A tribute to Michael Mansfield QC
After a long career, the distinguished QC takes on the mightiest forces of the British Establishment, writes Tim Willis
All rise - for we are in the presence of greatness. As the inquest into the death of Princess Diana enters its sixth month, one man has justified the public costs of £2.4m and rising. Step forward Michael Mansfield QC, icon of all that is enviable about British jurisprudence: a battler for truth and the little man, a perennial defender of the outsider against the Establishment's vested interests.
Presenting the case for Mohammed Fayed, Mansfield may face the combined might of the security services, the police and the Palace. Yet armed only with the slingshot of huge fees, he has determined that one immigrant shopkeeper's voice will be heard. Mansfield is a heroic figure bent on demonstrating that the wretched Princess was the victim of an assassination plot involving the British royal family, and not merely a chauffeur who was as pissed as a newt.
Some barristers would blanch before exposing a plot hatched by the Duke of Edinburgh and the head of the Met. Many might even consider Fayed's theories too far-fetched - the work of a paranoid, a nutter, of someone with a creepy motive. They would quail at the prospect of a brow-beating from someone as widely known for his integrity as the former Royal lackey Paul Burrell. They would doubt their ability to convince a jury that spooks had fixed blood tests to falsify chauffeur Henri Paul’s drunkenness.
Some would be too mindful of future honours to accuse, in open court, Diana’s brother-in-law - the Queen's ex-Private Secretary - of being a conspirator. They would be too squeamish to suggest to Diana's bodyguard - the only survivor of the crash - that he had been leaned on to stay silent.
But not Mansfield. Only his eloquence and forensic powers are capable of pulling down the wall of silence that surrounds Diana's pregnancy and engagement, and lay bare the racism and snobbery of her killers. It is only through Mansfield's sheer diligence and his honourable regard for the British legal process that respected professionals like holistic healer Myriah Daniels and alternative therapist Simone Simmons have been called to the stand.
It wasn't always like this. Mansfield's big break came in 1972 during the trial of the Angry Brigade, the anarchist organisation which had bombed several ministers' homes. After he had brilliantly undermined the prosecution’s scientific evidence, Mansfield’s client walked free.
He forged a reputation as one of Britain's foremost QCs by taking on miscarriages of justice and 'defending the indefensible'. He won tough acquittals for the Birmingham Six, the Irishmen sentenced to life in 1975 for killing 21 people in two pub bombings; for the Bradford Twelve, a group of Asian teenagers who had made petrol bombs to defend themselves against racist attacks; and for the Newham Seven, another group of Asians who'd fought skinheads outside an East London pub.
More recently he acted for the families of Jean Charles de Menezes and Stephen Lawrence, and he overturned Angela Canning's wrongful conviction for the cot deaths of her two sons.
Now this Diana inquest looks like being Mansfield's crowning achievement. How are the mighty risen! ·
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