The casebook of Kent-based sole practitioner Andrew McCooey reveals more than its fair share of unexpected names and unusual hearing locations. His clients include Myra Hindley, Nick Ingram, Tara Terry, Kenny Ritchie and Sally Croft, all of whom, except Hindley, have found themselves in trouble abroad. Court locations
include the US, Greece and Belize.
The name of McCooey, who practices as Andrew McCooey & Co, has been associated with many high-profile legal actions abroad, the most recent being that of Nick Ingram who went to the electric chair in the US.
Although not involved in the courtroom fight to save Ingram, McCooey was largely responsible for the last-minute orchestration of UK publicity for the case, including the unsuccessful bid to persuade John Major to intervene.
Since 1987 he has played a role in a string of major international actions throughout the globe and saved one British woman, Tara Terry, from going to the electric chair in the US.
It was this case that led to McCooey founding Freedom Now – a non-profit making group which helps UK citizens in trouble with the law overseas – and doubling up his standard Kent practice with an unconventional caseload.
Terry faced the death penalty after being charged with setting fire to a Miami hotel. McCooey took on her defence and what was almost certainly a death penalty conviction ended up as a discontinued case. Her case, he says, made him painfully aware that Britons in trouble abroad can be left to "paddle their own canoe".
Since then he has travelled throughout the world taking part in or organising the
defence of Britons in trouble, often facing death penalties or long prison sentences. On average he takes on two or three such cases a year.
He admits the practical problems of his involvement in high-profile international cases are enormous. They disrupt other aspects of practice, can dominate his time and, as a good deal of the costs often come from his own pocket, are a drain on resources.
But despite the obvious drawbacks he says someone needs to ensure people such as his clients receive proper representation and justice, and people at home are made fully aware of their predicaments.
In the case of Ingram, McCooey says he was asked by Ingram's English-born solicitor in the US to orchestrate publicity at home. "It wasn't particularly a legal job, but these days you need to understand the media and I have had a number of dealings with them in the past because of the nature of some of my clients," he says.
"If we had not taken the action we did here, Nick Ingram's case could have remained in relative obscurity. I feel that if justice is to be done it must not be done in darkness. My role in this case was to help bring it to the attention of the public here.
"I looked at the matter, contacted journalists I knew and put the wheels in motion for the approach to the Prime Minster.
"Although we failed to prevent Nick Ingram's execution we at least ensured that people here knew what was happening and I feel that is important."
McCooey has been criticised for his personal involvement in cases such as Ingram's, Hagan and Croft's – the two English women extradited to the US for alleged involvement in a conspiracy to kill Oregon's state attorney – Tara Terry's and that of Kenny Ritchie, a 25-year-old Briton currently on death row in the US.
He says: "I feel personal involvement is a good thing. I have great empathy for my clients. Lawyers are human beings and I find it is impossible to be totally detached.
"It must be stressed though that being personally involved does not mean I am taken in by them. You can be objective without being one of those clinical, technical lawyers."