Vilified QC in Bellfield case 'just doing his job'

When Jeffrey Samuels QC agreed to defend in court one of the most infamous British murderers of the past decade, he must have known it would prove an unpopular brief.

But the Manchester-based QC can hardly have predicted the vitriol he would face in the wake of Levi Bellfield's conviction on Thursday for the 2002 murder of schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

The barrister, who won Barry George's acquittal on appeal over the 1999 murder of Jill Dando, is described on his firm's website as a "very useful operator" with "very fine judgment". It is that judgement, however, that has since been called into question.

Mr Samuels' cross-examination came under fire for suggesting the 13-year-old fled from home because she was tormented and unhappy. He claimed her misery had been compounded by the belief her mother favoured her sister and that she had found a porn magazine of her father's.

Mrs Dowler collapsed and had to be helped from the court after leaving the stand and Mr Dowler wept as letters written by Milly were read out to him in court, in which she referred to herself as "your little disappointment".

After the verdict, the family issued an attack on his mode of questioning, branding Mr Samuels' treatment of them as "mental torture".

But friends of the barrister have defended him. "Jeffrey is an extremely nice chap outside court," said one barrister, anonymously. "But like any QC worth his silk, once the wig and gown goes on, it is down to business. He is clearly ambitious and doesn't shirk the chance to take on the big trials. He wants to be a big hitter. Of course he will have known how his line of questioning on the Dowler family will have made uncomfortable viewing and would have been particularly unpleasant for the family. But a lawyer is not in court to make friends. He is there to do his job."

Leading QC Michael Wolkind added: "A counsel's duty is always to carry out his client's instructions fiercely, although there is always an element of judgement in how he presents the style and manor in which he presents his defence."

Based at St John's Buildings chambers in Manchester, Mr Samuels has been a Queen's Counsel since 2009. He was called to bar in 1988. In 2009, Mr Samuels unsuccessfully tried to overturn the conviction of Colin Norris, who murdered four elderly patients in his care while he was a nurse in Leeds hospitals in 2002. His other notable defences include Petros Williams, jailed for 28 years last year for murdering his two- and four-year-old children, and Mo Ibrahim, jailed for life for his part in the "honour killing" of a couple whose house was burned down in a 2009 petrol attack. Colleagues have expressed concerns that Mr Samuels was being harassed by tabloid newspapers following the Bellfield trial.

On Saturday, the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) argued that the adversarial nature of trials is fundamental to justice. "It's a key role," said Chris Kinch QC, chairman of the CBA. "One of the great things about our system is that defence lawyers do their job, give a defendant the best defence possible, and when the jury say they are guilty, they are convicted.

"That gives you such confidence in our system. If we read about a Brit abroad who was being defended by a lawyer who had stones thrown at his house, we would say, 'What a terrible country – just for defending somebody, a lawyer gets pilloried'."

The former director of Public Prosecutions, Lord Macdonald, said defendants must be able to put their case fairly before a court, "however appalling" it is. He said it is the judge's job to protect witnesses, adding: "In a sense, even if it is distressing for the witness, the defendant has to be allowed to put his case."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?