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Top QC accused of victim-blaming sex attack survivor

17th May 2017

A top silk has been lambasted after he placed responsibility on a victim for her own sexual assault at the hand of her stepfather, a disciplinary tribunal has found.

Howard Godfrey made comments that were found to be ‘offensive and unnecessary’ according to the Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service.

The QC has been representing a client who was eventually sentenced for sexual assault after attacking his stepdaughter. Godfrey, a member of 2 Bedford Row, made the remarks as part of an appeal against sentence back in 2015.

The tribunal concluded that Godfrey’s behaviour was ‘likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in the profession’ in a decision finalised last Friday. The case had been brought to the Bar Standards Board by bar regulator. Godfrey was subsequently ordered to enrol on a training course on ‘advocacy and the vulnerable’.

Godfrey is considered one of the UK’s top criminal barristers and reportedly has a reputation of being a ‘master strategist and supreme tactician’ according to his online profile.

Following recent high-profile cases, the behaviour of lawyers in sex-related cases has become an increasingly important issue. A case involving Ched Evans, a well-known footballer, is just one example, in which his conviction for rape was overturned. The victim was repeatedly and unsympathetically questioned about her past sexual activity.

Lawyers who put witnesses in rape trials through gruelling ordeals of cross-examination are dying out, according to former Old Bailey Judge His Honour Peter Rook QC in an article in The Times newspaper last week. Rook put it down to a ‘massive culture change’, as cross-examination techniques have been changed so that ‘special measures’ are now available to protect vulnerable witnesses. Victims can now give recorded evidence or testify from behind screens.