Is It OK For Barristers To Call Their Client a ‘Slag’?

This morning, I tweeted a story about a barrister who’d described his client as a "slag".

Referring to a CCTV film of the client lifting her skirt and flirting with three men who she is then alleged to have taken to murder her wealthy husband, Stuart Rafferty QC stated in his closing speech:

"You’ve all seen the footage in the Crates and Grapes [wine bar]. She’s a slag, it’s a terrible thing to have to say, it’s an awful word. But it doesn’t make her guilty of murder."

Did Rafferty really have to call his client this "awful word"?

The barrister Twitterati was divided on the correctness of the Furnival Chambers silk's approach.

Scrapper Duncan quipped: "Why not, if it is factually accurate? I called one of my clients a moron once, although later on I discovered he was an idiot."

He continued: "Is counsel's prerogative to say what s/he thinks appropriate."

A Common Lawyer added: "'She's a slag but you can't convict her of murder because you don't approve' is a good tactic in closing IMHO...and chances are good the language, or at least the general tone, was discussed in con."

Jonsp27, however, wasn’t impressed. In response to my question, "Is it OK for barristers to call their client a ‘slag’?", he wrote: "I would say 'no'".

Nor did Just Counsel rate Rafferty's style, tweeting: "would he have called a husband a slag? Thought not."

Meanwhile, Hardwicke Buildings barrister James Watthey chipped in dryly: "Someone's been watching too much ‪#Silk"

I emailed the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to get their views, and they said: "I think this comes down to the client and if they are happy or not with the advocacy approach (service given). If the client objected then it is something they could make a service complaint about to the Legal Ombudsman (OLC)."

5 Responses to “Is It OK For Barristers To Call Their Client a ‘Slag’?”

  1. anon

    Well done, Rafferty. You're right up there with Texan lawyers who describe their own clients with the N-bomb.

    If only sexist slurs attracted the same criminal liability as racist slurs, maybe we could have Rafferty in the dock.

    The BSB's response? "It depends on whether the 'consumer' is happy"?

    Clowns.

    Reply
  2. Saiful Islam

    Clearly Mr Rafferty was trying to emphasise the point that inappropriate behaviour by his client or behaving like a slag may be disliked but that behaviour however much one might find distasteful is not a reason to conclude that she is a murderer. I wouldn't have used the word slag but if she was acquitted then she shouldn't complain.

    Reply
  3. CS

    Leaving aside the propriety issue, I think it's a high risk strategy using such a pejorative label. A jury could form a very unfavourable view of her and it is a short hop from this to believing her capable of murder.

    He could have described her behaviour in another more sympathetic way: Attention seeking, lonely, whatever but "slag" is like calling someone "evil". It doesn't explain anything or make them seem human to a jury, it's just a highly negative label. I think using it in trial is daft more than anything else.

    Reply
  4. David S

    It's a purely tactical choice - what does he think will work best with the jury?

    The reports of this case suggest that her behaviour was pretty appalling. In those circumstances, I can't see how he is to be criticised for confronting it head on.

    Reply
  5. wetta

    It's a purely tactical choice - what does he think will work best with the jury?

    The reports of this case suggest that her behaviour was pretty appalling. In those circumstances, I can't see how he is to be criticised for confronting it head on.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)