QC accused of misconduct in Levitt affair

Tory MP says prosecution counsel helped to mislead House of Commons. Stephen Ward reports
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The Independent Online
A complaint of alleged professional misconduct against David Cocks, a leading criminal QC, during the Levitt affair was yesterday lodged with the Bar Council by a Conservative MP, John Marshall.

The Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee has been investigating the role of the Serious Fraud Office and Mr Cocks in a plea bargain which MPs suspect resulted in the investment adviser, Roger Levitt, walking free at the end of his trial in 1993. Although not a committee member, Mr Marshall has taken an interest because he shared in the public outrage at the lenient sentence.

It is alleged that as prosecuting counsel in the case, Mr Cocks helped mislead Parliament by approving incorrect information supplied to Sir Nicholas Lyell, the Attorney General, for a Commons answer denying any deals had been struck. Mr Cocks said last night he would contest any complaint. Levitt was charged with 62 counts of fraud, deception and theft, involving misappropriation of pounds 59m of clients' funds, and faced a seven-year jail sentence. However, he was allowed to plead guilty to just one minor offence and escaped with 180 hours' community service.

Sir Nicholas denied in the Commons in December 1993 that there had been a deal with the Crown for Levitt to admit the lesser charge in return for a lenient sentence. But two months ago in a new answer, he admitted there had been discussions between counsel for the prosecution and for the defence.

Confidential documents obtained by the Independent show that the Crown made repeated offers of increasingly lenient terms and finally made a deal with Levitt which made it most unlikely he would go to jail. Mr Cocks is accused in the detailed letter from Mr Marshall to the Bar Council of helping to mislead Parliament because he read and cleared the first Commons answer given by Sir Nicholas.

At a meeting of the Treasury and Civil Service Committee on 11 July, the director of the Serious Fraud Office, George Staple, was asked who wrote the allegedly misleading answers to Parliament on 9 December 1993. Mr Staple replied: "The answers were granted and cleared, I regret not by me, but by Mr Cocks." The Tory MP Quentin Davies responded: "The facts that have now emerged are that Mr Cocks misled the SFO, the SFO then misled the Attorney General, and the Attorney General in turn inadvertently misled Parliament." Levitt's solicitor, John Perry, has told the Bar Council he will make a formal complaint about Mr Cocks and his two juniors in the trial, Jonathan Fisher and Jane Bewsey, for allegedly helping mislead Parliament. The three said last night that if any complaint were lodged against any of them, they would contest it vigorously.

Meanwhile, Mr Cocks has lodged a complaint of professional misconduct against Mr Levitt's QC in the trial, Jonathan Goldberg.