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Edition 1gr SUN 06 SEP 1998, Page News Review 9
The Mr Big in criminal briefs; Interview; Henry Milner
Stuart Wavell meets the solicitor the seriously troubled seek out in a crisis.
You've been nicked, the filth are crawling all over your Axminster carpets and you could be looking at more porridge than Oliver Twist ever dreamt of. Who do you call? You're not boracic lint -
Journalists have been ringing him non-
Milner's breakthrough into the big time of high-
When the £26m Brink's-
Were there any cases he would not handle? Milner frowned. "It's a very difficult question, because I do a lot of cases the public finds distasteful, like drugs. But I have never handled cases involving sexual offences on elderly people or young children."
Okay, say you are facing a long stretch and you go to see Henry at his first-
What is Milner feeling? "You've got to look confident even if you don't feel it. If you show a weakness or fear they will jump on it. Defendants are as shrewd as anything. They know whether you are on the ball." One question preoccupies their thoughts. " 'What are my chances?' they ask. It's best to be straight with a client. You start with 'hopeless', 'very, very poor', 'relatively poor', 'under 50%', 'evens' or 'quite good'. If you put it above 'good', you're in trouble if they are found guilty."
Milner leans back and roars with laughter, then adds: "You can't guarantee anyone
winning a case any more than love comes with a guarantee." With 25-
"We had a case of an Iranian who was charged with possessing 100 kilos of heroin. In my view, the case was absolutely hopeless and had he received 18 years, he would have done well. We begged him to plead guilty but he wouldn't hear of it. When we got to court, it just fell our way."
Popular fiction and films have nurtured the idea that criminals can get too cosy with their lawyers. How pally does Milner get with "chummy"? It is a criticism that he has been confronted with in the past. "I don't have a close relationship with my clients," he replies. "I don't go out at night with clients. I don't go to pubs with clients. If I'm preparing a case I might go and have a snack with them at lunchtime, and that's it."
There was more tension with police in the days when solicitors could be excluded from interviews and defendants could be "verballed up" with false confessions. Milner recalls an uneducated young client, arrested for conspiracy to rob, who had supposedly stated: "It looks bad, but so did Dunkirk, and we managed to wriggle out of that."
Suspecting the boy knew nothing of the Dunkirk evacuation -
So what makes Milner run? The thrill of winning against the odds, reflected in a passion for bridge, he says. It's fun . He's his own boss, with no frowning partners if he takes the afternoon off to indulge his enjoyment of traditional American music or Tottenham Hotspur.
Milner's personal service means keeping hold of the reins during a case, helping
to decide which witnesses to call, influencing a counsel's closing speech and occasionally
putting his foot down. He attributes his success in large measure to picking top
barristers with a knack of winning. Too impatient with long-
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