Who's who in the Maxwell trial

Grania Langdon-Down asks veteran court reporters for their impressions of the stars in the Maxwell trial legal cast list

The high-profile, but so far low-key Maxwell trial has inevitably attracted the premier league of white collar crime legal experts.

Now into the second month of the estimated six month long trial, veteran court reporters who have covered all the major fraud trials for the last five years sum up the legal performances so far.

The judge Mr Justice Phillips, who was highly praised for his sensitive handling of the complicated Barlow Clowes trial, is described as “very sharp and incisive – not one to be bullied by counsel. A Heathcliffe lookalike, he has state-of-the-art technology at his fingertips and cracks on at a good pace. He is widely tipped for promotion to the Court of Appeal.”

Alan Suckling QC, the pipe-smoking prosecuting counsel, is regarded as an “old stager – quiet, diffident, with the common touch. There are no fireworks, and he almost sounds apologetic. But he is sharp.”

Also on the prosecuting team is Richard Lissack QC, who is seen as a rising star. “He is going places. He’s very bright and confident, smiles a lot and seems to be enjoying himself. Young for a QC.”

Kevin Maxwell’s legal team is headed by Alun Jones QC, veteran of Blue Arrow and other trials, who gives his hobby in Who’s Who as growing vegetables. He is said to be untidy. “His suits always sag and he looks flustered, but he is dogged and terrier-like. He has a great appetite for wars of attrition going through endless documents.”

He is supported by Clare Montgomery, a keen fencer. “She is very sharp and is widely regarded as a QC in waiting. She has an enormous appetite for work and cut her fraud teeth on Guinness.”

His solicitors, Peters & Peters, have been involved in most of the headline fraud cases, including Guinness, Blue Arrow, Barlow Clowes and BCCI. Senior partner Monty Raphael is regarded as the grandfather of white collar crime. “Everyone looks up to him.”

Partner Keith Oliver is described as “indefatigable, like a jack-in-a-box, always coming up with ideas. He always has a phone glued to his ear. He seems to have come of age with this case, and is now driven and highly committed.”

Ian Maxwell’s barrister is Edmund Lawson QC. “He is very shrewd, the top of his tree, pithy and to the point. The most intellectually capable, incisive, with a hint of arrogance.”

His junior is Peter Doyle, who is said to be “bearded, pleasant and approachable”.

Ian Maxwell’s solicitors are Kingsley Napley, another firm which is involved in most major white collar investigations, with senior partner John Clitheroe considered the most experienced fraud lawyer along with Monty Raphael, “a wise old soul”. Working alongside him is David Smythe, who is described as “nice, approachable, young and extremely thorough”.

Robert Bunn’s counsel is Peter Rook QC, whose prosecution work includes Brent Walker and Nissan cases. He is “tall, dark rook-like. He is also succinct, charming, but you wonder whether he has the killer instinct.” His number two is Philip Hackett, of whom the court reporters said it was “too early to form a view”.

Bunn’s solicitors are Burton Copeland, again involved in headline cases such as Barlow Clowes and BCCI. Founding partner Ian Burton is described as “dynamic and very commercial”, and Lynette Smith is “an unapproachable antipodean, said to be an aggressive negotiator”.

Larry Trachtenberg is being represented by Michael Hill QC who “doesn’t use one word when 10 will do. Solemn, portentous, walks around as he cross-examines, snapping question after question.”

His junior is James Richardson, described as “difficult to approach, but early days yet”.

Trachtenberg’s solicitors are Russell Jones & Walker, lawyers for the Police Federation, now acting in its first major-league fraud trial. Partner Rod Fletcher defended the police officers following the Guildford Four, Birmingham Six and Joy Gardner investigations. “Likeable, very competent all-rounder.”

Grania Langdon-Down is a freelance journalist.