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The Times Interview With Michael Wolkind QC
Michael Wolkind, QC, of 2 Bedford Row Chambers, acted for Munir Hussain, a businessman jailed for 30 months for permanently injuring an intruder. He was freed by the Court of Appeal headed by the Lord Chief Justice, and sentenced instead to 12 months, suspended for two years.
What were the main challenges in this case and the possible implications?
To encourage a jury to a “generous” verdict, if not, then the trial judge to a sympathetic sentence, if not, then the Appeal Court to a merciful review. Had I failed, the overwhelming mood of the public would have been left dramatically adrift from that of the courts. In the event, Mr Hussain received the benefit of a considered and enlightened judgment from the Lord Chief Justice.
What was your worst day as a lawyer?
Head down, checking my notes for a closing speech in a murder, I walked into an Old Bailey courtroom, crossed the entire room … But why was the judge there already, and a witness being cross-examined by strange counsel? The jury was unfamiliar. Wrong court.
What was your most memorable experience as a lawyer?
A defiant jury who recognised the tragedy of a young man who accidentally stabbed his brother. The prosecution eventually dropped the murder charge and he pleaded guilty to manslaughter. The jury refused to convict, ignoring the judge’s directions.
Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?
My wonderful parents whom I miss daily. Anti-Establishment figures: Tony Benn, Paul Foot, the religious philosopher Maimonides, the author Bernard Malamud and whoever wrote “excel when you must but don’t excel the World”.
Why did you become a lawyer?
I have no university degree so I was looking for something fun and easy.
What would your advice be to anyone wanting a career in law?
Don’t believe anyone who says it’s fun and easy. It’s stimulating, deeply satisfying, but constantly demanding.
If you had not become a lawyer, what would you have chosen and why?
I would have worked with children or as a bereavement counsellor. I volunteer in those areas now and am constantly enthused.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Still representing the most unpopular Defendants like the London Nail Bomber and the occasional popular ones like Munir or Greenpeace protesters. I will still be infinitely proud of my son, David, and my daughters Rikki and Tori. I will still be enjoying my dogs Cato, Dylan and Milo, who have each promised me never to die. I will still be waiting for Barnet FC to win a game.