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

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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).”