Criminal QC found guilty of professional misconduct

Howard Godfrey QC was found guilty of professional misconduct for the manner in which he portrayed a 16-year-old victim of sexual assault. The complaint was that Mr. Godfrey had implied the assault was the victim’s fault.

A Tribunal found him guilty in May 2017, during which Suzanne McKie QC conducted his cross-examination (an excerpt of which is at paragraph 42 of the High Court’s judgment). Today, the High Court upheld that finding. The High Court’s judgment is available here.

Sexual assault allegations against taxi drivers

Click here for an article from The Independent (dated November) that was also covered by the Guardian today.

Of note are the low charging and conviction rates. Also relevant is the comment from the TFL spokesperson who said convictions (and therefore charging) are more likely where the taxi is booked via an app / the internet, as this will of course track the driver against the passenger.

It’s about time that black cabs created a similar tracking system based on the black cab driver being obligated to take a code from the passenger that the passenger then inputs into an app that keeps their details.

Sexual harassment in the news

There may be a number of reasons for the lack of details in press reporting of recent incidents of alleged sexual harassment. It is not easy to understand in each case what the alleged perpetrator is said to have done. The spectrum of what can amount to sexual harassment as a matter of law is somewhat wide.

But perhaps one lesson that the incidents we have heard about may teach us is that there is a need for much more detailed sexual harassment policies than you see today in many organisations. These policies very often do not contain a full and illuminating definition of sexual harassment – a few examples are really not sufficient to describe the many and varied ways in which words or actions can amount to sexual harassment. There should be extensive examples. 

In certain organisations where a high level of trust is involved you currently see policies that are very prescriptive about what those governed by the policies are allowed to do – a touch on the elbow may be acceptable but a touch on the shoulder not. Whatever you think about where the line is drawn, this approach at least provides certainty and that has a good deal to commend it and perhaps now needs to be adopted more widely.

The other way in which policies might improve is to emphasise that a person may be guilty of sex harassment where the effect is to create a hostile and intimidating environment, even where that was not the perpetrator’s intention – as such it is important that those reading the policy understand that the perspective of the victim is critical.

Lastly, another way in which many policies fall down is the lack of emphasis on the protection afforded by the law to the complainant – that is, that the law prevents the complainant suffering from detriment at the hands of the employer, public service provider, academic or training institution etc., where the complainant makes a complaint of sex harassment.

Those who may have suffered sex harassment need to be provided with much more information about the protection the law will give them - and the support and protection the organisation will also guarantee should a complaint be made, in every case other than where an allegation is false and made in bad faith.