Brian Altman: The scuba diving prosecutor who "speared" Milly Dowler's killer
The announcement this week that former Treasury counsel Brian Altman has been appointed lead counsel from March to the much troubled Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse should be good news for survivors.
The man has a formidable reputation as a forensic prosecutor and a particularly strong line in bringing criminals to justice in " cold case " murders. For once the phrase " highly experienced" used by inquiry chair, Alexis Jay, is no exaggeration.
He has yet to get a cameo role as a lawyer in " Silent Witness" - though he did appear in a BBC 4 Real Crime and Punishment series ( sadly no longer available on BBC i-Player.).He has received much praise from journalists who regularly cover Old Bailey trials for the way he ensnares defendants who hope to escape justice for unspeakable crimes.
His case list of successful prosecutions is impressive. They include the notorious serial killer and rapist Levi Bellfield who murdered teenager Milly Dowler and killer Colin Ash-Smith convicted 21 years after he murdered 19 year old Claire Tiltman.
He has also prosecuted in a joint British and Dutch investigation of canal murderer John Sweeney who killed and dismembered former American model and photographer, Melissa Halstead, in Holland in 1990, and disposed of her remains in a Rotterdam canal, and Paula Fields in London in 2000, whose dismembered body parts were found in the Regent’s Canal in 2001.
He has a string of other murder cases - where he both defended and prosecuted killers - and successfully prosecuted terrorists-including those involved in a disrupted Islamic state terror plot and Syrian trained terrorists planning attacks in the UK.
He is familiar with the workings of the security services and bad behaviour by MPs - he once advised on whether to prosecute one for expenses fraud - and his client list include members of a Middle East Royal Family - though not disclosing whether it is the Saudi Arabian one or not. For a full list see his entry on his chambers website here.
All this should bode well for those who want forensic examinations of some of the most highly contentious cases that will be looked at by the child sexual abuse inquiry. This will in time include the Westminster paedophile ring, Greville Janner and the Leicestershire institutions involved in child sexual abuse and some of the more contentious child sex abuse scandals in London.
Historic child sexual abuse is also a " cold case " issue - so this quote should comfort the sceptics.
"For cold case murders, he is the go-to barrister because he is able to draw together all the small pieces to provide a coherent analysis, and he knows these cases so well that there is nothing the defence can come up with to outfox him. He is completely relentless, extremely personable and a great team player”; “He is a master of detail who never makes a mistake.” Chambers & Partners 2016 (Crime)
Frankly the inquiry after all the row surrounding the departure of his predecessor, Ben Emmerson, could do with a boost. Given there is also outside pressure - thankfully resisted by Theresa May who set it up - to try and get the government to close the inquiry down because of its scope and cost, this is doubly important.
Brian Altman in his Linked In profile also lists two hobbies - scuba diving and travel. I can well understand he will sometimes want to get away from it all after all this work pressure.
He is coy about where he has travelled and where he has scuba dived. He tells me one of the places he has not yet visited is Australia's Great Barrier Reef - the largest scuba diving place in the world.
Given he is probably lead counsel for the largest child sex abuse inquiry in the world- he also gets some time off to relax there as well soon.