Eugene Hogan THE controversial UK-based lawyer accused by Chief Justice John Murray on Monday of having "an ignorance of Irish law" has hit back by issuing defamation proceedings against him in the English courts.
Giovanni Di Stefano, a one-time legal representative of Slobodan Milosevic, said it was "with deep regret" that he was lodging the proceedings for what he described as a deliberate attack on him by the Chief Justice.
And he bizarrely claimed that Mr Justice Murray must step down from his post until the action is determined.
The defamation action relates to comments made by Mr Justice Murray from the bench as he deferred ruling on an application by convicted gangster Patrick 'Dutchy' Holland to have Mr Di Stefano as his legal representative in his miscarriage of justice claim before the Court of Criminal Appeal.
The Chief Justice said he had received a letter from Mr Di Stefano and it was "improper" for anyone to write directly to a judge involved in a proceeding. Furthermore, Mr Justice Murray said, the letter displayed an "ignorance of Irish law".
Last week Mr Justice Murray directed that Mr Di Stefano must file an affidavit setting out his qualifications and status and in which member state of the EU he is established as a lawyer. The Chief Justice said on Monday there was still no compliance with that direction.
In a statement yesterday, Mr Di Stefano referred to Mr Justice Murray as a brilliant lawyer, astute academic and highly rated jurist but said the letter his firm wrote to the Chief Justice was "neither scandalous nor ignorant of Irish law".
He said the Chief Justice chose to "attack me knowing the consequences and the media presence. It follows that the law must take its course and, as such, a claim for defamation has been filed and accepted in the English courts."
Mr Justice Murray will rule this week on Holland's application to have Mr Di Stefano as his legal representative in the upcoming case.
Mr Di Stefano has taken on the cases of some of Ireland's most notorious criminals over the past year, with his list of clients around the world - including Saddam Hussein and killer doctor Harold Shipman - earning him the nickname the "devil's advocate".