Continuing allegations of young advocates being bullied are a serious matter. It makes me ponder how many of today’s barristers would have fared in the days of judges like Lord Goddard and Melford Stevenson.

Morton landscape

James Morton

The two would pick on one counsel in a multi-handed case to make the target of their judicial wit. This was particularly so if there were a number of silks and only one junior. In the first Kray trial, over which Stevenson presided, his butt was the jewel-bedecked Sir Lionel Tennyson Thompson, in line to inherit the baronetcy created for the poet.

Stevenson continually referred to Thompson as ‘Mr Thompson’ and, when corrected, ‘Sir Thompson’. Eventually John Platts-Mills QC, who was appearing for Ronnie Kray, intervened and said the proper address was ‘Sir Lionel’, something which Stevenson knew well. It was an intervention which did Platts-Mills no favours.

One man who in his later years at the bar had no time for judges was James Averill. The former army officer refused to stand when a judge entered the courtroom, instead pretending to search for dropped papers. By then he had fallen under the spell of Gladys Spearman-Cook, who founded the School of Universal Philosophy and Healing in 1946. Spearman-Cook claimed to receive instructions from her spirit guide, Ra-Men-Ra, who relayed communications from various higher entities, including The Lord of the Scorpio Hierarchy, the Great Eagle.

First, Averill changed his name to John and then to Spearman-Cook before, in 1958, a spirit guide told him he should have had mariage blanc with Iv Eng Seng, who had been brought to England by the Cambodian ambassador after she had won third place in the1955 Miss Cambodia contest.

The last I heard of Averill was that he was wanted for the attempted theft of the cross from the altar of a Catholic church in Kensington. He had apparently been chased down the High Street until he found sanctuary in a school. By that time he had left his chambers – or they had left him.

James Morton is a writer and former criminal defence solicitor