08/04/2008

Butterfingers

In what must be probably the worst experience a paralegal could ever have, Penny Wadsworth has inadvertently caused the collapse of a 5 defendant, £100,000 drugs trial [Guardian Report]. The ‘Kennington Rastafarian Temple’ trial had been running for 4 weeks when a police officer recognised Wadsworth, a paralegal on the defence team. The officer recognised Wadsworth from earlier enquiries and recalled that she had made a telephone complaint about drug dealing at the Temple, prior to the raid and arrests.

Wadsworth had failed to disclose her complaint or its content to her firm, or the defence counsel. When defence counsel was informed, and told the client, unsurprisingly the client ‘felt he could no longer have complete confidence in the neutrality of his firm of solicitors’, as the judge put it.

The judge called Wadsworth to appear before the Court, but decided that, although the result of her non-disclosure was ‘catastrophic’ for the trial, no action would be taken against her. After the prosecution decided not to offer any evidence or to seek a retrial, the defendants were acquitted.

Oddly enough, Wadsworth had apparently worked for a city firm for 20 years before turning to a criminal firm. A rough introduction and I suspect she may now be an ex-paralegal. Although considering that she did achieve her client’s acquittal, maybe not.

One must have sympathy. It might not have been the birghtest course of (non)action she took, but we do all make errors of judgement at some point. The idea that such an error would result in a dressing down in open court and the collapse of a high profile trial is the stuff of sweat-soaked-blanket nightmares.

On the other hand, the irony content of the eventual effect of her complaint about drug dealing at the Temple is so overwrought as to be a ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ plot (a reference that few born after say 1975 will get. Strewth, I’m old.)

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

2 Comments

  1. Geeklawyer

    “Tales of the Not Entirely Unexpected” was, I always thought, a rather better name!

    Reply
  2. Nearly Legal

    Tales of the eminently predictable after 2 minutes, indeed.

    Reply

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