LETTERS : Cherie Blair and the poll tax defaulter

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The Independent Online
Last week, our main front-page article reported that Cherie Blair, a barrister and the wife of the Labour leader Tony Blair, had acted in a series of cases for councils pursuing poll tax defaulters. In one case, she asked a judge to return a bail ed defaulter to jail. We also reported that she had given a conference paper on how to enforce the law, including the threat of prison, against defaulters. A leader explained our decision to publish the story.

In response, we received nearly 100 letters. A large majority of these said we were wrong to give the story such prominence. Below, we publish a selection.

I WAS incensed by your front-page article on Cherie Booth ("Cherie Blair sought to keep poll tax defaulter in jail", 22 January). It was cheap and shoddy journalism which misrepresented the issues and contrived to produce a shock headline.

As a barrister, Ms Booth is obliged to represent her clients' interests to the best of her abilities, irrespective of her personal feelings and opinions. As your article points out, barristers cannot choose the cases they take, nor do they choose the lawof the land. If anything should be attacked here it is the law which allows imprisonment for poll tax defaulters.

Similarly, in her paper to the Institute of Revenues, Ratings and Valuation Officers, Ms Booth appears to have outlined the legal options available to enforcement officers, while drawing their attention to how pointless it is to send those who cannot payto prison. She is not responsible for how enforcement officers choose to exercise their legal powers.

Finally, as the article points out, Ms Booth chooses to be known professionally by her maiden rather than her married name. It is inexcusable that you did not have the courtesy to respect her choice in your headline.

Katy Donnelly Sheffield

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