A barrister who failed to advise her client to appeal a rape conviction – only for him to be acquitted under new lawyers – has been cleared of professional negligence by the High Court.
Rebecca Bradberry, who was called to the bar in 1996 and is now a recorder on the Western Circuit, was accused by Iain Torrance of breach of duty. Torrance alleged that Bradberry’s handling of his case in 2013 was ‘woefully inadequate’ and contended that with competent representation he either would have been acquitted or would have stood a better chance of acquittal in the original trial.
Torrance was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in 2013 after a unanimous jury verdict found him guilty of rape. Bradberry gave negative advice as to the merits of an appeal against conviction. However, under different counsel and a new firm of solicitors, Torrance was acquitted at a re-trial two years later.
In judgment, Mr Justice Jay said Bradberry was not to blame for the claimant’s conviction, adding that she was a ‘good and credible witness’. He dismissed all the claimant’s allegations of breach of duty. Torrance’s loss of a chance claim also failed.
’If it is any consolation to him, I endorse the defendant’s view that the claimant should not have been convicted of the offence of rape on 22nd July 2013. The jury ought not to have been sure of this guilt. But there were many reasons for the claimant’s conviction and I cannot know all of them. What I do know is that it has not been proved that this was the defendant’s fault,’ he said.
Jay J said Bradberry’s failure to advise Torrance that he had reasonable prospects of appealing the conviction was ‘slightly more troubling’ but did not find that the barrister had committed breach of duty.
‘In my opinion, what has happened here is not so much that the claimant has decided that someone must pay and therefore the ends justify the means – he will lie to get his just desserts – but rather that he has persuaded himself by excessive rumination that certain things happened when they did not.
‘This process has been reinforced by his private interactions and discussions with his partner which, albeit entirely comprehensible at a human level, have led to a complete loss of objectivity.’