Bar cracks down on court conduct

A GROWTH in the number of fierce attacks by barristers on colleagues' behaviour in court has led the Bar Council to draw up new professional rules governing such criticism.

David Penry-Davey QC, Bar Council deputy chair, is heading an inquiry into the trend of counsel-to-counsel hostilities and aims to have new guidelines available in October.

A draft practice direction is now being considered by the Lord Chief Justice which, if accepted, will extend the White Book rules governing court procedure and conduct.

A Bar Council spokesman says: “We felt that while it's important in some cases for counsel to be able to ring in where relevant about the performance of certain counsel, they have to be careful.”

Criminal Bar Association chair Anne Rafferty QC, commenting on the trend, says: “It ought to be fundamentally unwelcome to the profession, which should pride itself on higher standards.”

The Bar's inquiry follows several recent high-profile cases of counsel clashing over each other's performance.

Gordon Pollock QC criticised Nicholas Purnell QC's handling of the Sheila Bowler murder trial in 1993 after being called in to take the appeal. Richard Hartley QC attacked George Carmen QC during the Mona Bauwens libel trial in 1992 and David Cocks QC made a formal complaint to the Bar Council about Jonathan Goldberg QC's alleged misleading of the Roger Levitt fraud trial jury in 1993.

v John Perry, of Goldkorn Mathias Davies, Levitt's solicitor, informed David Cocks QC that he is making a complaint to the Bar Council about his alleged role in the misleading of Parliament and public over conduct of the trial. “My own integrity was questioned by earlier answers given by Cocks. I don't think it's a matter one can continue to ignore,” says Perry. MPs have also referred the matter to the council.