BRIAN McConnachie QC has made a name for himself acting in some of the most serious criminal cases to have been heard in Scotland’s courts in recent years.

Back in 2014 he represented Edinburgh woman Rosdeep Adekoya, who was jailed for 11 years after admitting to killing her three-year-old son Mikaeel Kular, while in 2016 he defended Rachel Fee in a case that ultimately saw her sentenced to 23 and a half years for the murder of her two-year-old son Liam.

This year he acted for Aaron Campbell, the 16-year-old boy who last month was jailed for a minimum of 27 years for the abduction, rape and murder of six-year-old Alesha MacPhail on the Isle of Bute last summer.

It is a far cry from where he started out. Like many legal professionals, Mr McConnachie, who was the first in his family to go to university, was first attracted to a career in law after getting hooked to a television programme – The Main Chance in his case.

“It was all about the idea of being in court; that’s the thing I thought was somehow or other going to be fascinating or of interest,” he said. “That never really changed.”

After training at Edinburgh firm AC Bennett & Fairweather, though, the young Mr McConnachie had few chances to go to court, with a move to Perth firm AC Miller & Mackay in 1984 giving him the first real opportunity to “cut my teeth in relation to court work”.

“The vast majority of what I did was court work, both criminal and civil,” he said. “I did high court work but I wasn’t qualified to appear in the high court so would instruct people like Alan Turnbull [now Lord Turnbull]. I fancied doing that.”

Having called to the bar in 1994, Mr McConnachie said he never made a conscious decision to focus on criminal work, noting that “because I’d given up my job to go to the bar my position was that I’d do whatever came to me because I needed to earn money”.

“What I’ve found out since coming to the bar is that you don’t really choose the work you want to do, it chooses you,” he said.

It wasn’t until 2002, though, when a chance appointment to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service led to him taking silk at 11 years’ call, that the future direction of Mr McConnachie’s career was set.

“I had never done any prosecuting at all, but the opportunity came up to join the Crown Office,” he said. “That was in the days when you got a tap on the shoulder; the Lord Advocate would phone you at home and ask if you wanted to join. I jumped at it.

“It makes you a better lawyer. Because you are at all times having to make the running as the prosecutor it’s a totally different skill to being a defender.

"It’s building the blocks rather than knocking them down and that’s generally much more difficult. It gives you a different perspective on the law, and a different perspective on the court and how to deal with things.”

Not long after joining the Crown Office, Mr McConnachie led the prosecution of Robbie McIntosh, a then 15-year-old who was ultimately sentenced to 15 years for the murder of dog walker Anne Nicoll on Dundee Law. That, he believes, was the turning point in his career.

“I took silk while I was in the Crown Office,” he recalled. “That’s the highlight of any advocate’s career and it’s the proudest thing I’ve ever achieved, but I’d never have got silk in 2005 if I hadn’t been in the Crown Office.

"That was a case I’d never have been defending as a junior counsel. The Crown Office was certainly responsible for me getting silk at the stage I was at.”

Despite his seven years as a public prosecutor, Mr McConnachie said that now he has returned to doing defence work - and is regularly instructed in the most serious and high-profile matters - there appears to be a perception among some sections of the public that he is there to obstruct rather than promote justice.

It is something he would like to see change, not least because he believes that having access to a proper defence “is really the beating heart of a civilised society”.

“It’s not enough to say you have a trial, you have to have a fair trial,” he said.

“Assuring everyone has a fair trial means the prospect of someone innocent being convicted is less likely but it also means someone who is guilty won’t be acquitted on a technicality because they didn’t have fair representation.”