A barrister of more than 25 years’ call has been suspended for four months over her interactions with a judge during a trial.
Jacqueline Vallejo, while acting as defence counsel at Snaresbrook Crown Court in 2016, was found to have behaved in a ‘rude and unprofessional manner’ by the Bar Tribunals & Adjudication Services.
This constituted a failure to observe her duty to the court, concluded a three-person panel. The decision is open to appeal.
The tribunal found that Vallejo refused to engage with prosecution counsel in attempts to agree a schedule and, when she was ordered by the judge to do so, replied that she would not comply. She said to the judge: ‘If Your Honour wants to do anything about me and my conduct that’s fine… not a problem at all… so if Your Honour wants to report me then so be it… I’d rather you do it sooner rather than later though.’
When the judge stated that they would not delay or distract from the trial, Vallejo had replied: ‘Well that’s exactly what Your Honour is doing.’
In submissions to the judge, the barrister said: ‘Don’t try to make me sound like an idiot’ and when asked to sit down, she responded: ‘I was going to sit down, I didn’t need Your Honour to tell me’.
Once the trial began, the tribunal said Vallejo adopted an ‘abrupt and disrespectful and unhelpful tone, attitude and approach towards the judge’ and was unduly argumentative with her. During one interaction in relation to a defence statement, Vallejo said: ‘I cannot force my client to provide a defence statement. What part of that does Your Honour not understand?’
On another date, the barrister talked over the judge and, when the judge had summarised evidence given by a witness, stated in front of the jury that it was ‘absolute rubbish’ before saying to the judge: ‘Is Your Honour giving evidence?’
Vallejo, called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1997, was suspended and ordered to pay £2,000 costs to the Bar Standards Board.