Philip Heslop

Barrister expert in unravelling the complexities of the City of London's financial scandals
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The Independent Online

Philip Linnell Heslop, barrister: born Newcastle upon Tyne 24 April 1948; called to the Bar, Lincoln's Inn 1970, Bencher 1993; QC 1985; died London 11 July 2003.

Unravelling the complexities of the City of London's financial scandals and devising the most effective approach to bring order to the resulting chaos requires not just a fine mind but a sweeping knowledge of every aspect of City life. Philip Heslop was one of the most respected exponents of these arts and there was rarely a case in which he did not play a leading role.

His legal ability, tactical common sense and powers of advocacy were at the forefront of the successful actions to recover the millions misappropriated by Robert Maxwell from the Mirror Group pension funds. When banks collapsed, such as BCCI and Barings, it was inevitable that one party or another would want to draw on Heslop's experience and expertise. And the corporate world benefited greatly from his involvement in matters such as Polly Peck, Blue Arrow, Barlow Clowes, Guinness, Brent Walker and Bermuda Fire & Marine.

It was a lengthy and high-profile list of clients who beat a path to Heslop's door. He was a favourite of the Government and the City regulators, being closely involved in developing the arsenal of weapons which was used to combat fraud in the 1980s and 1990s. While much of his work was by its nature confidential, it is clear from the cases which came to the public attention that he was able to draw on his understanding of how the frontiers of the law could be advanced so as to tackle the miscreants' increasing sophistication.

He was junior counsel to the Department of Trade and Industry from 1980 to 1985, deputy chairman of the Investment Management Regulatory Organisation's membership tribunal and a joint inspector appointed to investigate the Consolidated Goldfields affair.

His wider knowledge of the corporate world benefited Alan Sugar in his dispute with Terry Venables over Tottenham Hotspur, Ken Bates in relation to the attempted takeover of Chelsea Football Club and Richard Branson in his battle against T- Mobile. Taki, the Spectator columnist, instructed Heslop to see off Mohamed al-Fayed's claim for costs arising out of the Neil Hamilton affair.

Heslop's global view of financial matters ensured that his reputation and influence extended far beyond these shores. In Hong Kong he was one of the few English silks routinely approved by the Hong Kong Bar and in Bermuda he developed an extensive practice following from his involvement in the Sea Containers dispute. Most recently he was driving forward the Nigerian government's London-based actions to recover the billions looted by General Sani Abacha.

Not just a lawyer of intellect and flair, Heslop will be remembered for a style of advocacy which combined toughness and clarity with courtesy and charm. His court presence commanded respect; his mastery of the law and of the underlying complex factual material ensured that it was difficult to challenge his arguments. He was a joy to listen to and the judges knew he could be trusted absolutely.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1948, Philip Linnell Heslop was educated at Haileybury and as a scholar at Christ's College, Cambridge, where he read Law. Called to the Bar by Lincoln's Inn in 1970, he developed a prestigious practice in company, insolvency and financial services law at 4 Stone Buildings. The outstanding reputation he acquired as a successful junior barrister was such that in 1985 he was appointed Queen's Counsel at the very early age of 36. In 1998 he became head of his chambers.

In every aspect of his work and his private life, he epitomised the virtues of decency and fairness, courtesy and hospitality. To his family, friends and colleagues he was charming, considerate and generous, making sure that, despite the pressures of a busy practice at the Bar, he found time to live life to the full. In recent years he spent much time in meticulously restoring his farm at Toller Porcorum in Dorset.

He did much to enable disadvantaged people to study Law by his fund-raising and contributions for Christ's College and he gave his time also to the Bar Pro Bono Unit and the Barristers' Benevolent Association. In Lincoln's Inn, where he was elected a Bencher in 1993, he served on a number of committees and was chairman of the finance committee.

He also maintained an interest in Conservative politics. From his involvement with the Cambridge University Conservative Association, he went on to stand as a candidate for Lambeth Vauxhall in 1979 and thereafter continued to act as an unofficial adviser on financial legal matters.

He continued working until shortly before his death.

Christopher Harrison