Barristers' immunity tested

THE PRINCIPLE of barristers' immunity from prosecution is to be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights.

Solicitors for Mohammed Patel have confirmed they will go to the court in a bid to open the way for barristers to be legally challenged for their performance in court.

Patel, a former banking official, claims he was wrongly convicted and jailed for tipping off a drugs suspect back in 1987 because of a negligent defence by Ghulam Yazdani. The barrister has strongly denied this.

Late last year, Home Secretary Michael Howard decided to refer Patel's conviction back to the Court of Appeal. Days later the House of Lord's rejected his negligence claim against Yazdani.

Patel's solicitors, Hickman & Rose, will now make an appeal to the European Court on the grounds that the Lords decision may breach Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The article states: “Everyone whose rights and freedoms are set forth in the Convention should have effective remedy before a national authority.”

Commenting on the case, European law expert and barrister at 20 Essex Street, Richard Plender QC, said the action could take several years to come before the court.

“My first reaction is that it will be an uphill battle,” Plender commented.

Ironically, the UK judicial system has already held in the case Zoernsh v Waldock that judges' actions in European Courts are immune from proceedings in English Courts.