Michael Wolkind QC’s “inappropriate attempts at humour” during murder trial will also be scrutinised by Bar Standards Board
The Court of Appeal has referred the “UK’s top barrister” to his regulator over concerns regarding his renowned personal website.
In a judgment released yesterday, the Lord Chief Justice asked the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to consider whether Michael Wolkind QC’s online presence had breached professional standards.
Wolkind QC — a tenant Gray’s Inn’s 2 Bedford Row — hit headlines back in 2012 when Legal Cheek revealed that he had created a somewhat self-indulgent website (screenshot below), boldly trumpeting that he was the “UK’s top barrister”.
Now the website, that contains a number of gushing and often bizarre endorsements from previous clients, may have landed the top silk in hot water. One apparently thrilled client is quoted as saying:
You are the most talented man I have ever met… you have given me my life back… you are awesome.
Having presumably taken the time to log on and peruse “www.topcriminalqc.co.uk“, Lord Thomas — the most senior judge in England and Wales — said:
Our attention was drawn to Mr Wolkind’s personal website. We were surprised at its content and tone. However whether it is within the proper bounds of professional conduct for a member of the bar, particularly one who has had since 1999 the status of being one of Her Majesty’s Counsel, is a matter which we direct be referred to the Bar Standards Board for their consideration.
Lord Thomas’ judgment comes after allegations suggested Wolkind QC was “wholly incompetent” in representing a multi-millionaire property developer client who was found guilty of murdering his pregnant wife.
Robert Ekaireb — who was slapped with a 22-year prison sentence — apparently chose Wolkind QC after recommendations and internet research.
Representing Ekaireb at his appeal hearing, 2 Hare Court’s Orlando Pownall QC lambasted his fellow silk, telling the Court of Appeal that he had “failed Mr Ekaireb”.
Wolkind — who was called to the bar in 1976 and took silk in 1999 — denied the allegations, telling the court in late November that he had put up a “real fight” while defending the property tycoon last year at the Old Bailey.
Lord Thomas, having heard both arguments, made specific reference to Wolkind QC’s handling of the closing speech, saying:
We accept as amply justified the criticism made by Mr Pownall that it was ill-judged, patronising and contained inappropriate attempts at humour.
However, continuing, Lord Thomas said:
It did not reach a level of incompetence that called into question the fairness of the trial or safety of the conviction.
Lord Thomas, having reached this view, felt it was inappropriate to make more general findings, instead referring Wolkind QC’s conduct and preparation of the case — along with his colourful website — to the BSB.
Ekaireb was given leave to appeal against conviction, but not sentence. Wolkind QC did not respond to Legal Cheek’s request for comment.
Read the judgment in full below: