Barrister Rebuked for Impersonating Top QC

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By Alex Aldridge on

Yesterday the High Court dismissed barrister David Leathley’s appeal against the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) finding that he had “intentionally claimed to be Mr Joel Bennathan QC”.

Here’s the back-story. In 2007, Leathley (pictured) of Cambria Chambers in Cardiff pretended to be Joel Bennathan QC, of Tooks Chambers in London, in a bid to contact a court clerk whose accusation of rudeness formed the basis of a disciplinary hearing against him.

Believing the clerk was faking illness as an excuse not to attend the hearing, Leathley called the courts office and demanded to speak to her – impersonating the voice of Bennathan, who was investigating the dispute. Having been told that the clerk was not immediately available, Leathley made the mistake of leaving his own phone number – which was recognised by the office.

During yesterday’s appeal hearing in the High Court, Leathley claimed that his antics represented an acceptable “ruse de guerre” and that criminal lawyers “develop a nose” for such things. But the judge, Mr Justice Ian Burnett, had little time for his arguments, dismissing an appeal that he said there was “no merit” in.

Leathley is no stranger to losing long-winded disputes. A year ago he was unsuccesful with an appeal on a £30 parking ticket, with the arduous court process he initiated to challenge the fine ultimately costing him £815. Perhaps Leathley’s misplaced sense of what’s winnable stems from over-reflection on some of the praise from clients which he has chosen to re-publish on his chambers website. Here are a couple:

The mother of a client twice acquitted of serious violence wrote: ‘We could not have asked for a more superior barrister & more than that David, you are a genuinely compassionate person too. Thanks also for being you!’

Steve Newcombe of The Smith Partnership sent David a text message, ‘Well Done! I understand they are selling Leathley silks and other souvenirs on the steps of Leicester Crown Court.’