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I Remember: Barnaby Jameson KC

BY Rob Crossan

8th Nov 2022 Celebrities

I Remember: Barnaby Jameson KC

Barnaby Jameson is a counter-terrorist barrister who has appeared in some of the most infamous terrorism trials in recent UK history

An unusual household

I grew up in what I think now was probably a highly unusual household just off the King's Road in the 1970s. My Dad is American and he had lots of counter-cultural friends. I remember Benjamin Zephaniah turning up for a dub poetry reading and my mother insisting that the strange smelling fumes coming from the living room were legal. I didn’t believe her then and I don’t believe her now!

A neighbourhood full of adventure

Chelsea in the 1970s was full of adventure. Our neighbours were Bianca Jagger and John Paul Getty II, who had a red phone box installed in his house as he was sick of people turning up to make long distance calls on his account!

Barnaby Jameson's parents

Barnaby's parents in the 1960s

I remember me and a friend of mine looking for a lion that was rumoured to be roaming in the Moravian Burial Grounds. The adults said it was just a myth but it turned out that it was actually true!

"Chelsea in the 1970s was full of adventure"

A boutique had bought a lion cub to put in their shop window and the owners used to walk it in the gardens outside a church until a vicar complained it was now too big and was going to start eating his parishioners.

Struggling to rebel

I remember finding it quite hard to rebel against anything with the upbringing I had, so I suppose I went the other way and became quite conservative and definitely apolitical. I’m still pretty phlegmatic when it comes to politics today to be honest. I’ve found that not being too partisan, even when I’m the prosecutor, works better with a jury.

It’s more effective to be reasonable and calm as my hope is, with that attitude, a jury will be even more convinced of a person’s guilt if they can see that someone as rational as me believes they are guilty.

The power of mass action

My first experience with the power of mass action which really affected me was seeing the work of a group called SLAG in Chelsea in the 1970s and early 1980s, which stood for Save London Action Group. There was a glut of demolitions around the King's Road at that time, and the old Kensington Town Hall was pulled down in the middle of the night!

Local residents started lying in the middle of the road to stop the bulldozers and it was the first time I saw people tying themselves to trees. Legally speaking, doing that is still a very difficult thing for the police to deal with and it can be effective. Extinction Rebellion weren’t the first people to try this kind of action, and it worked in Chelsea’s case to a large degree as many of the grand old squares did survive.

A love of Russian literature

I had a huge love of Russian novels when I was a teenager, especially Tolstoy and Turgenev. I was into acting as well and I performed in a staging of Twelfth Night alongside a very young Nick Clegg (who played Sebastian, the twin brother of the woman who disguises herself as Cesario). He was actually a very good actor, though there were lots of other interesting people I went to school with.

Lord Lucan’s son, George, was in my first school and he came into the playground on the day after the infamous murder. He just described it as "a bit of a commotion last night" and we all went back to class!

Studying at Cambridge University

True Blue Dinner at Cambridge

True Blue Dinner, Cambridge

I studied history at Magdalene College, Cambridge. I did have a good time there but I remember being slightly disappointed by the quality of the teaching. I’d had some of the best teachers in the country when I was at Westminster, while at Cambridge a lot of the tutors were, frankly, a lot more interested in their own PhD research than they were in teaching us.

Converting to law

I remember doing a law conversion course in London after my history degree at Cambridge, and wishing I was on the Trans-Siberian Express. Doing a law conversion in a year is a bit like eating an entire loaf of bread in one mouthful, and it was absolutely brutal.

"I remember doing a law conversion course and wishing I was on the Trans-Siberian Express"

I’d done a bit of freelance journalism and book reviewing in New York in between and I got offered a well-paid gig to ride the train across Russia for two months. It would have been my Dr Zhivago dream come true and I did wonder if I’d done the right thing when I was sitting through yet another tedious, utterly incomprehensible lecture about tort law. The sad thing is that I’ve still never ridden the Trans-Siberian to this day.

My first court case

The Old Bailey

The Old Bailey

One of my first court cases was defending my dad! He was an architect and was accused of a crime through his work which related to money, but I don’t want to go into any more detail than that. I was only in my early twenties and what started as a civil case ended up as a criminal case in the Old Bailey. It was pretty overwhelming for me at that time, but the case against my dad failed and I do feel a lot of pride that I was able to help him when he needed it.

Counter terrorism cases

I’ve been involved in some pretty high-profile counter terrorism cases but one that I’m very proud of is the case of Alex Davies, who was the UK leader of a neo-Nazi group called National Action. Often, in these types of cases, you’re prosecuting people quite far down the chain of command. Davies was a rarity as he really was the leader of this group who were planning to murder the MP Rosie Cooper and were extremely dangerous.

"This is why I always believe that terrorists can take many forms"

It was chilling when Davies stated in court to me that he wanted all Jewish people to be deported. He had a degree from the University of Warwick so he did have intelligence. This is why I always believe that terrorists can take many forms; you can pass the most innocuous looking person on the street and have no idea about their beliefs or intentions.

A "collector's item" case

I remember working on one real "collector’s item" case where we managed to prosecute a London taxi driver called Anis Sardar who, years earlier, was planting bombs in Iraq. The case involved him and an American soldier who was killed in a bomb blast, so it was a real international affair.

He was tried here rather than being extradited to the US and was given a 38-year sentence. He would probably still be a cabbie now if he hadn’t been randomly stopped at Heathrow and had his fingerprints taken, which matched those found on two of the bombs.

A family legacy

My grandfather, Squadron Leader Geoffrey Curran, went on an SOE (Special Operations Executive) mission to Ethiopia during the Second World War. He met the Emperor, Haile Selassie, and my connection to the country enabled me and my then-wife Natasha to travel there to adopt a baby in Addis Ababa.

Barnaby Jameson with his son, Firo

Barnaby with his son, Firo

We first met Firo (who has allowed me to tell his story) when he was six months old and he was very malnourished. We were given some bleak assessments of the future health issues he might face in London but one brilliant paediatrician called Mando Watson told us he just needed filling up. She was right and he’s now a very brilliant 12-year-old who, at the moment, wants to be either an actor or a chef.

A passion for kite-surfing

I’m a huge fan of kite-surfing, especially in Greece on the Aegean. There’s something about the sport that really blows the cobwebs away after I’ve been working on a difficult case. You can’t let your brain be distracted when you’re kite-surfing or you’re liable to crash into something!

I’ve had a few knocks over the years but I love to just focus on something right in the here with total concentration. In fact, I’m taking myself away with my board and my laptop next week to write the second volume of my Resistance novels series.

Codename: Madeleine

Codename: Madeleine by Barnaby Jameson is out now, published by WhiteFox, £12.99

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