The lord chief justice has referred a QC who describes himself as ‘the UK’s top criminal barrister’ to the Bar Standards Board for ‘unprofessional’ and ‘ill-judged’ conduct during a murder trial.
Michael Wolkind QC, a barrister at 2 Bedford Row, was referred to the regulator after multi-millionaire Robert Ekaireb attempted to challenge a murder conviction on the basis that he was not properly represented at trial.
Ekaireb was given a 22-year jail term for the murder of his wife. His wife’s body was never discovered and the prosecution case was based on circumstantial evidence.
Giving judgment on appeal, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (pictured) said that during the trial Wolkind had made ‘patronising and inappropriate attempts at humour’, given ‘unwarranted and unjustifiable’ criticism of the prosecution, and failed to engage with the prosecution's arguments. It was contended that this was as a result of failure to prepare before the trial and a lack of engagement with the case.
It was also noted that, while the prosecution wrote a detailed 17-page submission arguing that there was a case to answer, Wolkind’s submission against this was nine paragraphs long, amounting to a page and a half.
Lord Thomas described the document as ‘lamentable’.
He added: ‘It was a wholly inadequate response to what had been prepared on behalf of the prosecution; it was not the submission required to support the argument in a case where the evidence was entirely circumstantial. It was not just an error of judgement, but represented a serious failure on the part of Mr Wolkind.’
Although Wolkind’s conduct did not reach ‘a level of competence that called into the question the fairness of the trial’, Lord Thomas said the BSB should consider whether his conduct during the trial fell within the proper bounds of professional standards.
Thomas also referred the silk to the BSB over his personal website, under the address www.topcriminalqc.com, which Ekaireb cited as the main reason he chose to instruct Wolkind.
The LCJ said ‘we were surprised at its content and tone’, and said the BSB should consider whether it was ‘within the proper bounds of professional conduct for a member of the bar, particularly one who has had since 1999 the status of being one of Her Majesty’s Counsel’.
Thomas also voiced his concern about the personal comments Wolkind made about his opposing advocates in a closing speech to the jury.
He described this as a ‘regrettable departure from proper standards of advocacy’ and said ‘no court will tolerate its continuance’.