Lawyers enter new era of KCs and Rex v. criminal prosecutions

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By William Holmes on


Move from QC to KC effective immediately

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Law firms and members of the legal profession have been paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II who died on 8 September at the age 96.

Her death marks an important change to legal formalities.

The Crown Office has advised that the title of Queen’s Counsel (QC) be changed to King’s Counsel (KC) with immediate effect. Barristers who have taken silk have accordingly changed their titles on social media and elsewhere. John Machell, a silk at Serle Court, wrote: “just amended my email footer from QC to KC. A mundane and unimportant task in itself, but poignant and affecting for me personally.”

Criminal prosecutions, cited as ‘R v Smith’, will now stand for Rex instead of Regina, whilst the Queen’s Bench Division will be renamed the King’s Bench Division. The first case to be called into court in the name of The King since 1952 took place at the Old Bailey this morning.

There will be a seven-day mourning period during which, according to a 2017 blog by the former Lord Justice of Appeal Sir Henry Brook, judges and KCs were traditionally expected to don mourning bands and weepers, whilst juniors only need to wear mourning bands.

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The blog explains that this was last observed in court in 1991 following the death of King Olaf V of Norway. However, Roddy Dunlop KC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, has pointed out that weepers are not required to be worn, following a direction issued by Her Majesty the Queen last year on the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh. He added: “We may not wear weepers any more, but we shall mourn her nonetheless.”

The Criminal Bar Association is also reported to have cancelled its planned protests next week outside courts and at Parliament as a mark respect. The indefinite, uninterrupted strike by criminal barristers, however, will continue throughout the mourning period.

Several lawyers have recounted personal experiences with the late Queen. Allen & Overy lawyer and founder of GROW mentoring, Justin Farrance shared this:

“I rarely speak about my role working as part of The Royal Household, walking through the corridors of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

One thing I always noticed was that regardless of whether it was a President, Prime Minister or celebrity standing in the room, when Her Majesty walked through the door, everyone’s attention turned and was captivated by her presence and constant desire to serve, mine included. A leader like no other until the very end. 🙏”

Her Honour Judge Melissa Clarke recounts:

“When HM Queen came to open the Rolls Building, she was ushered into a room in which were waiting all the judges. She looked at the ermine-clad serried ranks of Chancery judges, smiled, and said crisply “Where are the women?”.

A look of panic crossed multiple faces, until someone saw three female chancery-specialist district judges in a dark corner. “There they are!” he shouted. So the Queen went to talk to them. What a woman.”

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