Goldsmith under Pressure from Legal Profession over Impartiality

By Robert Verkaik Legal Affairs Correspondent | The Independent (London, England), April 29, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Goldsmith under Pressure from Legal Profession over Impartiality


Robert Verkaik Legal Affairs Correspondent, The Independent (London, England)


The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, is facing increasing pressure from senior lawyers to justify his change of mind over his advice on the legality of war.

Publication of the full advice yesterday has opened him to criticism that he allowed his opinion to be distorted to serve the Government's case.

A number of leading QCs, some of whom have worked with government ministers, criticised Lord Goldsmith for agreeing to give the Government what is known at the Bar as a 'helpful' opinion rather than one that sets out a completely independent legal position.

Anthony Scrivener QC, a former chairman of the Bar, said: 'Lawyers quite often change their mind, but when they do they always will provide extremely good justification for doing so. It appears he has given very helpful advice because he has been amenable to pressure.'

Peter Carter QC, chairman of the Bar's human rights committee, said publication would 'inevitably' lead to calls for Lord Goldsmith's resignation.

But he added: 'The question is what happened to change his mind between the date of the advice and the publication of the parliamentary answer. As Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith must not bend to party political pressure so that his advice is no longer independent. However, his get-out may be that his client, the Prime Minister, gave him facts that he had asked for and, because he was his client, he could not question them.'

The lawyers argue that the qualifications Lord Goldsmith carefully added to his advice had not been met before the start of the war.

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