Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Dear Baroness Deech,
I am writing to express my concern that barrister Robert Colover may have violated the Bar Standards Board’s code of conduct when representing the Crown in the sentencing of Neil Wilson for sexual activity with a child on Monday 5th August 2013 at Snaresbrook Crown Court. He referred to the 13 year-old victim of the crime as “predatory” and “sexually experienced”. The clear meaning of such words is that the child victim was not only complicit in the crime inflicted upon her, but that it was she who manipulated the perpetrator.
The Crown Prosecution Service has acknowledged that the language was “inappropriate”. I would go further than that and suggest that it has brought the profession into disrepute and could deter vulnerable victims from coming forward in future.
I would therefore be grateful if the Board could examine whether the following articles of the Code have been breached in this instance:
301. A barrister must have regard to paragraph 104 and must not:
(a) engage in conduct whether in pursuit of his profession or otherwise which is:
(i) … discreditable to a barrister; or
(iii) likely to diminish public confidence in the legal profession or the administration of justice or otherwise bring the legal profession into disrepute;
303. A barrister:
(a) must promote and protect fearlessly and by all proper and lawful means the lay client’s best interests and do so without regard to his own interests or to any consequences to himself or to any other person (including any colleague, professional client or other intermediary or another barrister, the barrister’s employer or any Authorised Body of which the barrister may be an owner or manager);
Conduct in Court
708. A barrister when conducting proceedings in Court:
(a) is personally responsible for the conduct and presentation of his case and must exercise personal judgement upon the substance and purpose of statements made and questions asked;
I am copying this letter to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve QC, the Head of the Bar Council, Maura McGowan QC and the Director of the Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC.
Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury