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BSB in sexual assault appeal over offensive remarks


On 12 December 2017, James Counsell QC represented the Bar Standards Board to respond to an appeal brought by Howard Godfrey QC against a decision of the Disciplinary Tribunal of the Council of the Inns of Court. The Tribunal had found that Mr Godfrey was guilty of professional misconduct as a result of comments he had made in the Criminal Court of Appeal about a 16 year-old sexual assault victim which were offensive, unnecessary and implied that she bore responsibility for the assault committed on her by her stepfather.

The High Court (Lady Justice Sharp and Mr Justice Spencer) heard that Mr Godfrey, a criminal barrister, called in 1970 and a QC since 1991, had told the Court of Appeal, during the course of an application for permission to appeal a sentence, that the girl was “not unaccustomed to drinking” and was “not a young, innocent girl”. Unknown to him, the girl’s mother was in court to hear what was said and promptly made a complaint to the BSB.

During the course of submissions to the High Court, James Counsell QC said that Mr Godfrey’s comments were irrelevant to the issues in the appeal hearing and were gratuitous and offensive. He added that lawyers representing sex offenders must take care to “avoid the risk of giving the impression that the victim of such an offence was in some way responsible for what took place, when she was not”.

The Court has reserved judgment.

A full press release is available to read here.

Barristers: James Counsell QC
Categories: News