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Solicitors called as witnesses as public figures come under scrutiny for corruption
Leeds law firm Lupton Fawcett has become the latest entity to be drawn into the sprawling 'Donnygate' trial at Nottingham Crown Court. Partner John Norris and former Lupton Fawcett conveyancing solicitor Russell Jarvis have both taken the stand as witnesses during the trial of a number of people alleged to have conspired in corrupt planning activity. Nottingham Crown Court has been gripped by Donnygate fever. The trial concerns accusations of corruption levelled against property developer Alan Hughes, two former members of Doncaster Council and the council's current Conservative group leader John Dainty. The ex-councillors are former Labour planning chairman Peter Birks and former Labour deputy leader of Doncaster Council Ray Stockhill. All four deny charges of corruption. The three councillors have been accused of accepting gifts in return for helping to manipulate planning regulations to turn a countryside area into a housing development. Hughes owned land that could not have been sold for development without these changes. Lupton Fawcett's involvement comes from Hughes's request that Jarvis act for Birks' girlfriend Stephanie Higginson over arrangements for Stockbridge Farm in Bentley. Hughes is accused of giving Stockbridge Farm to Birks, via Higginson, in exchange for influencing planning applications. Neither partner is accused of any wrongdoing. When questioned, Jarvis said that Hughes had "somebody" to whom he proposed transferring a farmhouse and land. He also stated that Hughes would cover Higginson's costs. Norris was also quizzed over the firm's involvement with Hughes. He said that he had met with Jarvis to discuss Higginson's conveyancing file and that his concern emanated from the financial aspect of the transaction. But he concluded by saying that he had found nothing to question in the file. Norris was not available for comment.