The High Court has upheld a finding of professional misconduct against a criminal silk who was judged by a disciplinary tribunal to have implied in court that a 16-year-old victim of sex assault victim bore some kind of responsibility for her attack.
In a decision handed down last week, the court dismissed the appeal by Howard Godfrey QC against the finding by the Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service (BTAS) last year.
Godfrey, who was representing a man sentenced for sexually assaulting the girl, was found by the tribunal to have made ‘offensive and unnecessary’ comments. He was reprimanded and ordered to attend a training course on ‘advocacy and the vulnerable’. Godfrey appealed against the finding of guilt but not against the sanction.
The offence in question occured in 2015 when the QC, a member of 2 Bedford Row, was making submissions in an appeal against his client’s sentence. The tribunal’s ruling, in May last year, found Godfrey that had behaved in a way ‘likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in the profession’.
In judgment the court noted that Godfrey’s comments had been picked up by the media. According to the judgment, one local newspaper report of the hearing recorded (accurately) Godfrey’s remarks that ‘This [the victim] was not a young and innocent girl’ and that she was ‘not unaccustomed to drinking.’
The judgment, by Lady Justice Sharp and Mr Justice Spencer, noted that the tribunal reached the clear conclusion that the breach passed the threshold of seriousness required to establish professional misconduct. It added: ‘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.’