Howard Godfrey, QC, challenges ruling over offensive remarks in sex assault case
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A senior barrister who was reprimanded for making “offensive” remarks about a teenage sex assault victim is challenging the ruling in the High Court.
Howard Godfrey, QC, of 2 Bedford Row chambers in London, said that the 16-year-old girl, who had been plied with alcohol and sexually assaulted, was “not unaccustomed” to drinking and was “not a young, innocent girl”.
The comments were part of his submissions during a hearing at the Court of Appeal in July 2015, when he argued that the offender's sentence should be reduced.
Although he did not realise at the time, the girl’s mother was in court and later complained about his remarks.
The Bar Standards Board, the profession’s watchdog in England and Wales, brought proceedings against him and a disciplinary panel found that his comments implied the victim bore responsibility for the assault and were “offensive and unnecessary”.
Godfrey, who was called in 1970, promoted to silk in 1991 and to sit as a recorder in a year later, was reprimanded in May and ordered to complete a training course within a year.
Challenging the finding, his lawyers told two judges at the High Court in London that he had received no other complaints in his career.
The Press Association reported that Godfrey’s chambers-mate, Ian Stern, QC, represented him, telling the court that he was “on any view, doing what he considered to be his duty in advancing his client’s interests and instructions to the best of his ability. No one has suggested that his intention was to gratuitously offend or insult anyone.”
However, James Counsell, QC, of Outer Temple Chambers, representing the barrister watchdog, said that Godfrey’s comments were irrelevant to the issues in the appeal hearing.
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”.
Hearing the case in the High Court, Lady Justice Sharp and Mr Justice Spencer reserved judgment.