A ‘medical condition’ was to blame
A barrister and former UKIP candidate who was reprimanded for acting inappropriately towards three different women at a chambers summer party has had the decision overturned by the High Court.
Last summer a Bar Standards Board (BSB) disciplinary report revealed how Stephen Howd — who was a tenant at Leeds’ Zenith Chambers at the time — took the hand of an unnamed woman and “attempted to kiss her on or near the lips”. Later that same evening he suggested they dance “crotch to crotch”. Intoxicated, Howd — who was suspended by UKIP after the incident came to light — was also found to have acted improperly towards two other female colleagues that evening.
Howd was eventually fined £1,800 by the BSB and ordered to pay costs of £400. Now, the Oxford-educated barrister has successfully appealed the decision.
Representing himself alongside Anton Lodge QC, Howd — who is a commercial and property law specialist — argued that the tribunal had misinterpreted and failed to give due regard to his “medical condition”. The condition is described as “confidential” and is not disclosed within the judgment.
The tribunal had found that Howd’s “excessive consumption of alcohol drove him to act as he did and his medical condition did not make a significant contribution to his conduct”, in the High Court’s words.
But Mrs Justice Lane, sitting in the Queen’s Bench Division of the Administrative Court, didn’t agree. Thanks in part to further evidence submitted by Howd, she said “his inappropriate, and at times offensive, behaviour was a consequence of his medical condition.” Continuing, she added that the medical evidence:
[E]stablished that his excessive consumption of alcohol was very likely to have been a response to the onset of his medical condition, and it probably had the unfortunate consequence of exacerbating his disinhibition and loss of judgment. In these circumstances, Mr Howd’s behaviour plainly was not reprehensible, morally culpable or disgraceful, as it was caused by factors beyond his control. In my judgment, it did not reach the threshold for a finding of serious professional misconduct.
Howd, who lost to Labour in Scunthorpe in the general election back in 2015, is no longer a member of Zenith Chambers and operates his own law firm called Howd Law.
A BSB spokesperson, commenting on the latest news, told Legal Cheek:
We note the judgment of the Court. Whilst disappointed, we have no further comment.
Read the judgment in full below:
For all the latest news, features, events and jobs, sign up to Legal Cheek’s weekly newsletter here.