Michael Mansfield

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Person.png Michael Mansfield  
(barrister)
Michael Mansfield.jpg
Born 12 October 1941
Alma mater University of Keele
Website http://www.mansfieldchambers.co.uk/]
A UK barrister of note

Michael Mansfield QC is an English barrister, republican, vegetarian, socialist, and has described himself as a "radical lawyer".[1] He has participated in prominent and controversial court cases which have posed a problem for the establishment, including accused IRA activists, the Bloody Sunday incident, and the killings of Jean Charles de Menezes and Diana, Princess of Wales.[2] as well as the McLibel case.

Background

He grew up in north Finchley, north London, and attended Holmewood Preparatory School (Woodside Park) before going to Highgate School and the University of Keele, where he graduated with a BA (Hons) in history and philosophy, before becoming Secretary of Keele's Student Union.

Career

Michael Mansfield was called to the Bar at Gray's Inn in 1967, became Queen's Counsel in 1989 and was elected as a Bencher of Gray's Inn in 2007.

As of 2014 he was the President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, and is a Professor at Law at London's City University. Mansfield is a regular after dinner and keynote speaker.[3]

Notable cases

As well as representing those wrongly convicted of the IRA pub bombings (Guildford Four and Birmingham Six), Michael Mansfield has represented: the Angry Brigade; the Price sisters; Brian Keenan; the Orgreave miners; Mahmood Hussein Mattan, Ruth Ellis and James Hanratty (in posthumous appeals); those involved in the 1994 London Israeli Embassy attack; Stephen Lawrence's family; Michael Barrymore at the Stuart Lubbock inquest; Barry George at the inquest into the death of Jill Dando; the gangster Kenneth Noye;[4][5] the Bloody Sunday families; Arthur Scargill; Angela Cannings; Fatmir Limaj, a Kosovo-Albanian leader prosecuted in The Hague; Mohamed al-Fayed in the inquest into the deaths of his son Dodi al-Fayed and Diana, Princess of Wales; and the family of Jean Charles de Menezes.

David Kelly's Death

Full article: David Kelly/Death

Mansfield has worked with Dr David Halpin and a select team to push for a reopening of the case and an independent Inquest on the suspicious death of British Weapons inspector Dr David Kelly, who was found dead near his home in suspicious circumstances in 2003.[6]

Lockerbie appeal

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi wrongly convicted, Bernt Carlsson murdered on Pan Am 103

In August 2001, it was reported that Dr Ibrahim Legwell, the Libyan lawyer in charge of Megrahi's appeal against conviction for the Lockerbie bombing, had invited US human rights lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, and Michael Mansfield to join his legal team.[7] This invitation followed the BBC's Frontline Scotland TV documentary "Silence over Lockerbie", broadcast on 14 October 1997, in which Michael Mansfield spoke extensively about the Lockerbie case:

"Fundamentally it's a murder case. 270 dead. It may be dressed up as planting and detonating a bomb or an explosion, but fundamentally you have to be able to show a link, evidential link between those accused and the incident itself. There has to be continuity of evidence and there has to be a link of causation.

No case to answer

"Let us assume that these two (Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah) are saying 'we are not responsible', right. Then I go to the scene of the crime itself, the last stage of it, which is Scotland. And one examines closely what was found there and what I mean is concrete evidence, not suspicion and allegation. And then the moment you start that process you work back to Heathrow, what happened at Heathrow? How sure are we in the various points in the journey of the so-called container? Can we be sure about at Heathrow that definitely take us unequivocally is the word that is often used in a case, unequivocally take us back from Heathrow to Frankfurt, and then at Frankfurt the same exercise has to be undergone that unequivocally take us back to Malta, because it's all based on this one premise that it started in Malta and was put on in Malta, same thing, what are the links in the chain from the airport at Malta that go right back to the offices where it is suggested this whole improvised explosive was put together, and if I could show that there were serious flaws and gaps in the chain, then I would have to say there isn't a case for the people I represent to face.

Identification in disarray

"The evidence to show here that, for example, the description of the person that he gave sometime afterwards, doesn't appear to fit, and certainly in so far as the age is concerned there's a big difference between fifty and thirty-six and the nature of the build and so on. Now one appreciates you might mis-describe somebody, even if you have seen them, you might remember certain details incorrectly, so that doesn't automatically invalidate. But the fact that he's actually picked out someone else altogether to begin with would almost certainly render the identification inadmissible. Now the further question - date seems to be very much at large, because the shopkeeper associates the purchase with a time at which his brother is watching a football match, and it now appears that the football match that the brother was watching must have occurred on another date in view of the time of the broadcast of the football match itself. Now if it's on another date altogether than the one being alleged, namely 7th December as opposed to an earlier date in November, it throws the whole business of this identification into disarray. And I can't see at the moment any thread that's left in tact.

Forensic science not immutable

"Forensic science is not immutable. They're not written in tablets of stone, and the biggest mistake that anyone can make—public, expert or anyone else alike—is to believe that forensic science is somehow beyond reproach: it is not! The biggest miscarriages of justice in the United Kingdom, many of them emanate from cases in which forensic science has been shown to be wrong. And the moment a forensic scientist or anyone else says: 'I am sure this marries up with that' I get worried. As far as I can see nothing has been put into the public arena that would satisfactorily answer the questions of continuity such that you could say these two Libyans used that fragment of circuit board that is missing. To say that maybe the Libyan government or its Intelligence Services had some circuit boards that may have been similar is completely insufficient.

Witnesses with an axe to grind

"It is not clear from the public information on both sides of the Atlantic where certain observations are made about the manufacturer of the bomb, whether these observations emanate from a witness, or where they may be just supposition, in other words putting two circumstances together and supposing this is what happened. If for a moment one imagines, because that's all one can do, nothing has been made public, that there is a person saying I saw them do X, Y or Z, then of course that adds another dimension. But there is a further qualification to that kind of evidence, because one has to ask, 'Who is the person making the suggestion?', 'What is the background of the person making the suggestion?', 'What incentives have been given to that person?', and all one has to remember is that certainly within the United Kingdom the use of evidence that is for evidential purposes as opposed to intelligence gathering, the use in court of material gleaned from what used to be called supergrasses or informers are used very carefully indeed, and in fact often now they're not used at all. Very good reason: these people have an axe to grind, there's a good reason why they might want to embellish, guild the lily a bit and add a bit, because they're being presented with money, security, changed identities and they are in fact beholden to the authority which is wanting them to give evidence.

'Libyans did it' hypothesis

"Well it's an extraordinary argument that Vincent Cannistraro is putting forward. If on the one hand you show by documentation, by interviewing baggage handlers, which I understood happened here, by examining the person who was supervising the whole of the baggage handlers, you're able to show it's a watertight case, then they say 'oh, it could have been suborned'. If you on the other hand have no documentation, and you aren't able to show what cases went on, they say 'ah, ah, very suspicious, why haven't you got the documentation?', so it seems on the CIA approach to life, you can't win unless you've got a particular hypothesis which is theirs, namely the Libyans did it therefore everything else flows from it. And I think one has to be extremely careful about this, because if essentially on that thesis it would mean that the documents in Malta have all had to have been forged, it would also mean that the chief supervisor obviously has been paid off and so on, and they have no evidence, it's all very well to say all this, what are they saying, that the head supervisor of Air Malta is in the Libyan pocket, is being paid, there's no evidence of this at all. These are accusations it seems to be without any foundation at all.

No Malta bomb bag

(In answer to comments by Buck Revell): "Well I can only emphasise again that all this illustrates is suspicion. If you already have a case against these two, evidence that shows that they made the bomb in Malta and they trundle along to the airport with their …..a suitcase and they put Air Malta tags on it, alright, then an entry in a diary supports all that. But if you don't have that, then the entry in the diary merely looks on the face of it suspicious. But one has to ask the further questions - Where is the evidence? Obviously a case did get on the plane and it was the case that contained the bomb, and that it did have fraudulent Air Malta tags on it. Now where's the evidence from Malta? As far as I know there isn't any, because the suggestion in Malta is that it couldn't have gone on the plane on Malta. Where is the evidence in Frankfurt of a case with Air Malta tags, the one that had somehow or another got on in Malta coming off the plane? There isn't any. There is some suggestion of an extra case in Frankfurt at the time frame that fits, that's about it. There certainly doesn't appear to be any evidence at the Lockerbie end, let alone at the Heathrow end of an Air Malta case with tags on coming through. Therefore none of this really adds up to more than an odd entry in a diary, and yes maybe he shouldn't have been doing it, but that's all it adds up to.

Inadmissible evidence

"So far as the Maltese connection is concerned, the clothing, the identification, when it was bought, the weather conditions, all of that, I think add up to a situation in which were it to be presented to a court in the United Kingdom, it probably wouldn't even get past the doors. It would be declared at some stage or another inadmissible evidence because it is so fatally flawed at the very root."[8]

Personal life

Michael Mansfield has been married twice, to his first wife for 19 years, and for thirty years to artist/filmmaker Yvette Vanson. He has six children (Jonathan, Anna, Louise, Leo, Kieran and Frederic).[9]

Mansfield is a patron of the animal welfare organisation "Viva!" (Vegetarians International Voice for Animals), and refers to animal production as "genocide".[10]


References

  1. Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer. London, Bloomsbury. 2009.
  2. Thom Dyke, "Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer". New Statesman. 24 September 2009. Retrieved 25 June 2011. 
  3. "Oxford University - An audience with Michael Mansfield QC". Retrieved 2012-04-23. 
  4. "Road rage killer's appeal rejected". BBC News. 10 October 2001. 
  5. "Jill Dando case"
  6. http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/10561410.Lawyer_calls_for_inquest_into_Dr_David_Kelly_s_death/
  7. "Top team to fight Lockerbie appeal"
  8. "Silence Over Lockerbie" Frontline Scotland, Reporter: Shelley Jofre
  9. BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs
  10. Viva! - Vegetarians International Voice for Animals - Star Supporters

Further reading

  • Who's Who, 2006
  • Michael Mansfield, Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer. London, Bloomsbury. 2009. ISBN 978-0-7475-7654-9