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On 7th June 2022, the Disciplinary Tribunal of the Bar Standards Agency suspendeda leading barrister over professional misconduct allegations submitted by the Bar Standards Board. 

What Were The Allegations?

To understand why the barrister was suspended it is necessary to look back to a 2005 murder trial which took place at Coventry Crown Court where the barrister acted as counsel. The case involved five individuals who were eventually convicted of a murder which had occurred in the city of Coventry. The Crown Court judge handed down prison sentences which were collectively around one-hundred-and-fifty-years. However, this was not the end of the criminal proceedings as in 2007 another individual received just short of fifteen years for witness intimidation. 

However, this is where the case became interesting as during the second trial the witness claimed that the sixth man had been at a Nottingham railway station. However, this was far from being true as evidence emerged demonstrating that the witness’s allegations were false. However, the evidence proved that instead of being in Nottingham, the sixth person convicted was over fifty miles away in Coventry. This cast doubt over the criminal conviction of the sixth individual. 

This was not the end of matters for the barrister as evidence, which had originally emerged in 2005, which cast significant doubt over the evidence in the witness intimidation case. When the case was eventually heard by the Court of Appeal in 2014, around seven years after the sentence had been imposed intimidating the main witness in the proceedings the esteemed appeal court judges took a dim view of the barrister’s conduct. They commented on the barrister’s shortcomings and described his conduct as deplorable. They elaborated further by strongly criticising his decision not to communicate honestly the fact that he knew about the existence of the location evidence which was critical to the case. 

What Punishment Did The Barrister Receive?

The Disciplinary Tribunal suspended the barrister and imposed a costs order of around twenty-thousand-pounds. The matter was taken so seriously by the Disciplinary Tribunal as the decision by the leading barrister not to communicate openly and honestly about the evidence against the witness was damaging to the prosecution case as the barrister knew or ought to have known that the Crown Prosecution Service possessed evidence supporting the witness’s account. This proved that the person was in Coventry rather than Nottingham when the incident occurred. The Tribunal found this to be an error as the:

  • barrister’s behaviour was detrimental to the fairness of justice
  • decision not to help the court administer justice effectively
  • main witness’s evidence was eroded
  • sixth person’s conviction was now shaky and
  • was eventually quashed by the Court of Appeal. 

Was the Sixth Person Convicted Compensated?

The Crown Prosecution Service recognised that the sixth person convicted in these proceedings had been convicted in error and settled the matter for around one-hundred-thousand pounds because he had been incarcerated in a prison for six-years due to an unsafe conviction.

What Action Should Lawyer Be Taking after This Case?

A legal professional should take their disclosure obligations seriously. There is a duty of disclosure enshrined in law and in professional conduct which places the following duties on lawyers such as:

  • acting with honesty and integrity
  • presenting evidence which strengthens their respective client’s case
  • disclosing evidence which undermines the client’s case 
  • avoiding covering-up evidence which may weaken the client’s case and
  • supporting the court to effectively administer justice. 

If legal professionals conducted themselves as suggested they will avoid being disciplined by the respective regulator and there will be safer convictions.

ASSESSING FIRMS

#DLAPiper #CliffordChance #HoganLovells #Linklaters #Allen&Overy #Latham&Watkins #FreshfieldBrukhausDeringer #Ashurst #NortonRoseFulbright

THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES 

[SOURCE 1] Tobin, Sam – Top criminal silk suspended over ‘lamentable’ disclosure – Law Society Gazette – 8 June 2022 - Top criminal silk suspended over ‘lamentable’ disclosure failings | News | Law Gazette

[SOURCE 2] Conrad Steven Jones v Regina [2014] EWCA Crim 1337 - Jones v R [2014] EWCA Crim 1337 (04 July 2014) (bailii.org)

[SOURCE 3] Bowcott, Owen – CPS to pay six-figure sum to man over wrongful conviction – 6 October 2016 – The Guardian - CPS to pay six-figure sum to man over wrongful conviction | Crown Prosecution Service | The Guardian

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