In the Media

Hamza firm solicitor faces jail

PUBLISHED June 25, 2006

A solicitor has been convicted at the Old Bailey of smuggling a letter out of Belmarsh jail, south-east London, in a bid to help a gunman accused of shooting a trial witness.

Maya Devani, a member of law firm Arani & Co which defended race hate cleric Abu Hamza, will be sentenced at a later date. She faces a jail term.

Her client, Timothy Merchant, was convicted of two charges of attempted murder and was also remanded for pre-sentence reports.

Devani was representing Merchant, 29, who was being held in the prison facing the two attempted murder charges after a street shooting.

Prosecutor Mark Dennis said Devani was involved "in a dishonest attempt to create a false defence" for Merchant by leaving the prison with his "written instructions" for an alibi to distance himself from the getaway car.

Days after Merchant's younger brother was sentenced to nine years for a hold-up at a convenience store, a witness in the case was hit by five bullets as he sat in a car.

Mr Dennis said the victim was lucky to survive Merchant's "act of retaliation". A friend with him was shot in the leg.

When Merchant realised that an important piece of evidence allegedly linking him with the attack was found in a car, he recruited his solicitor to help him.

Devani, 26, from Harrow, Middlesex, denied attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Merchant, from Chelsea, south-west London, denied two charges of attempted murder following a shooting near King's Cross, central London, in August 2004 and attempting to pervert justice.

He was also convicted of the latter charge