The barrister wife of former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair was criticised by the Court of Appeal Friday evening for not sending a cocaine smuggler to jail when sitting as a judge at a Crown Court.
Appeal Judge Pitchford suggested that Cherie Blair’s decision to impose a 12-month suspended sentence on Lee Williams, following a trial at Isleworth Crown Court, west London, earlier this year, was “remarkable.”
The appeal court quashed the “unduly lenient” sentence imposed by Mrs Blair – who uses her maiden name Booth when working as a lawyer – and replaced it with a three-and-a-half-year jail term.
Lord Pitchford, who sat in London with two other judges ordered Williams, 43, of Hanwell, west London, to surrender to police.
Appeal judges quashed the sentence imposed by Mrs Blair, who had been sitting as a recorder – a part-time judge, after lawyers representing Conservative Attorney General Dominic Grieve asked for a review.
Bill Emlyn Jones, for the Attorney General – the Government’s chief legal adviser, argued that the sentence passed by Mrs Blair had been “unduly lenient” and a “startling result.”
The appeal court heard that Mrs Blair had imposed the suspended sentence after hearing arguments from barrister Matthew Morgan, who represented Williams. “I don’t know what spell you were casting in the Isleworth Crown Court,” Lord Pitchford told Morgan at today’s hearing.
“But this is a remarkable sentence is it not?” Lord Pitchford said cocaine smuggling had a “public dimension” and should normally attract “lengthy” jail terms.
“There is a deficiency, in the respect of the recorder, in her reasoning,” said Lord Pitchford.