Aback reports of the rapidly falling stars of Geoff Hoon, Patricia Hewitt and Stephen Byers, the antics of one of their Tory compatriots deserves more attention.
In The Lawyer, Allen Green (aka Jack of Kent) writes of the strange case of the defense of real-life former Nigerian State Governor, James Ibori by Tony Baldry QC. Starting with discussion in an anti-corruption web-forum called Nigerian Liberty Forum, as reported by Sahara Reporters Online, Baldry was shown to have written a five page letter to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and copied to the Attorney General, Justice Secretary and Home Secretary.
Details of the contents are sketchy – not least because the FCO has refused an FoI request from the NLF – but Baldry is assumed to have sought to effect the dropping of a-still-ongoing prosecution at Southwark Crown Court against Ibori for numerous corruption charges.
Scroll forward to 14 February 2010, the Independent newspaper linked these reports to Baldry’s main job of MP for Banbury, and accused him of “lobbying” for Ibori. A flurry of indignation followed, and a fortnight later, the newspaper published a Correction conceding that Baldry had acted only in his capacity as a barrister: although, as Allen Green had observed, it is virtually unheard of for a barrister to write such a letter to major Government departments on the instructions of a solicitor, as Tony Baldry QC did.
But, others were now interested. These included author and blogger, Richard Wilson, whose original blog missive is reproduced by D-Notice. Even the lawyers have lawyers, and Baldry’s lawyers, Olswang quickly contacted Wilson and WordPress threatening action if the missive was not removed.
The threat to WordPress is especially odd considering that, even if they were concerned by court action in a state whose territorial jurisdiction never had come within one thousand miles of its company offices in San Francisco, California courts would have protected it.
Wilson removed his original missive. Although I am disappointed that he did so, I do understand why he may have felt threatened; even though the original letter, as reproduced by the Alan Partridge of human rights advocacy, Craig Murray potentially shows a lack of confidence in that no exorbitant defamation fees were demanded (as another MP is attempting with some barrister).
To his credit, though, Wilson has continued writing on Baldry and Ibori.
On the subject of such fees, some manky Scots git threatens to scupper an accelerated Parliamentary process to cap fees by libel lawyers.
UPDATE – the solicitor on whose instructions Baldry wrote on behalf of Ibori was Sarosh Zaiwalla. In the dog-days of the last Tory Government, as a junior minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, he recommended Zaiwalla for an OBE without revealing that he had just accepted an interest-free personal loan of £5,000 from him.
In 2000, he was admonished by the all-party Committee for Standards and Priviledges and ordered to apologize to the House of Commons. As Richard Wilson observed, there was an attempt to excise reference to this from Baldry’s Wiki entry.