Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Barrister fined for misconduct

A LEADING Belfast barrister has been fined £25,000 for professional misconduct while representing a defendant in a major drugs smuggling case, it was revealed today.

A LEADING Belfast barrister has been fined £25,000 for professional misconduct while representing a defendant in a major drugs smuggling case, it was revealed today.

Eugene Grant QC admitted a number of breaches of the Bar Council's Code of Conduct at a meeting of its disciplinary committee.

Mr Grant, a former chairman of the Bar Council, was also severely censured and ordered to pay back an undisclosed, substantial sum in fees.

The disciplinary case stemmed from Mr Grant's representation of Magherafelt businessman Colin Lees, who was jailed last November for his part in a smuggling operation involving 1.7 tonnes of cannabis resin.

The Bar Council judgment states that Mr Grant admitted five charges.

These included inducing Lees to plead guilty "by overbearing his mind and depriving him of his discretion to make a free and voluntary choice of pleas".

Another charge involved informing the defendant that he "would have some input into the choice of judge who would impose the sentences if he pleaded guilty."

The barrister also admitted failing to explain to the businessman that he "should only plead guilty if he accepted that the Crown case was true."

A further breach involved Mr Grant telling Lees that he was in possession of information which he would not disclose to him, or other members of the defence team.

The final charge related to misinforming his client concerning arrangements which could be made to his advantage through the Probation Service.

The Disciplinary Committee accepted that the matters constituted a "mistaken attempt" to achieve a favourable result for the defendant.

But it regarded them as a "very serious error of judgment and an altogether unacceptable failure to observe the standards of professional conduct to be expected of a defending barrister."

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