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Judge queries di Stefano's law qualifications 'Who is that gentleman,' counsel is asked

THE judge leaned over the bench and asked: ''Who is that gentleman?'' It is a question that many have been asking of Giovanni di Stefano, the maverick Italian and the outgoing director of Dundee Football Club.

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However, this time it was a senior appeal judge who was demanding to be told the legal qualifications of the Italian. The queries came as reports in the last few weeks have suggested that Mr di Stefano, who has represented some of Britain's most notorious criminals, is not qualified to practise law in Britain. After questions were raised in court yesterday, Lord Justice Rose said: ''We shall consider what, if anything, further needs to be done.'' Lord Justice Rose, vice-president of the Court of Appeal, criminal division, raised the issue after he and other judges had rejected an appeal by John ''Goldfinger'' Palmer, the timeshare fraudster, against a £ 2m compensation order. The judge told Jerome Lynch QC, Palmer's counsel: ''We understand your instructing solicitors are Paul Martin & Co. A representative of that firm appears to be in court today. Who is that gentleman?'' Mr Lynch replied: ''Mr di Stefano. I don't believe he is a representative of Paul Martin.'' The judge said: ''This raises in stark form a matter of interest to this court.'' He said the grounds of appeal were signed by leading counsel - not Mr Lynch - two junior counsel and, ''somewhat unusually'', by Mr Martin and Mr di Stefano, of Studio Legale Internazionale. Two advice notes sent to the court regarding the appeal were also signed by Mr di Stefano. ''Usually, documents of this kind emanate either from a member of the Bar of England and Wales or a solicitor with higher rights of audience,'' the judge said. ''Mr di Stefano doesn't appear to be in either of those categories. How does it come about that he submits advices to this court?'' Mr Lynch said he did not know the answer. After a heated exchange, in which the judge asked him several times to ''take instructions'' from Mr di Stefano, Mr Lynch said he would ''ask'' him. Later, Mr Lynch told the court that Mr di Stefano, an advocate from Italy, had power of attorney from Mr Palmer to instruct lawyers in this country. Mr di Stefano had told him that, in the case of another of his clients, Nicholas van Hoogstraten, it was confirmed by the court that an EC directive entitled any European lawyer to the same courtesies and rights of audience as English lawyers. Lord Justice Rose asked when and where Mr di Stefano became qualified as an advocate in Italy. Mr Lynch said did not know the answer. The judge then said: ''He has been conducting this appeal. That's the position, isn't it? We shall consider what, if anything, further needs to be done.'' Outside court, Mr di Stefano said that, if the judges had ''done the courteous thing'' and simply asked him, he could have provided evidence of his qualifications. He showed reporters an Italian identity card showing his occupation as advocate, and membership cards of the International Bar Association. ''If the judges want to make inquiries, let them,'' he said before accusing the judges of ''trying to create confusion and stop me acting for other people''. After winning cases such as that of Mr van Hoogstraten, he was now pursuing appeals on behalf of convicted killers Kenneth Noye, Jeremy Bamber and Linda Calvey. ''If we win those, we will have beaten the top legal brains in the country. They should go back to school, not me.'' Jeffrey Negus, of the Law Society of England and Wales told The Herald recently Mr di Stefano is unequivocally not a solicitor and has failed to prove this despite repeated requests. The Law Society of Scotland also confirmed Mr di Stefano was not a registered solicitor.

Giovanni di Stefano claims to have represented:

Harold Shipman Britain's most prolific serial killer

Nicholas van Hoogstraten the property dealer who had his conviction for the manslaughter of a business rival quashed

Linda Calvey ''The Black Widow'' jailed for life for murdering her lover in 1990

Kenneth Noye the road-rage killer

John "Goldfinger" Palmer the timeshare fraudster

Jeremy Bamber who was jailed for life in 1986 for shooting dead his mother, father, sister and nephews

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