Sunday, April 29, 2012
Jamaican Colin Wynter - Times of London Lawyer of the Week
Julian Cornish-Trestrail photo
by Linda Tsang
Published at 12:01AM, April 12 2012 | Times of London
The QC acted for claimants in a case ruling employers’ liability insurance is triggered at the point of toxic exposure
Colin Wynter, QC, of Devereux Chambers, acted for five of the claimants in the landmark Supreme Court case that ruled that all employers’ liability insurance cover is “triggered” at the point of toxic exposure and not when the disease begins to develop. The judgment could result in compensation for thousands of asbestos victims.
What were the main challenges in this case, and the possible implications?
The case, affecting thousands, turned upon the meaning of a single or several words, always the trickiest type of case. Unlike most of the work that I do, which involves moving money from one balance sheet to another, this case had a very human dimension. There was a permanent anxiety throughout the lengthy period of litigation that we might lose.
What was your worst day as a lawyer?
In 1987, in a North London County Court. We went to court to sue a landlord for the return of my student client’s Pakistani passport, and ended up receiving a splenetic scolding from the judge who decided, before any evidence had been called, that my client was an illegal immigrant and I his knowing agent; a humiliating experience.
What was your most memorable experience as a lawyer?
Winning this case with an excellent team of juniors and solicitors: the effect on claimants will persist long after I have retired, and perhaps even turned up my toes; and saving the life of Kojak the Alsatian dog, who was sentenced to death in 1985 at Kingston Magistrates’ Court for biting a postman, but reprieved by Judge Figgis on appeal to Kingston Crown Court.
Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?
Professionally, Colin Edelman, QC, the most hypnotically persuasive advocate I have seen or worked with; it was he who, when a young barrister, demanded that I be given the chance to work in the areas I now do. On the personal side, my elder brother by 11 months, Brian (now Governor of the Bank of Jamaica), whom I have tried to match my whole life. Also Colonel “Ken” Barnes (father of the footballer John Barnes), who was a towering figure of immense authority, kindness and humour.
Why did you become a lawyer?
Perry Mason, which I watched in black and white as a child in Jamaica.
What would your advice be to anyone wanting a career in law?
Work hard and be prepared to deal with and repel self-doubt.
If you had not become a lawyer, what would you have chosen and why?
A journalist: I was interviewed by Trevor Phillips in 1983 for a role as researcher at London Weekend Television. He suggested that I might be “overqualified”, to which I replied that I was no more overqualified than him, Trevor Phillips (MSc). I was not offered the job.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully, under a palm tree on a beach in the Caribbean, eating fried fish, lobster and plantain.