UK
21/05/2014 11:15 BST | Updated 21/05/2014 11:59 BST

David Cameron Wins Victory Over Barrister Brother As #OpCotton Trial Reinstated

David Cameron may have averted a major embarassment for his government which had been handed to him by none other than his barrister brother.

Alexander Cameron QC succeeded earlier this month in having a complex fraud trial thrown out because his brother's government's controversial legal aid reforms had led to a lack of competent barristers.

The barrister, who represented the five defendants in the trial free of charge, argued the cuts to public funding for lawyers meant his legally-aided clients could not find lawyers of "sufficient competence".

The move was a major embarassment for the government, which prompted many legal commentators to say complex trials would be impossible to hold because cuts to legal aid meant finding competent lawyers too difficult.

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Alexander Cameron QC (left) caused his brother a major embarassment when the trial was first thrown out

One lawyer and commentator dubbed legal aid reforms a "fraudsters' charter" because of the difficulties they created in dealing with complex cases.

But the decision to throw out the prosecution was overturned by the Court of Appeal on Wednesday.

Three judges in London quashed the ruling after City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, urged them to do so.

In his judgment, Sir Brian Leveson said it was "of fundamental importance" that Justice Secretary Chris Grayling and the legal profession "continue to try to resolve the impasse that presently stands in the way of the delivery of justice in the most complex of cases: this will require effort by both sides".

The judgment was not all good news for the MoJ - it emphasised the need for quality lawyers to take the case on, while not commenting overtly on the legal aid issue.

"The maintenance of a criminal justice system of which we can be proud depends on a sensible resolution of the issues that have arisen," Sir Brian added.

"The better the advocates, the easier it is to concentrate on the real issues in the case, the more expeditious the hearing and the better the prospect of true verdicts according to the evidence.

"Poor quality advocates fail to take points of potential significance, or take them badly, leading to confusion and, in turn, appeals and, even more serious, leading to potential miscarriages of justice.

"We have no doubt that it is critical that there remains a thriving cadre of advocates capable of undertaking all types of publicly funded work, developing their skills from the straightforward work until they are able to undertake the most complex."

The judgment also said it was the MoJ's responsibility to "provide resources to permit a fair trial".

The fraud trial that Alexander Cameron had thrown out - Operation Cotton - relates to the alleged mis-selling of land and is a so-called VHCC - Very High Costs Case.

In a statement, a MoJ spokesperson said: "We welcome today's judgment. Legal aid remains available for all Very High Cost Cases and even after the savings a QC working on a VHCC like this could expect to receive around £100,000.

"We have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world and we have to address this.

"We are entirely supportive of the self-employed Bar and have made strenuous efforts to secure their continuing co-operation, including changing our original proposals and introducing support measures where possible.

"It remains open to barristers to take up these cases.”