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Twitter users adding ‘QC’ to their name could be committing a crime, junior barrister warns

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‘I’m a barrista (sic) — the QC stands for Quality Coffee’

A junior barrister has warned social media users adding ‘QC’ to their name could be breaking the law.

In response to a trend that emerged over the weekend which saw Twitter users add the two-letter insignia to their online names, Joanna Hardy, a criminal barrister at Red Lion Chambers, wrote: “This is your reminder that it is an actual crime to pretend to be a barrister when you aren’t. Even on Twitter.”

Hardy, who was called to the bar in 2010, noted while some had used “heavy comedy disclaimers” to counter their use of the symbol, others had not. “Some people are now literally whacking ‘QC’ after their name and boldly entering public debate,” she tweeted.

The likes of talkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer and Guido Fawkes reporter Tom Harwood have added QC to their usernames, as well as a raft of other users, including one who wrote, “I’m a barrista (sic) — the QC stands for Quality Coffee”. Harwood quipped: “Think you’ll find the QC in my twitter name stands for Quality Content 😘😘.”

Hardy told Legal Cheek:

“I don’t think we will be seeing any prosecutions of ‘comedy’ QCs on Twitter. The law isn’t aimed at jokes or satire but at those truly impersonating a barrister. However, anyone entering online legal debate, or offering a legal opinion, with a fake QC by their name should probably be cautious.”

The trend appears to have emerged after an article published by the Mail on Sunday claimed Lord Pannick QC helped Sir Oliver Letwin MP draft the amendment which “derailed” Boris Johnson’s Brussels deal on ‘Super Saturday’. “This isn’t Letwin’s amendment, it’s Pannick’s amendment. Pannick is the organ grinder — Letwin’s just the useful idiot,” a senior Tory reportedly said.

The 2020 Legal Cheek Chambers Most List

Speaking on Radio 4 this morning, Pannick stressed that he helped Letwin draft the amendment but denied advising him about political tactics. “The idea… that I am some sort of political mastermind is complete and absolute nonsense,” he explained.

Blackstone Chambers silk Pannick represented anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller on the legal challenge to Brexit and most recently, the parliament prorogation case. He is understood to not be involved in any current Brexit legislation.

Other high-profile QCs involved in Brexit cases include Devereux Chambers‘ Jolyon Maugham QC and Joanna Cherry MP QC.

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59 Comments

Anonymous

My god, they are triggered aren’t they when you dare to engage in satire and refuse to worship them?

Anonnn

Yes. You don’t see medics tweeting that Dr Dre isn’t a real doctor and that his advice on marijuana shouldn’t be followed.

Bill Quango

Wait? Are you saying Doctor Fox wasn’t a real doctor?
And Doctor and the medics?
And Doctor Hook? Did he even have aHook ?

Anonnn

The BMA should really start clamping down, shouldn’t they?

DJSmith

My doctor is Dr D’Eath. Should I be worried?

The Ghost

Worried? Shitting yourself if that`s what you got to offer.

Anon

No, but I do remember a whole load of academics flipping their lids when anybody addressed them by their given name, rather than “Dr xxx”.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/cambridge-academic-strike-racism-porters-doctor-priyamvada-gopal-english-a8407981.html

They then began historically changing their Twitter names to “Dr Joe Bloggs”. One even had the temerity to say that medical doctors are allowed to use the title as a *privilege*, whereas those with PhDs have it bestowed as a right.

Most of them were gender studies lecturers though….

Johnny H

Joanna Hardy is such a bore

Anonymous

Most barristers are either complete bores or coke-banging mad lads. There’s no inbetween.

Nonny

I’d say most criminal barristers are either earnest, holier than thou, paragons of virtue, or else coke fiends as described above.

Dr The Right Honourable The Lord Harley of Counsel of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem

Note that I do not use QC next to my name.

Ian Beale QC

I thought you are allowed to use the title QC when you have a law degree?

Anonymous

This is directed to people who have not received the magic red envelope from Her Majesty. But what about genuine QCs who tweet on matters unrelated to their legal practice?

Bar Standards Board Handbook gC26: “Referring to your status as a barrister … in a context where it is irrelevant … may well constitute abuse of your professional position and thus involve a breach of CD3 and/or CD5.”

Legal Officer with a 2.ii

They know that almost no-one would follow them on Twitter if they didn’t mention their profession.

Many barristers are on Twitter not to contribute legal knowledge to any debate, but because they get a kick out of all the ‘likes’ and retweets.

It’s an important source of narcissistic supply because their family/friends have long stopped treating them as ‘special’ and may even find them embarrassing.

Perry (Peregrine) Huxley QC

One is occasionally left with the impression that their practice has dried up.

Legal Officer with a 2.ii

Some of them have thousands and thousands of tweets.

I saw one seek sympathy from Twitter when their child was bullied on Fortnite. With Dad on Twitter all day, of course they used the iPad as a free babysitter.

Manipulative in extreme and totally devoid of self-awareness.

Ciaran Goggins QC, VC

Quaint Chap

Anonymous

Any actual evidence of people being prosecuted for this?

Anon

People have been prosecuted for it. Usually for giving immigartion advice. But only where they have been conning people out of money by saying they are a barrister / solicitior when they are not. I don’t think anyone has been prosecuted for saying it on twitter.

Anonymous

Yeah, I don’t mean pretending to be a barrister and giving legal advice, more if anyone has been prosecuted for saying they are a QC on Twitter or other social media when posting. I’m not aware of any, but would be interested to see if anyone is.

Anonymous

Any actual of evidence of anyone ever being prosecuted for this?

The Rt Hon Baroness Diane Abbot DBE QC FRSE of Hackney North

I am offended by her tweet

Amateurs

A picture from the Spartacus (1960) would make a much better meme.

Anonymous

No it wouldn’t because it would not make the same point, the point in Spartacus being there was only one Spartacus. Doubt you read Plutarch at school.

Amateurs

Thanks for reading the comments, Aishah. I have read Plutarch at school (as well as Tacitus and Suetonius), but this is not a point here as we speak about the movie scene (which is inaccurate anyway), not the historical descriptions.

Pfft.

My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the armies to the north, General of the phoenix legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius, Father to a murdered son and husband to a murdered wife.

Pfft.

My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the armies to the north, General of the phoenix legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius, Father to a murdered son and husband to a murdered wife.

Pfft...

My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the armies to the north, General of the phoenix legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius, Father to a murdered son and husband to a murdered wife.

Hugh McLoughlin

These mock/satirical/childish responses to a valid observation, offered in circumstances of which I am unaware, is simply stupid. All this young lady was doing was to say that IF you went beyond satire, or seemed to, by seeming to offer a professional legal opinion — which I could be accused of doing here — you are, if you append “QC” after your name, running the risk of someone lodging a complaint which could result in prosecution and other nasty things that flow from that, whether prosecuted and found guilty or not. PS & NB: I am not Shug QC, nor am I any other sort of lawyer, nor have I ever been accused of being either.

Anonymous

So what examples are there of anyone being prosecuted for calling themselves a QC on Twitter?

Richard Butcher QC

“All this young lady was doing was to say that IF you went beyond satire, or seemed to, by seeming to offer a professional legal opinion”

That is not what she was doing. She made a rather pompous and empty threat because she was annoyed with people (justifiably) mocking attempts to argue from authority (I’m a barrister so I must be listened to etc). She is perfectly aware no-one who added QC to their twitter handle had any intent of pretending to be a barrister.

Legalgeek

I think there’s a misunderstanding and consequent overreaction here, as I interpreted the tweet as being intended to inform and enable people not to fall foul of the law.
I’m qualified in law but am not a practising solicitor or barrister, which means I must declare that if addressing a point of law so as not to imply that I’m either. Oddly the word ‘lawyer’ is an acceptable title for law students through to Judges and legal academics and so forth. The problem arises though when a person reads advice online believing it to be that of a barrister or solicitor and relies on said advice, leading to potentially disastrous consequences. Hence why the offence exists and why imo the tweet was made.
It’s not a case of being “triggered” as some have suggested, just helpful well intentioned advice.
As for the derogatory comments like “most barristers …” and “they’re all either x or y”, the posters of those comments ought really to consider how many barristers they’ve actually met (being defended by doesn’t count) before circulating unfounded generalisations intended to besmirch.
I’m sure I wouldn’t want to incur the wrath of many, many disgruntled lawyers and would advise against doing so.

So in a nutshell, the tweet was free legal advice from a practising barrister and my contribution is free advice from a non practising alumnus, collectively saving each of you around £90.

Good advice is always worth taking; the original tweet is exactly that.

You’re welcome 😉

Legal Officer with a 2.ii

I’m delighted to live in a country where I am free to make generalisations intended to besmirch, shock, enrage, delight, inform or humour whenever I want.

Likewise, you live in a country where you are free to take those generalisations anyway you want, from laughing it off to calling LawCare.

Why do you feel barristers should be exempt from other people’s generalisations and comment? You cannot realistically stop anyone thinking less of you if they really want to.

Shocking as it may be to hear this, but barristers really are no better nor worse than anyone else.

Anonymous

Taking it a bit far there with “delight” and “humour” mate

Anonymous

So, 7.16pm, can you please provide 3 examples of successful prosecutions against people falsely calling themselves QCs on Twitter or other social media?

Anon

Your writing style reminds me of the guy who was kicked off my LPC last year because he kept bragging in the middle of class about visiting prostitutes between classes

Anonymous

Or what you meant to say was that you have no examples.

Anonymous

Surprised he was kicked out.

I had two Oxford BCL guys in my BPTC class who spent almost every class winding up the lecturers, pointing out the cases they didn’t know and threatening to throw chairs at the other students.

They were warned by the course provider that they could be reported to their chambers of pupillage, but of course it was never carried out.

Ex Barrister

“This is your reminder” is quite a pompous way of putting it.

This is whose reminder??

It is a godawful way of putting it and puts the entirety of the the rest of the so called helpful update into context. Not even the equally loathed but perhaps in this context, for the author, more get out jail free-y, ‘helpful reminder’ (proceeded by eg ‘in saying you are a silk, being a roll of fabric made of silk just *won’t* cut it (scuse pun I really mean no humour by this helpful reminder)) is as bad. Annoying tw*t!

Anonymous

What about Llb “likeable local bellend”

Joanna Hardy's Chum

There is little, if any, chance of dearest Joanna Hardy attaining the QC appellation.

Martin Routh

It’s wrong to say that putting QC at the end of a name implies that person is a barrister, as Joanna Hardy suggests. Not only barristers get made QC. The person might well be a solicitor or an academic.

Honest John

Let’s be honest, they don’t really count, do they?

Anon

In what way?

Baggypants

Cos they’re shite.

and the

In what way?

a

‘Cos they’re crap.

nitwits

In what way?

Cederic

Speaking as a lay person the behaviour of Aiden, Maughan and Cherry has done terrible damage to the reputation of the honorific ‘QC’ and only a comedian would now advertise outside of legal business.

But then, my MP is Kenneth Clark QC, so I’m used to the comedy.

Gordon Clampit QC

Is that the same Ken Clarke who is arguing that we need an extension to give him time to read the withdrawal bill properly. The same Ken who acknowledged he didn’t read the Maastricht or Lisbon treaties.

Anonymous

Laurel and Hardy would probably have made more sense.

Anonymous

When Alan Sugar can be a “Sir” and then a “Lord” does any of this really matter any more?

Anon

But to be fair, he was actually a knight and is actually a Lord. Its a silly point, but S187 probabley is wide enough to cover saying you are QC on twitter. That isn’t to say the police or CPS would ever consider it was in the public interest to investigate it or prosecute it. A complaint would go straight in the NFA pile.

It’s similar to the example given by the Court of Appeal on offensive weapons. If the item is made to cause injury or incapacitate (sword, dagger, cosh etc) then that is all the prosecution must prove. If it’s something else (a baseball bat, hammer, screwdriver etc) then the prosecution must prove you had it with the intent to use it to injure or incapacitate. An intent to fighten is not enough, unless you intend to cause injury by frightening. So they gave the example of a party balloon. It would be an offensive weapon if you had it with the intention of blowing it up and popping it behind someone you knew had a weak heart and intending to scare them and cause a heart attack. I have never known someone charged with possession of an offensive weapon, namely a balloon in a public place.

The comment she has made is as silly as saying if you have a balloon in a public place you comit an offence under the Prevention of Crime Act. You could, but only if a lot of other conditions were met first. And is is very unlikley you would be prosecuted even if they were.

Anonymous

@7:42 – you nailed it.

60022Mallard

After the style of questioning of a 70+ year old in a court appeal trying to overturn the conviction of a young person for stamping a chicken to death my contempt for barristers has reached new heights. QCs would appear to just be a higher class of the same and Supreme Court judges the absolute top of the disreputable pile.

By their actions ye shall know them, and Twitter is certainly be helping us to know many actual QCs

Anon

And if you were to calmly reply on Twitter and call them out for particular lies, pomposity and gaslighting, you will be labelled a ‘sick troll’ who is ‘harassing’ them whilst destroying their ‘mental health’.

Mr Justice Lollipop

There have been a few trolling “QCs” in the Legal Cheek comments section: Mr Pooey Bum QC and Mr Fartypants QC among them.

The worst offender is a clown who takes the ridiculous name of “Jolyon Maugham QC” and runs a twitter bot account that constantly tweets absurd leftist talking points and extremist pro-EU views.

So if there is any banning of Pooey Bum and Fartypants, there is no reason for Jolyon to get away scot free.

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