Europe may intervene in immunity case

The European Court of Human Rights may be asked for the first time to decide if barristers can be sued for negligent conduct in court cases.

The possible challenge follows the House of Lords Appeal Committee's refusal to give Mohammed Patel leave to appeal against immunity rules which prevent him from suing his barrister, Ghulam Yazdani.

Patel claims he was wrongly convicted and jailed for tipping off a drugs suspect in 1987 because of a negligent defence by Yazdani. The barrister has strongly denied this. The Home Secretary decided to refer his conviction back to the Court of Criminal Appeal two weeks ago, but just two days later the Lord's Appeal Committee decided against Patel.

Patel's solicitor Jane Hickman said that, while no firm decision had yet been made, they were considering an appeal to the European Court under Article 13 of the Convention on Human Rights.

Hickman dismissed concerns that if barristers could be sued it would prevent them from speaking freely and vigorously in court and added that Patel would continue to pursue legal action against Yazdani for alleged incompetence during the preparation for the trial. A spokesman at Sibghat Kadri QC's set 6 King's Bench Walk, where Yazdani is based, said he would be delighted with the Lords' ruling.