Law: Briefs

DERRY IRVINE, the Lord Chancellor and John Morris, the Attorney General, both spared themselves the embarrassment of attending Croydon employment tribunal on Friday.

Instead, they agreed to comply with an order to hand over documents disclosing the nature and detail of secret conversations held between Lord Irvine, Mr Morris and senior members of the judiciary. The "secret soundings" relate to a decision taken to appoint a junior barrister to head a panel of senior lawyers working for the Government, which has led to a claim of sex discrimination.

The surrender of the documents is in compliance with a tribunal order to make the information available to the court and the applicant, barrister Josephine Hayes.

It had been suggested that the Attorney General was toying with the idea of using a public interest defence to block the order. Sara Leslie, Ms Hayes' solicitor of Sheffield and London-based law firm Irwin Mitchell, said that the Attorney General's decision, which followed a one-week extension, has far-reaching consequences for all Government appointments carried out in secret, including the selection of QCs.

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WHAT IS it about the post of Director of Public Prosecutions that attracts such flak from lawyers? In the case of David Calvert-Smith, the urbane barrister who has succeeded Dame Barbara Mills, it is making the suggestion that the Crown Prosecution Service can ill afford to lose lawyers who have allegedly been criticised for being racist. At a meeting of ethnic minority lawyers at the Law Society specially convened to quiz Mr Calvert- Smith on a number of CPS issues it was alleged that no disciplinary action had been taken against any senior staff. Mr Calvert-Smith responded by saying there was a balance that had to be struck between sacking talented lawyers and the morale of the service. "The CPS is not the best paid organisation and we can ill afford to lose lawyers of real talent," he said. Shah Qureshi, a solicitor at the Tower Hamlets Law Centre, told Mr Calvert-Smith he was shocked. "It seems to me that what you're saying is that the CPS condones racism as long as you are a good lawyer." Mr Calvert-Smith countered that no finding of racism had been made against any senior member of staff and that a special equality committee would soon be instituted.

Earlier Mr Calvert-Smith had shown how sometimes his role requires the judgement of Solomon. In one week, he told the meeting, he had received two letters, one from an MP and another from one of the MP's constituents. The MP was complaining that too little was being done to prosecute child molesters while the constituent was concerned how much time and money was being wasted on "hopeless" cases involving child abuse.

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GRAHAM BOAL, the judge with the penchant for unsavoury after-dinner jokes, was trying to make amends last week. A junior barrister appearing before the judge at the Old Bailey had forgotten her white collar. The judge, quick to see the chance of capturing some positive publicity, jumped to the rescue and instructed his clerk to lend her one of his own.

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IMRAN KHAN, the Lawrence family solicitor and Alastair Logan, the Guildford Four lawyer, will be among those attending a conference on police corruption. Attempting to shed some light on these murky practices, Nigel Hadgkiss, a police corruption trouble-shooter who has worked with the Australian and Canadian police forces, will be holding a seminar this Friday. More information on 01483 237300.

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