Army officer fights advocacy 'test case'

Army officer and solicitor Lt Col Stephen Vowles, who has applied for rights of audience in the higher courts, is hoping that his application will be a 'test case' for other service lawyers.

Vowles tried to arrange a block exemption from the Law Society's training programme for the army's 29 solicitors on the strength of their considerable experience before service court martials.

But Vowles was told that each case must be judged on its merits, so he has submitted his own application.

“If I am successful I hope other service lawyers will also be encouraged to put in a bid for rights of audience,” he says.

Vowles, a former local government solicitor who has prosecuted minor offences through to murder, will find out next month if his 12 years of advocacy experience with the army will allow him to bypass the Law Society's training and examination programme.

But even if successful, as an employed solicitor he will still be barred from being able to exercise his rights before the higher courts.

Vowles says that he is applying for his own “professional satisfaction”, but he adds that the qualification could be useful for service lawyers returning to civilian life or if the restriction on employed solicitors is lifted.