A judge has halted a serious fraud trial after defendants claimed they could not get adequate representation because of cuts to legal aid.
Alex Cameron QC – the prime minister’s brother, working free of charge on the bid to halt the case – said the defendants would not get a fair trial.
The Ministry of Justice said there were “suitably qualified” lawyers available.
Many barristers in England and Wales are refusing to take on complex cases because of 30% cuts to their fees.
Judge Anthony Leonard told Southwark Crown Court that the defence had made “very substantial… but unsuccessful” efforts to find barristers to fight the defendants’ case.
It would be a “violation” of the legal process to allow the case to proceed, he added.
The case was brought last year by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) against Scott Crawley and seven other men.
It concerned the activities of Plott UK Ltd, European Property Investments Ltd and Stirling Alexander Ltd.
The companies are believed to have taken more than £5m from UK investors between 2008 and 2011, the FCA said at the time.
Outside court, one of the defendant’s lawyers said the collapse of the trial should be a “wake-up call” to ministers.
“It is in the interests of justice for both sides that serious and complex cases of this sort should be properly prosecuted and properly tried,” said solicitor Philip Smith.
“That means with equality of arms whereby you have the best barristers on both sides.”
He said the involvement of the prime minister’s brother had been “absolutely pivotal” in persuading the judge he could stop the trial.
Arguing on Monday that the case against five defendants should not go ahead, Mr Cameron said: “A stay is exceptional, but so is lack of representation in this country. We are worried about a fair trial.
“It’s not the fault of the FCA but we do [blame] the state more widely.”
BBC News website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27238201