Lawyer roasted over `vomit' letter to Irvine

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The Independent Online
A BARRISTER incensed by the Lord Chancellor's plans to serve him "fried turd and roast vomit" at his crown court canteen, was told to apologise to Lord Irvine for his letter of complaint peppered with spicy language.

Chris Perry, who was fond of the home cooking served up by local firm Competent Cooks at Truro and Bodmin Crown Courts, leapt to their defence when he heard of Lord Irvine's plans to hand the canteens over to motorway service station giants Granada.

The Californian-born barrister, with a reputation for straight talking, fired off a missive to Lord Irvine's private office explaining that, as a private citizen, he did not know why he should be forced to eat "fried turd and roast vomit" just to save the Government money.

Mr Perry argued the excellent Cornish pasties and home-cooked food served up by the good women of Truro and a "good little local company" should be safeguarded.

He then forgot the matter until he received a letter from Nigel Pascoe QC, the then leader of the South West circuit and the Bar Council's senior representative in the region.

Mr Pascoe chastised Mr Perry for his letter, said he wasn't doing himself or his cause any favours and suggested he write another letter to the Lord Chancellor apologising for the offensive nature of the language.

But Mr Perry admits he thought the admonishment was an Irvine-inspired move in keeping with his reputation for pomposity. Since becoming Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine has been dogged by stories that appear to suggest this view. Spending pounds 600,000 on his official residence, including wallpaper at pounds 300 a roll, contributed to the idea he had ideas above his station. Many claim he is only Lord Chancellor because he gave Tony Blair his first job, and that a speech drawing parallels between himself and Cardinal Wolsey has failed to endear him to the legal profession or to the public.

Mr Perry said: "I was amazed that it appeared that I was being leant on by my professional body over a matter that had nothing to do with the law."

It wasn't made clear to Mr Perry who had instigated Mr Pascoe's call for the apology but he duly wrote back to Lord Irvine apologising for the letter's language but not its sentiments. "I regret that now," Mr Perry said yesterday. "The whole thing cracked me up at the time. I thought it was rich being told to apologise to a man renowned for his own use of Glaswegian expletives.

He added: "As an American who has practised as a barrister over here for seven years I'm also offended by the fact Lord Irvine wears two hats - legal and political."

However, Mr Pascoe told the Independent on Sunday that he advised Mr Perry to apologise because the letter had damaged a Bar Council campaign to save the canteen. This is news to Mr Perry, who says he does not recall any mention of a Bar Council campaign.

Mr Pascoe admitted he was passed the letter from the Lord Chancellor's department via the court service. A spokesman for the Lord Chancellor's department (LCD) admitted that the letter had been received by Lord Irvine's private office but claimed it had never been read by the Lord Chancellor.

The spokesman added: "The letter was passed on to the local court service in the normal way and because of the offensive nature of the language they took the decision to pass it on to the Bar Council's representative. It was a local decision. It had nothing to do with the Lord Chancellor."

However, a source in LCD said Lord Irvine was aware of the letter and regarded it as an unwarranted personal attack by a fellow barrister.

Whatever the truth a barrister who eats in the same canteens noted: "The irony of this is when Granada did take over the catering they kept most of the staff and the food hasn't deteriorated at all."