Law: In Brief

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The Independent Culture
A JUROR'S ill-timed cough nearly cost an innocent man his liberty last week. The defendant Alan Rashid, 32, was jailed by mistake when a juror coughed as the verdict was read out.

The foreman of the jury said "Not Guilty" - but a juror's cough drowned out the word "not". Mr Rashid stood dismayed in the dock as the judge jailed him for two years for making a threat to kill.

He was taken down to the court cells to wait for the prison van. Judge Michael Gibbon thanked the jury at Cardiff Crown Court for their efforts during the two-day trial and released them. But on leaving the courtroom, one of the jurors asked an usher why Mr Rashid was given two years after being found not guilty.

The official realised there had been a mistake and called everyone back to court. A very confused Mr Rashid was led back into the dock and told there had been a mistake.

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LAWYERS ACROSS the country are expecting some pain and suffering on 26 April - dawn of the Woolfian era. Ill-prepared litigators can expect harsh treatment from judges who will refuse all excuses beginning: "I left my claims form at home." For the disorganised lawyer who fears the worst, the answer may lie in Birmingham where, on 26 April, personal injury lawyers are holding a seminar entitled "chronic pain and its management" - certainly an apt euphemism for the Woolf reforms.

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A SOLICITOR from Northampton wants to know whether the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and his wife are running a nice little earner in the conference marketing business. It is understood that Cherie Booth has been instrumental in persuading Hillary Clinton to cross the water to attend a conference on children and the law on 13 May, when the keynote speaker will be the Home Secretary, Jack Straw. Then, on 15 May, Cherie Booth tops the bill with an appearance at the Woman Lawyer Forum where she will be joined by another Labour leading light, Baroness Jay, leader of the House of Lords. Which leading conference consultancy is behind two of the biggest law meets of the year? For both events prospective guests are asked to contact Blair Communications and Marketing. Is it possible? Unhappily, a mere "coincidence", says Andrew Blair, the man behind Blair Communications, adding, with reference to the shared surname, "I'm afraid I was here first".

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SOME LAWYERS' drafting skills leave a lot to be desired. But no one deserves the punishment meted out to one of the defence team representing Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister of Malaysia. He received six years' imprisonment for alleged corruption, but his lawyer was given a three-month sentence for drafting an affidavit that made allegations about the conduct of the prosecution. With considerable understatement, Charles Fint QC, of the bar Human Rights Committee, said: "The ability of members of the Malaysian Bar to conduct the defence of accused persons has been seriously prejudiced."

Robert Verkaik

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