Barrister suspended for 12 months after punching theatre-goer in dispute over seat

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By Legal Cheek on


Incident occurred in 2019

An unregistered barrister has been suspended after punching a fashion designer during a dispute over a spare seat at a Wagner performance at the Royal Opera House.

Matthew Adam Feargrieve is prohibited from obtaining a practicing certificate for 12 months following the conclusion of an independent disciplinary tribunal this week.

The sanction follows Feargrieve’s 2019 conviction for assault, where he was found to have punched fashion designer Ulrich Engler at least once during a dispute over an empty seat at the upscale Covent Garden venue.

The tribunal said Feargrieve had behaved in a way which was likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in him or in the profession.

At Feargrieve’s trial, the court heard how he had “lost his temper” when Engler moved from his seat in row B to an empty seat in row A, shortly before the third performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle began.

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The Oxford-educated lawyer maintained it was in fact Engler who had started the fracas, claiming the fashion designer had thrown his partner’s coat on the floor after she objected to him sitting in the vacant seat.

Feargrieve was eventually found guilty of assault and ordered to pay a fine of £900, costs of £775 and £500 in compensation.

Commenting on the order, a Bar Standards Board spokesperson said:

“Barristers have an obligation not to behave in a way which is likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in them or in the profession, even when not practising. The tribunal’s decision shows that Mr Feargrieve’s actions leading to his conviction were a clear breach of that duty and the sanction reflects the seriousness of this breach.”


Creamy meat pie

Too harsh. I’ve seen worse at US firms.

Archibald O'Pomposity

Indeed. They settle their disputes with guns.

An actual barrister

This story goes to show why the title of “barrister” must be restricted to those who are entitled to practise.

According to other reports, Mr Feargrieve was called in 1996 but did not complete pupillage. On that footing, was he was entitled to apply for a practising certificate before the BSB imposed their ‘punishment’ of prohibiting him from applying for one. I suspect not (but he was a solicitor and so may cross-qualify). He would need to complete further training.

Notwithstanding he is no real sense a barrister, all the newspapers run a story about a “barrister” punching someone.

If I committed an offence, it would be absurd to say that a “doctor” committed the offence, just because one day I may decide train and qualify as a doctor. It is just as absurd to permit someone who has not qualified as a barrister to use that title. All it leads to is public confusion.

Another actual barrister

I could not agree with this more

Legal Officer With A 2:2

Don’t worry – the Bar Tribunal Service website shows that there are plenty of fully registered barristers behaving badly too.

The original actual barrister

I do not mind that. I am quite happy to pay my subscriptions to fund the BTS (and the costs of BSB prosecutions) to discipline practising barristers who breach the rules (like Mr Hendron).

Why should I pay subscriptions to fund the disciplining of Mr Feargrieve and all the other unregistered barristers who are disciplined, when they are not in any real sense members of the profession/

Woke Wookie

The wokeists don’t like that. They strive to lower standards not improve them. Just imagine how bad it is going to get with the socialists in charge.


I agree . What annoys me is the blanket description “unregistered barrister” as it smacks of negativity and fails to make a distinction between those barristers like me who completed pupillage and had 33 years of self- employed and employed practice and am now retired and the rest . What is so difficult about the BSB having a category of Retired Barrister ?

Nicholas O'Brien

I agree
I’m retired after 50 years at the Bar & prefer “retired” to “unregistered”


But does it diminish public confidence in the Bar? No, not at all. The moral police are acting out of all proportion nowadays.


So he couldn’t make coffee for a while … big deal..
but didn’t know you needed a certificate to brew fancy coffees

Never registered barrister

On all accounts it wasn’t a very good punch. A registered barrister would undoubtedly have thrown better.

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