Paul McBride: Lawyer who enjoyed a high profile outside court


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Paul McBride, who was found dead in his hotel room during a trip to Lahore in Pakistan, was one of Scotland's most highly respected and prominent criminal lawyers. The 48-year-old was attending a wedding with his fellow lawyer, Aamer Anwar, but retired early complaining of feeling unwell. He is believed to have died in his sleep from natural causes.

McBride was fearless, unafraid to speak out about injustice and intolerance, no matter whom he might offend. His rise through the ranks, and his sociability, saw him mingle with a wide and varied circle within the sporting, political and media arenas, making him something of a celebrity in Scotland.

McBride gained notoriety as an outstanding QC acting in numerous high-profile criminal cases. His fast, agile mind and incisive approach saw him successfully defend Gail Sheridan, wife of the MSP Tommy Sheridan, at the couple's perjury trial in 2010 following their legal action against the News of the World, as well as acting for the family of the former world rally champion Colin McRae at the inquiry into his death in a helicopter crash in 2007. He won the acquittal of the human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar for contempt of court in July 2008 following the terrorist trial of Mohammed Siddique, while other clients included Thomas "TC" Campbell and Joe Steele, whose convictions for their role in the Glasgow "Ice Cream Wars" were quashed in 2004.

McBride also became a highly sought-after defence lawyer following the Arlene Fraser murder trial, when he defended her husband Nat Fraser, and he was defence counsel to Glasgow's "Queen's Park murderer" Marek Harcar, the Slovakian convicted of raping and killing Moira Jones in Glasgow. He also specialised in in regulatory crime, representing the families affected by the Stockline factory disaster (2004) and the Rosepark care home fire inquiry (2010).

The outspoken and media-friendly McBride was also a well-known figure in the football world due to his involvement in a string of high-profile court cases, as well as being a staunch supporter of Celtic FC on and off the field. A self-confessed "hopeless" footballer, he qualified as a referee, and ran the line at Scottish Premier League games until the mid-1990s, when he took silk and landed a prime job as an Advocate Depute. In April 2011, the Scottish Football Association threatened to sue McBride after he described the organisation as "dysfunctional, dishonest and biased" over its handling of Old Firm disciplinary cases. He later apologised for the remarks.

McBride was a workaholic, with a mobile permanently at his ear. Always with an active interest in politics, he made a high-profile defection from Labour to the Tories in 2009, denouncing Gordon Brown's administration as "mendacious and incompetent" and becoming justice adviser to Annabel Goldie, leader of the Scottish Conservatives. Late last year, however, he left them, too, after describing the Scots Tories "dysfunctional morons".

Born in 1963 into a working class family, Paul McBride was the only child of George and Mary. He secured a scholarship to St Aloysius' College, the fee-paying Catholic school in Glasgow, before going on to study law at the University of Strathclyde, from where he graduated at 19. He once confessed that he still had a lot of pimples when he started practising.

With a desire to work in the highest courts in the land rather than the sheriff courts, McBride ignored advice to proceed slowly. He later recalled being told that he was "too young, too inexperienced and had no contacts". In 1988, aged 22, he was called to the Scottish Bar, where he soon established himself as one of the most highly-regarded and sought-after criminal lawyers in the country. At the age of 35 he was appointed Queen's Counsel, said to be the youngest so appointed in the UK.

A generous and down-to-earth man, McBride confessed to "luck and ability" in his remarkable success and never forgot the likes of legal figures such as Donald Findlay, Graham Bell and Lord MacAuley, all of whom heavily influenced him. "In the end you develop your own style but everybody borrows something from somebody else," he said. Always ready to express his opinions, McBride was hired as a columnist for the Scottish Sun on Sunday newspaper. With Lord McCluskey, he wrote Criminal Appeals, published in 2000.

Despite his high-profile, little was known about McBride's private life apart from his love of travel, with Dubai, Barbados and New York among his favourite destinations, until an article in a glossy magazine lifted the lid on his extravagant home-life with his partner Gary Murphy, an interior designer. McBride is survived by his parents and by Murphy.

Martin Childs

Paul McBride, lawyer: born Glasgow13 November, 1963; partner to Gary Murphy; died Lahore, Pakistan 4 March 2012.