John Beggs QC targeted in local press and on social media
Some people in Liverpool are fuming after the barrister who represented senior police chiefs at an inquest into the Hillsborough disaster was short-listed for a ‘Barrister of the Year’ award.
Liverpudlian newspaper The Echo has published two scathing articles criticising the nomination of John Beggs QC for The Lawyer magazine’s top bar gong.
Beggs (pictured below) — a highly-rated silk who is joint head of chambers at London’s Serjeants’ Inn — represented match commander David Duckenfield during the inquest into the tragic football disaster that saw 96 football fans lose their lives.
The local newspaper takes issue with Beggs’ tactics during the two-year long inquest, in particular his willingness to argue on behalf of his client that the drunkenness of spectators and possible hooliganism could have contributed to the disaster.
Members of the legal profession would point out that this was simply a barrister doing his job.
During a robust performance during the inquest, Beggs also referenced the 1985 Heysel stadium disaster at which 39 fans died. According to The Echo, the vastly experienced silk was stopped by coroner Sir John Goldring on two separate occasions after his line of questioning to witnesses cited the disaster, which was the result of a riot.
Such back and forth over uncomfortable issues is commonplace in courtrooms, as lawyers fight for their clients’ best interests.
Many people in Liverpool are, however, unlikely to view the matter in such a dispassionate way. Anger at Beggs’ nomination has spilled over onto social media as a previously obscure legal awards has become the talk of the city.
One ‘Justice for the 96′ campaigner described the decision as an “absolute disgrace to the bar”, while another labelled it as “disgusting”. And a Twitter account — dedicated to providing updates on the Hillsborough legal case — suggested Beggs’ inclusion on the list was “unbelievable”.
— The Wrong Kennedy (@wrong_kennedy) May 11, 2016
The Echo has now taken upon itself to produce its own list of lawyers who they believe do deserve recognition. Michael Mansfield QC — who represented 77 of the victims families — is given high praise. Pete Weatherby QC of Garden Court North Chambers, Christina Lambert QC of One Crown Office Row and Liverpool-born lawyer Elkan Abrahamson are also recognised by the newspaper for their efforts.
Having heard almost two years worth of evidence, a jury at the Hillsborough inquest found last month that the 96 fans who died on 15 April 1989 were unlawfully killed.