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Barrister Henry Blaxland sets up Canterbury vineyard after taking part in some of Britain's biggest cases including DJ Jonathan King and Mohammad Amir

You won't find many people keen to fight the corner of alleged murderers, terrorists and paedophiles - but it's barrister Henry Blaxland's job.

And as one of the country's leading defence QCs, he's rather good at it, earning the title of Silk of the Year in 2019.

Barrister Henry Blaxland QC (40186995)
Barrister Henry Blaxland QC (40186995)

The wily advocate's client list is like a who's who of the infamous, but he has also helped prevent many a "travesty of justice", and is renowned for his "scintillating speeches".

With a career spanning more than 40 years, he's defended the likes of paedophile former DJ Jonathan King, and Waheed Ali, who was cleared of involvement in the 7/7 London tube bombings.

Add to that list the young Pakistani fast bowler Mohammad Amir, who was convicted of spot fixing, and more recently John Letts, who sent money to his terrorist son - Jihadi Jack - in Syria.

But Henry, who lives near Canterbury , makes no apology for which side of the fence he sits on in courtrooms like the Old Bailey, robustly defending the due process of the law.

"It works on the principle that it's better for nine guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to be wrongly convicted," said the 66-year-old barrister.

Music producer Jonathan King. Copyright: kingofhits.co.uk
Music producer Jonathan King. Copyright: kingofhits.co.uk

"The question of guilt or innocence is actually irrelevant to the lawyer, but what you have to do is confront your client with the realities of their situation and let them make the choice.

"If your client says, 'I did it but I want you to get me off', you have to move on - you can't accept their instructions."

Henry has represented many notorious defendants and others who would have otherwise been the victim of serious cases of injustice.

For example, he succeeded in getting the indictment against Jonathan King for historic sexual offences stayed as an abuse of process.

"Whatever you think of Jonathan King, he was convicted of offences and served seven years, only for Jimmy Savile to come along and the police decide to look at him again," Henry said.

Henry Blaxland QC in court
Henry Blaxland QC in court

"Twenty years later they recharged King with offences they had previously decided not to proceed with. It was outrageous.

"It was an abuse of process and would have been a travesty of the law if allowed to proceed, which the judge clearly agreed."

Henry - described by industry leaders as a "formidable advocate with an unbelievable intellect" - also successfully defended Waheed Ali, who had been accused of helping the 7/7 bombers plot their targets.

Henry Blaxland defended Waheed Ali, who was accused of helping the 7/7 London tube bombers (40353183)
Henry Blaxland defended Waheed Ali, who was accused of helping the 7/7 London tube bombers (40353183)

"It would have been the mother of all miscarriages of injustices if he had been convicted, and I'm pleased he later went on to do really well for himself," Henry says.

Another widely-reported appeal case surrounded the conviction of the men in the case of the murder of 13-year-old paper boy Carl Bridgewater in 1978.

Henry was a junior barrister for defendant Michael Hickey, who after 18 years in jail had his conviction overturned on the grounds of a false confession teased out by fabricated police evidence.

"When prosecution conceded the appeal, the court was absolutely packed because there was a huge campaign to have the men freed," he said.

"Michael, who was just 17 at the time of the murder, had a breakdown following his release and went to pieces."

Michael Hickey was wrongly convicted of murdering paperboy Carl Bridgewater, pictured
Michael Hickey was wrongly convicted of murdering paperboy Carl Bridgewater, pictured

Despite representing some unsavoury characters, Henry says there are few to have earned his disdain.

"Funnily enough, I've rarely met a client over the last 40 years or so that I've really disliked although, of course, there have been others who had psychopathic personalities who were quite worrying," he said.

Henry admits there is keen rivalry between the defence and prosecution, adding: "It's a very competitive profession and you always want to win.

"It's a fantastic job because the life histories you hear are quite extraordinary and trials are often emotionally-charged settings.

Henry Blaxland in his vineyard (40320639)
Henry Blaxland in his vineyard (40320639)

"It's all about nuance and how you pitch your case, and I reckon it took me 10 years to really get the hang of it and I'm still learning."

Henry's is a career that only came about after his father advised that his dream of being an actor - cultivated while performing in reviews at university and the Edinburgh Festival - "might not be that reliable".

"One of the reasons dad steered me towards law is because he said, 'you always want to stick up for the underdog', which appealed to me," said Henry.

He then did a two-year course followed by a pupillage in what was predominately a defence practice.

Henry says he has no plans to retire from the legal profession any time soon.

Barrister Henry Blaxland QC and wife Jill
Barrister Henry Blaxland QC and wife Jill

But with many trials delayed due to Covid, he has found more time to indulge a new passion - his and wife Jill's vineyard at their home in Street End.

And he admits his guilty pleasure after downing the paperwork is a chilled Pinot Gris, which tastes all the sweeter knowing its made from their own grapes.

But in creating Heppington Vineyard, he is following in the family tradition of his great- great-great uncles, farming brothers Gregory and George Blaxland, who emigrated from Canterbury to Australia in 1806 to become the first vintners to export the country's wine to the UK.

In 2016, inspired by his pioneering family history, Henry and Jill planted just over 15 acres of vines on former blackberry fields at Street End, now known as Heppington Vineyard.

And four years later, in June, it bore fruit, with his first bottles of Pinot Gris made for the Blaxlands by contract winemakers Defined Wine at nearby Highland Court Farm.

Heppington Vineyard (40329813)
Heppington Vineyard (40329813)

Despite winning praise for their first wine, he admits he and Jill are "absolute amateurs" in vinification.

But their 15-acre vineyard is one of the larger plantations in Kent.

"We see it as our retirement project," said Jill. "It's exciting but the investment has been huge and you don't make a quick profit in this business."

The couple's land was assessed as being excellent for winemaking and they are one of the newest to the industry, which has been growing enormously in Kent in recent years.

They have planted the classic champagne varieties Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier for sparkling wine. Some 10% of the area has been planted with Pinot Gris, which has now produced their first wine, which is selling online and in farm shops and markets.

Their sparkling wines are being made by the internationally renowned winemaker Emma Rice, of Hattingley Valley.

The 2018 harvest is currently maturing on the lees and will be released as a classic cuvée in 2021, using all the grapes, including the Pinot Gris.

From the 2019 harvest, they will produce in 2022 a classic cuvée, a sparkling rosé and a Blanc de Blanc.

But right now, Henry's strolls among their vineyards are limited by the plaster in his ankle following an operation for a ruptured achilles he suffered while playing tennis.

"I've got the plaster on for eight weeks which is a bit of nuisance," he said.

"But at least I'm not due back in court for a murder trial until next January, so should be mobile by then."

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