Browne-Wilkinson slams City lawyers

Lord Browne-Wilkinson, the country's senior Law Lord, is blaming City solicitors doing pro bono work for clogging up the highest court in the land.

In his first interview since becoming senior Law Lord, Browne-Wilkinson complains to The Lawyer that one-quarter of the Law Lords' workload is taken up by hearing appeals on Caribbean criminal cases.

The Law Lords hear Caribbean appeals – most of them against the death sentence – when sitting on the Privy Council. Browne-Wilkinson is calling for the Law Lords' role of acting in the highest court of appeal for former UK colonies to be scrapped.

Browne-Wilkinson says: “The only reason we are completely laden with Caribbean cases is because City firms have taken them up and are ensuring the cases are well presented and finding a great deal there that would otherwise not be observed.

“I should think 25 per cent of the Law Lords' time is taken up with Caribbean murder and crime decisions – which is quite a fantastic number.

“The ultimate court of appeal of a state should be in that state and staffed by citizens of it and not outsiders.

“We are extremely unpopular. There are frictions chiefly about the death penalty… there is great political pressure to hang the murderers and we are saying this is contrary to the constitution.”

He says businesses are keen to keep the Privy Council as the court of appeal as it protects investments made in the Caribbean because it is a “top class commercial court – but in relation to crime we have become rather unacceptable because we stand between them and the death penalty being enforced”.

Only last week The Lawyer reported that a team of lawyers from Clifford Chance and Collyer-Bristow had death sentences against three Trinidad men quashed by the Privy Council.

See interview Page 22-23