Professional misconduct finding upheld against QC who used offensive remarks during appeal
A criminal silk has lost his appeal at the High Court against a finding by the Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service (BTAS) of professional misconduct.
The original disciplinary tribunal bought by the Bar Standards Board took place in May 2017 and found that Howard Godfrey QC, a member of 2 Bedford Row (1970 call, 1991 silk) had made ‘offensive and unnecessary’ remarks during an appeal against sentence hearing in 2015. Godfrey was found to have behaved in a way ‘likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in the profession’. He was ordered to attend a training course on Advocacy and the Vulnerable.
The comments arose during an appeal against a sentence of two years imprisonment where his client had been convicted of indecent assault on a 16 year old female. Whilst addressing the Court of Appeal in August 2015 Godfrey described the complainant as ‘not a young and innocent girl’ who was ‘not unaccustomed to drinking’. Unbeknownst to Godfrey the complainant’s mother was sat in Court when the remarks were made and made a complaint.
Godfrey, who also has a personal website at www.bestcrimbarrister.co.uk, had appealed against the finding but not the sanction. In his address to the tribunal he apologised and said:-
‘I have been in practice for 45 years, 25 of them as a QC. I have never been the subject of a complaint. I sincerely regret that my submissions caused offence to the complainant or her daughter…Whilst I knew that some of my client’s family were present and sitting in the rows behind me in the Court of Appeal, I was unaware of the complainant or her daughter’.
In dismissing the appeal Lady Justice Sharp and Mr Justice Spencer commented that ‘We are conscious of the appellant’s lengthy and otherwise unblemished legal career. However, regrettably, we are satisfied that the tribunal was entitled, indeed right to reach the conclusions that it did.’
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