Those Lawyers and Judges Involved In The Mary Wynch Case

As promised, here’s a bit of background on the lawyers and judges involved in Mary’s case. (Please can I ask new readers of the blog to refer to my previous posts ‘The Mary Wynch Case – Details’ and ‘Post-Script: The Mary Wynch Case – The Details’ for the details of Mary’s case and why it was both so worrying and so important.)

Firstly, the solicitors who represented Mary – B.M. Birnberg. They are currently listed as a firm in Camden. I presume that they were London based when they represented Mary – I do not think that she would have been able to find a firm in north Wales to represent her after what had gone on. If one googles Colin Braham, who was named in the Court documents as Counsel for Mary, again one ends up at a firm of lawyers in Camden. The other Counsel who acted for Mary was John MacDonald. He too is a barrister based in Camden. MacDonald has a very successful practice and has been involved in some high profile cases but there’s no cases similar to Mary’s flagged up on his website. So Mary’s solicitors didn’t engage the services of someone like Michael Mansfield who was known for taking cases against the British state – although Mary had encountered very big problems with the British state indeed. Dafydd Alun Jones and Paul Bishop were represented by Hempsons, the solicitors who act for the Medical Defence Union. Some two years later, Hempsons acted for Dafydd Alun Jones’s colleague, Dr Tony Francis (previously referred to on the blog as ‘Dr X’). Francis had used Hempsons to obtain an injunction against me – although Francis had perjured himself in order to do this – in order to stop me writing to him no less, when I was trying to follow up a serious complaint which involved Francis and Jones breaking the law and to access my medical records. Come on Hempsons, you knew that something was going badly wrong in the mental health services in north Wales, because by the time that you were serving injunctions on me, negligence had been admitted in Mary’s case and I had mentioned Dafydd Alun Jones’s name repeatedly in the letters that I had written to Francis… (Please see previous posts for more information on the activities of Hempsons in my own case and one of their solicitors, Anne Ball.) The Counsel used by Hempsons was one Jon Williams – I have not been able to find any references to him (he may of course have been a John Williams, the Court documents are full of errors and misspellings). The Treasury Solicitor represented the Home Office and Paul Hayward’s estate and Counsel acting on their behalf was Christopher Symons. The Treasury Solicitor’s Department is now called the Government Legal Department. The Treasury Solicitor’s Department is described as ‘a non-ministerial Government department that provided legal services to the majority of central government departments and other publicly funded bodies in England and Wales’.

Now for the really interesting bit. Mary was committed to prison and then released into the ‘care’ of Dr Dafydd Alun Jones at the North Wales Hospital by one James Blackett-Ord, who enjoyed the title of ‘His Honour the Vice-Chancellor of the County of Palatine of Lancaster’. James Blackett-Ord was actually a circuit judge. However his glorious title conferred upon him another role- to exercise general supervision over the conduct of the Chancery Division business in the north of England. The Chancery Division is a Division of the High Court of England and Wales and deals with business law, trust law, probate law, insolvency and land law in relation to issues of equity. So Blackett-Ord was effectively judging on a case that it was his role to oversee. Conflict of interest anyone? It gets much worse. The Vice-Chancellor of the County of Palatine of Lancaster is appointed by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster after consultation with the Lord Chancellor. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is a Ministerial Office of Government appointed by the Queen on the advice of, or by, the Prime Minister. Mary’s mother’s estate – the original source of the dispute – was administered by the Public Trustee (one of Mary’s later legal actions was against the Public Trustee). The Public Trustee is appointed by the Lord Chancellor – as well as Blackett-Ord! There was nothing impartial about this judge. But I haven’t finished (not by a long way). The Lord Chancellor was also in charge of the investigation into Mary’s case that the MPs in Parliament were referring to in 1993 and 1995.

Are we surprised that Mary was ruined?

But my research into Blackett-Ord turned up something else interesting. After Blackett-Ord’s time as the Vice-Chancellor of the County of Palatine of Lancaster ended in 1987 (he is described as ‘stepping down’) from then on the office was held by a High Court judge of the Chancery Division. Was this perchance related to the shit that hit the fan over Mary’s case? Blackett-Ord died a few years ago and his obituaries described him as a ‘churchman’ and a ‘landowner’ from Northumberland – they also remarked on how much he enjoyed being the Vice-Chancellor of the County of Palatine of Lancaster. They do not explain why he completely shafted a respectable middle aged woman from north Wales who had been swindled by some local solicitors by having her arrested and then handed her over to man who’s mistress was facilitating a paedophile ring to be illegally banged up in an asylum for a year.

Before we leave the subject of Blackett-Ord, I’ll just take a brief diversion into politics. Previous posts mentioned that Mary’s problems occurred on the watch of Margaret Thatcher and John Major (more on the Ministers involved is coming in a future post as promised). But my co-researcher has reminded me of something very important. Mary’s problems began before Thatcher was elected. When Mary was arrested in October 1977, Jim Callaghan was Prime Minister and when Mary was swindled out of her mother’s estate Ted Heath was Prime Minister. Blackett-Ord was appointed in 1972 – the year of Mary’s mother’s death and the original dispute. When Blackett-Ord was appointed, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was Geoffrey Rippon or John Davies (Conservatives) and the Lord Chancellor was Lord Hailsham, Quintin Hogg (Conservative). (Hogg was the man who, after Argentina surrendered following the invasion of the Falklands, famously told a TV crew that it was God wot had won it for us. But being Quintin Hogg he said it in Latin. If the old bastard was still alive perhaps he could have explained why he appointed a crook to high office – in Latin of course.) At the time of Mary’s arrest, the Lord Chancellor was Lord Elwyn-Jones (Labour) and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was Harold Lever (Labour). There will be more on these politicians in a future post.

The judge who rejected Mary’s initial appeal was Justice Otton. This will have been Sir Philip Otton. I can find very little information about Otton, other than he once sentenced the Spectator’s notorious gossip columnist Taki to prison – Taki maintains that not only did Otton later express regret at imprisoning him, but that a key witness at the trial later admitted perjuring himself.

However of course Mary appealed to the Master of the Rolls, Lord Donaldson, who, sitting with Lords Justices Parker and Balcombe, allowed her appeal and gave her leave to sue. Lord Justice Parker was Sir Roger Parker who it was alleged by a colleague didn’t end up in the House of Lords because his ‘outspokenness on the administration of justice’ ruffled a few feathers. Were those feathers ruffled perhaps by his fair treatment of a lady who had been swindled and illegally imprisoned by an awful lot of people who had pals in high places? Lord Justice Balcombe was Sir John Balcombe. Lord Donaldson was Lord John Donaldson, Master of the Rolls between 1982 and 1992, succeeding Lord Denning. John Donaldson was the son of a Harley Street gynaecologist – Donaldson married a nurse from the Middlesex Hospital and when he was young had ambitions to be a Tory MP. He is remembered for presiding over the trials of the Guildford Four and MacGuire Seven, both notorious miscarriages of justice. He famously remarked that he wished that he could have sentenced the Guildford Four to hanging. Between 1971 and 1974 he was President of the Industrial Relations Tribunal – the Unions hated him, calling him ‘Black Jack’. He was appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal by Thatcher two months after she was elected. Despite his conservatism, Donaldson had a reputation even among radical lawyers as having a ‘passion for justice’ on civil liberties issues. Donaldson pushed through legal reforms, failed to do the Government’s bidding when they wanted Peter Wright’s ‘Spycatcher’ censored and also supported Private Eye in a number of cases. In retrospect, he is considered to have been relatively progressive. Interestingly enough I have found a quote from Lord Elwyn-Jones, the Lord Chancellor at the time of Mary’s arrest, who acknowledged that at the time Donaldson deserved promotion to the Court of Appeal but that it would be ‘more trouble than it was worth’.

NB. The former Labour MP for Conwy, Sir Elwyn Jones, had previously worked as a solicitor in Bangor. His son Elwyn Jones was also a solicitor in Bangor. Neither of these are the same man as Lord Elwyn-Jones.  It is interesting however that Mary’s original problems began with her allegations that there had been misconduct on the part of a number of local solicitors. Mary lived in Caernarfon – about eight miles away from Bangor – and even then provincial lawyers in north Wales seemed very well networked into bigger fish elsewhere.

Author: Sally Baker

I am a writer and a sociologist, originally from Somerset, but I’ve been based in Wales for most of my life. I had my first encounter with a mental health professional in 1984 at the age of 21. My GP described this man to my then partner – who also became a sociologist – as someone who had experienced ‘considerable success’. My meeting with this psychiatrist was a disaster and we attempted to complain about his insensitivity and highly inappropriate behaviour. That was the first time we were threatened and pressurised to withdraw a complaint against a mental health professional. This man is long dead – he was a retired psychiatrist from the North Wales Hospital Denbigh, T. Gwynne Williams, who was working shifts in the student health centre at University College of North Wales (now Bangor University). We discovered years later that this ‘successful man’ was notorious – he had been an enthusiastic lobotomist…

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