Robbers used to wear suits at the Old Bailey. They still do but now they’re lawyers, says top officer

By Colin Fernandez
Last updated at 11:42 AM on 6th October 2011

A senior police officer yesterday led a stinging attack on ‘money-grabbing’ defence lawyers – comparing them to robbers.

Detective Inspector Bob Campany criticised solicitors who encouraged clients to say ‘no comment’ in a police interview – even when they wanted to give their account to police.

He claimed the lawyers were keen for defendants to stand trial so they could pocket enormous fees.

‘Years ago, robbers would attend the Old Bailey wearing suits, and they still do, but too often now they masquerade as defence lawyers,’ he said.

The officer has spent 30 years in the Metropolitan Police, and has been investigating murders since the early 1980s.

He believes the scales of justice have tilted too far in favour of defendants.

Mr Campany made the unusual attack without fear of censure from his superiors because he is about to retire at the end of the month.

He said: ‘Quite often suspects make it clear they want to give their account in a police interview, but once they have spoken to their legal representatives they are almost without exception advised to make no comment.

‘The legal advisers hide behind the caveat that they don’t want their clients to incriminate themselves, which roughly translated means they don’t want their client to tell the truth.

‘If they tell the truth, this negates their opportunity for a trial, stopping lawyers from earning a shed load of money.

‘There’s no reason not to give an account in police interview. Interviews are all video-taped anyway. If there is an aggressor in the interview room it is either the suspect or the lawyer or both.’

The detective made his remarks after the conviction at the Old Bailey of Stuart Crawford for killing a pensioner.

Crawford, 45, claimed he acted in self-defence against Michael Ryan, 67, who suffered from acute arthritis. Mr Ryan had befriended Crawford and allowed him to stay at his flat in Sutton, South London.

The court heard Crawford used extreme force against Mr Ryan – battering him at least 12 times with a blunt object – making self-defence highly improbable. He then wrapped Mr Ryan up in a carpet and hid his body behind a bookcase.

In the days after the murder, in September 2008, Crawford took £7,250 from Mr Ryan’s accounts and fled to Thailand.

He was finally extradited from the country in January.

Crawford was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 26 years for the ‘callous’ murder.

Mr Campany made no attack on Crawford’s lawyers, but questioned why the killer had been allowed to mount such a ‘ridiculous defence at public expense’.

He said: ‘I’ve no doubt members of that jury felt insulted that they were asked to deliberate on Crawford’s ludicrous story.

‘This case highlights a significant weakness in our criminal justice system because courts have become so obsessive in their desire to ensure a defendant has a fair trial.

‘Nobody doubts that principle but the need to be fair to victims, their families, witnesses and the general public is being ignored.’

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