Blow-by-blow report of the renowned dust-up between a flamboyant Harry Potter-style solicitor-advocate and a belligerent member of the bench reveals both sides were a bit shakey on their facts
The full transcript (embedded below) has been released of the now infamous hearing in which a Crown Court judge carpeted Lord Harley of Counsel for appearing before him in a get-up reminiscent of a Harry Potter character — and neither party comes out looking that clever.
The 28 August 2014 hearing at Cardiff Crown Court created a media storm around the flamboyant solicitor-advocate and his LinkedIn CV, which lists a stream of honours and other qualifications.
So gob-smacked have been some lawyers that Lord Harley — also known as Alan Blacker — has been referred to professional regulators, with allegations suggesting he has over-egged his credentials.
But Blacker has defended his position vociferously — and the court transcript reveals that Judge Wynn Morgan is himself not exactly up to speed with the structure and regulation of the modern legal profession.
Lord Harley devotees will recall that the fun kicked off that day at the end of a hearing involving a charge of death by dangerous driving. A string of ribbons and badges on Lord Harley’s gown attracted the judge’s attention.
On establishing that Blacker was not a barrister but a solicitor-advocate, Judge Morgan states:
“My understanding is that solicitor-advocates are regulated by The Law Society.”
Lord Harley (as Blacker is referred to in the court transcript) immediately, and accurately, puts the judge right. “That is not correct, your honour,” he says confidently, which only further enrages the man on the bench.
“I want this clear,” barks back Judge Morgan. “You are asserting that solicitor advocates are not regulated by the Law Society?”
“That is quite correct, sir,” confirms Blacker. “Solicitors have not been regulated by the Law Society for the last 12 years. They have, instead, been represented and regulated by the Solicitor Regulation Authority.”
Of course, Blacker lets himself down on that point, as the reality is that the Legal Services Act 2007 created the SRA, and while it regulates solicitors, the Law Society represents the profession.
Call it a score draw so far.
Then the judge got into a spot of difficulty over the title of “senior counsel”, which Blacker ascribes to himself. “In my experience,” pontificates the judge, pointing out that he has been in practice since 1978, “the only area where I have ever heard anybody described as ‘senior counsel’ is the rank of leading counsel in South Africa.”
Fair enough — SC is unquestionably a title in the South African legal profession. But it is also widely used across several other prominent common law jurisdictions, such as Australia, Ireland, Hong Kong and Singapore. Indeed, the Kiwis switched from Queen’s Counsel to SC several years ago, but then, in a rush of fondness for the old country, the New Zealand bar authorities switched back.
But it is the ribbons and badges that really got on Judge Morgan’s wick.
“If you ever appear before this court again dressed as you are at the moment,” barked the judge, “I shall exercise my right to decline to hear you. … if you want to come into court looking like something out of Harry Potter, you can forget coming into this court ever again. Do I make myself clear?”
According to the transcript, Blacker appeared to be keen to carry on the tussle, responding with a “Your Honour…” But by that stage Judge Morgan had had a bellyful.
“I am going to rise,” he states. And he did.
Those hoping the SRA would get its head quickly round the issue of Blacker’s behaviour and claimed qualifications remain frustrated. Despite the authority cogitating over the issue since the end of last summer, it doesn’t seem to have made much progress.
In a statement yesterday to Legal Cheek, an SRA spokesman said simply:
“The case is still open, our investigation has yet to conclude.”
As for south Wales’s most notorious advocate himself — Blacker too had short shrift for this publication:
“Dear Sirs and Mesdames,” he wrote to Legal Cheek. “His Lordship makes no comments to the gutter press.”
Lord Harley Vs Crown Court judge — the transcript in full
The transcript first appeared on the LawBytes messageboard.
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