham four go next door

John Malpas reports

A BIRMINGHAM set has been hit by the defection of a quartet of criminal barristers, including one of its most senior tenants.

The barristers, led by Stephen Thomas, have moved from 8 Fountain Court to its neighbour 7 Fountain Court.

The defection follows the recent death of 8 Fountain Court's long-standing head of chambers John Royer.

It is understood Thomas, who was called to the Bar in 1980, stood for election as head of chambers in the wake of Royer's death but was beaten by fellow tenant Ian Strongman, a family specialist.

Thomas is a well-known criminal advocate who regularly prosecutes for the CPS.

The other tenants who moved with him were Nicholas Cartwright, Gareth Walters and Vanessa Meachin. Cartwright and Walters are both of 10 years call while Meachin was called to the Bar in 1990.

Sources at Fountain Court, where most of Birmingham's chambers are based, described relations between the chambers affected by the defections as "very frosty".

7 Fountain Court now has 43 tenants and is the second largest set in Birmingham behind 5 Fountain Court. Like 5 Fountain Court, it offers expertise in a variety of fields.

Until recently the set was best known for its commercial and chancery work, thanks to the reputation of John Randall QC, a chancery counsel, and commercial practitioners James Corbett and David Lock.

The arrival of four new crime specialists, however, will strengthen the set's criminal group, whose reputation has been growing in recent years.

None of the barristers involved in the move were available for comment. 8 Fountain Court, which reported 21 tenants before the defection, also refused to comment.