Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Top Glasgow defence lawyer Joe Beltrami dies aged 83, a true giant of the legal profession in Scotland, his record for saving people from the hangman, 12-0, now that's a lawyer

Dear All

I have always had a passing interested in law since I was a kid; my favourite in the legal profession was Lord Denning, Master of Rolls, a great judge who to this day stands apart from his peers.

In Scotland, one of the most high-profile defence lawyers has died at 83, in Glasgow; you couldn’t help but know the name, Joe Beltrami.

He represented clients in many famous criminal trials in Glasgow including defending clients who faced the death penalty in 12 cases.

 Beltrami’s record on that front was as the press said, “Beltrami 12, Hangman 0”.

Hanging people is a ghastly business and no way for anyone to die despite the arguments of the pro hanging lobby to bring it back using the most emotive cases as a basis for trying to front it as ‘justice’.

The arguments that an innocent person couldn’t be hanged today because of advances in criminal detection such as DNA profiling remain bogus.
I have never agreed with the death penalty, it has no place in a modern country but sadly it isn’t abolished world wide, the death penalty is final and it doesn’t deter or work in my opinion.

Joe Beltrami had a remarkable 50-year career, his law firm was founded in 1958, the man himself was regarded by his peers as an “institution, not only in Glasgow, but in Scotland”.

The son of a Swiss father and a Scottish mother, Joe Beltrami will be remembered as a legend of Scottish Justice.

As a matter of historical fact, he helped secure the only two Royal Pardons granted in Scotland in the 20th century. One for Paddy Meehan, who was released in 1976 after serving seven years for the wrongful conviction of murdering a pensioner in a house break-in in Ayr in 1969.

To have helped right a wrong must have brought him enormous satisfaction that through his skill and dedication he gave back someone their freedom. The other pardon was for Maurice Swanson in 1975, when his conviction for a bank robbery was overturned.

Beltrami defended more than 350 people accused of murder, and he didn’t always defend the innocent.

He said in 2009:

“They were a mixture of not guilty, culpable homicides and not provens. Not proven is a great verdict. There are regular campaigns to get rid of it, but I think it’s a perfectly valid verdict. The prosecution did not prove its case.”

Recognised with a lifetime achievement award at the Law Awards of Scotland in 2008, he was also made an honorary life member of the Law Society of Scotland, the highest honour the society can bestow on a Scottish solicitor.

In Scotland, justice is being eroded; we need people like Joe Beltrami more than ever, sometimes justice needs all the help it can get. 

Joe Beltrami reportedly had to set up on his own after failing to find a practice to take him on as an apprentice, I think a great many law firms would be thinking how unlucky they were not to have offered him an apprenticeship.

His clients included Arthur Thompson, whom he managed to acquit of various criminal charges on many occasions throughout the 1980s.

One of the things in legal defence is that you don’t always get to defend the great, the good and the innocent.

It said on his company website:
“Such successful defences led to the coining of the phrase ‘get me Beltrami’ as a plea for legal assistance and representation in desperate circumstances amongst Glaswegians during the time”.

His career was varied and interesting, although many people will graduate in Law, there was only one Joe Beltrami.

It is a sad loss for his family, the legal profession and Scotland.

Yours sincerely

George Laird

The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

George, Ed Miliband calling now for ban on secondary employment today, spot on as usual mate and ahead of the curve.

Love this blog, keep it up.