The Courier Mail today reports that Former Bundaberg hospital surgeon Jayant Patel is suing his defence team for $884,000.
The article suggests that Dr Patel’s case is that his solicitors and barrister were too inexperienced to properly defend him, and this inter alia resulted in them failing to obtain full particulars of the charges, a comprehensive signed written proof of evidence containing his responses to the charges or consider the need to retain expert evidence to rebut medical expert witnesses’s allegations regarding his competence to perform the operations.
The $884,000 is the amount of fees that Patel alleges he paid his lawyers. So it seems that in effect he is after a refund.
It is impossible at this stage to assess Patel’s prospects of success against his lawyers. In the original trial in which Patel was convicted, he was represented by Michael Byrne QC, one of Queensland’s top criminal barristers. But Byrne QC is not being sued. Perhaps he was only asked to appear at trial, leaving all the preparation to the junior barrister.
If Patel is alleging that his conviction was caused by the negligence of his lawyers, that allegation should be contrasted with the High Court’s findings concerning the original trial when it quashed Dr Patel’s convictions:
The sheer extent of the prejudicial evidence in the context of a wide-ranging prosecution case is likely to have overwhelmed the jury… The prejudicial effect on the jury was not overcome by the directions given by the trial judge about the limited use that could be made of that evidence
I wonder if this claim will be settled or go to trial. If it went to trial, there would be a very close examination of how Patel’s defence was organised and prepared, and whether his lawyers did make the mistakes alleged.