A message from the Court of Appeal: Stop with the ‘grandiloquent’ advocacy

Avatar photo

By Katie King on

Aspiring advocates, take note


The Court of Appeal has some words of wisdom for aspiring barristers out there: grandiose, pretentious advocacy isn’t cool.

No matter how impressed you may be by over the top, theatre-like courtroom manner, the top court thinks there is no place for “grandiloquent, rhetorical and at times almost facetious” advocacy in modern criminal trials (though we did find it ironic the court decided to illustrate this point using such pretentious language).

The man who prompted Lord Justice Davis to make these damning comments is Counsel’s Chambers barrister David Leathley, who was accused of conducting a short criminal trial in 2014 in a “wholly incompetent and misguided” way.

Though the appeal court stopped short of ruling that his eccentric behaviour jeopardised the safety of the original jury verdict, it did agree the cross-examination conducted by Leathley was “unduly prolix” and in many ways “ill-presented”.

The Lord Justice also didn’t have much nice to say about the Bedfordshire based barrister’s closing speech. He said:

It is complained that [the speech] was put in a grossly hyperbolical as well as in an unfocussed and unstructured way.

He continued:

[I]n the course of certain illustration which Mr Leathley had sought to make in his speech, he had made reference to the ‘Spastics Society’. That is a name which has not officially been used for over 20 years and is capable, in some quarters at least, of giving rise to offence… [I]n addition, the jury note also complained that Mr Leathley’s ‘ramblings have been a dreadful waste of court time’.

This isn’t the first time Leathley has made waves since he was called to the bar in 1980.

Described on his chambers profile as “tenacious”, the criminal defence specialist was reprimanded by the Bar Standards Board a few years back for impersonating a QC colleague of his. Not long before, he lost a long-winded appeal against a £30 parking ticket, which ultimately ended up costing him £815.