Cherie Blair criticised for leniency

The barrister wife of former Labour prime minister Tony Blair was criticised by the Court of Appeal today for not sending a cocaine smuggler to jail when sitting as a judge at a Crown Court.

Appeal judge Lord Justice Pitchford suggested that Cherie Blair's decision to impose a 12-month suspended sentence on Lee Williams, following a trial at Isleworth Crown Court earlier this year, was "remarkable".



The appeal court quashed the "unduly lenient" sentence imposed by Mrs Blair - who uses her maiden name Booth when working as a lawyer - and replaced it with a three-and-a-half-year jail term.



Lord Justice Pitchford, who sat in London with Mr Justice Tugendhat and Mr Justice Griffith Williams, ordered Williams, 43, of Hanwell, west London, to surrender to police.



Appeal judges quashed the sentence imposed by Mrs Blair, who had been sitting as a recorder - a part-time judge, after lawyers representing Conservative Attorney General Dominic Grieve asked for a review.



Bill Emlyn Jones, for the Attorney General - the Government's chief legal adviser, argued that the sentence passed by Mrs Blair had been "unduly lenient" and a "startling result".



The appeal court heard that Mrs Blair had imposed the suspended sentence after hearing arguments from barrister Matthew Morgan, who represented Williams.



"I don't know what spell you were casting in the Isleworth Crown Court," Lord Justice Pitchford told Mr Morgan at today's hearing.



"But this is a remarkable sentence is it not?"



Lord Justice Pitchford said cocaine smuggling had a "public dimension" and should normally attract "lengthy" jail terms.



"There is a deficiency, in the respect of the recorder, in her reasoning," said Lord Justice Pitchford.



"We consider the recorder was persuaded against her initial and better judgment and imposed an unduly lenient sentence."



He added: "In the most exceptional circumstances it may be possible for the court to take an exceptionally lenient course. We consider this present case is not in that exceptional category."











Prosecutors said Williams - convicted of conspiracy to supply a class A drug after pleading not guilty at a trial in March - had been involved in trying to smuggle cocaine with a street value of £145,600 into the UK.



In September 2010, American customs officers had intercepted a parcel containing nearly 1,000g of cocaine which was destined for Williams' home, the court heard.



They said Williams was not an "organiser" but argued he must have been "near the top of the food chain".



Mr Morgan disputed that argument, saying Williams lived in a bedsit and showed no "trappings of wealth".



Mrs Blair had taken into account Williams' poor health, and the fact that he had spent 240 days in prison on remand prior to trial, before handing down the suspended sentence, the court heard.



During today's hearing, Mrs Blair was referred to as "Miss Recorder Booth QC".



And the court clerk refused to allow a journalist to see paperwork relating to the trial and sentencing hearing, saying: "We do not give court papers to the press, only to law reporters."



But, after the hearing, lawyers confirmed that "Miss Recorder Booth QC" was Mr Blair's wife, Cherie.









Mrs Blair, 56, is based at Matrix Chambers in London.



A Matrix website says she became a barrister in 1976 and was elevated to Queen's Counsel in 1995.



"A high-profile expert in discrimination, public law, media and information law and employment law, Cherie Booth QC is at the top of her profession," says the website.



"Highly reputed worldwide, she has appeared in the European Court of Justice and in Commonwealth jurisdictions, and also lectures internationally on human rights."









Appeal judges said the cocaine, which had a wholesale value of £52,500, was wrapped inside a package said to contain a "gift".



Customs officers allowed it to be flown into the UK and delivered to Williams's home. Police then arrested Williams at his home.



Williams said the package was intended for a friend but a jury took less than three hours to find him guilty.



Judges heard that Williams was a man of "good character" except for a drink-driving conviction in 2008.



They said he was a long-term alcohol abuser who suffered from cirrhosis of the liver. Williams also suffered a stroke while on remand in prison.



He left school at 16 and held down a number of unskilled jobs.



Lord Justice Pitchford said Mrs Blair referred to the "need for her to perform a public duty" at the sentencing hearing in May and he said she had been entitled to consider "mitigating" factors.



He said the 240 days Williams spend in jail on remand would count as part of the new three-and-a-half-year sentence.



PA

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week