The Chase: TV quiz show barrister handed £2,500 fine for failing to properly advise client

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By Thomas Connelly on

Shaun Wallace admitted breaching BSB rules


A criminal barrister, famed for his regular television appearances on ITV quiz show The Chase, has been slapped with a £2,500 fine after failing to properly advise a client.

Shaun Wallace — who goes by the title ‘Dark Destroyer’ on the gameshow — admitted four counts of failing to act conscientiously, diligently and with reasonable competence at a Bar Standards Board (BSB) disciplinary hearing yesterday.

The case dates back to 2013 when Wallace represented his client, Jamie McCarthy, who was facing a charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. On the day of the trial — just before the jury was due to be sworn in — McCarthy switched his plea to guilty, and was handed a nine-year stint at her majesty’s pleasure.

Apparently unhappy with Wallace’s pre-trial behaviour, McCarthy appealed against both conviction and sentence in July 2015.

McCarthy alleged Wallace would “wear casual clothes”, sometimes arrive at his home address “unannounced” and — “on occasion” — smell of “cannabis”.

During the appeal hearing, Wallace vehemently denied the allegations of unprofessionalism and the association with cannabis.

The court also heard allegations that Wallace would conduct conferences without a solicitor present and had advised McCarthy that he would face a sentence of 18-24 months if he plead guilty.

Siding with McCarthy, Court of Appeal Criminal Division vice-president Lady Justice Hallett told the court in her judgment:

[T]his is one of those exceptional cases where we should intervene.

The judgment also revealed that the experienced criminal barrister — Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) students look away now — failed to endorse his brief after his client switched his plea to guilty. In the end, the appeal judges reduced McCarthy’s sentence by a third, to six years.

Yesterday — more than a year on — Wallace finally faced the BSB over allegations of professional misconduct.

According to the Mirror, “Wallace admitted four counts of failing to act conscientiously, diligently and with reasonable competence”. One Crown Office Row barrister Martin Forde QC, representing Wallace, said:

It was always accepted by my client that he did see his client out of the presence of a solicitor. That was ill advised.

According to the report, Wallace was fined a total of £2,500 by the regulator for “holding conferences with a client without a solicitor present”, “failing to adequately explain the strength of the prosecution’s case”, “failing to record his client’s guilty plea” and “failing to ensure his client understood the charge he was pleading guilty to.”

The BSB’s disciplinary panel chair, Alan Steinfeld QC, believes this punishment is “proportionate”, and will serve:

[N]ot just as a warning to Dr Wallace, but as a sign from this disciplinary tribunal that this sort of conduct is not to be repeated in the profession at large.

The decision is open to appeal.