Barrister suspended for High Court advocacy before and during pupillage

Bar: Most pupils would be shouting about their experience

A barrister has been suspended for six months by a Bar disciplinary tribunal for acting as an advocate in the High Court before and during his pupillage.

HHJ John Bevan QC, chairing the tribunal, said that although an element of dishonesty was found proven, it would not be “appropriate” to disbar Ehi Andrew Ukiwa so early in his career.

It took into account his early admission of guilt in five of the six charges he faced, his previous character and the fact that he had found a place in chambers.

The bare facts of the case were made public last month, but the full ruling has now been published.

HHJ Bevan said in his ruling that Mr Ukiwa wrote to the Bar Standards Board (BSB) in August 2017 saying he acted in the proceedings as a “McKenzie Friend and not paid”.

However, the judge said the BSB had now “unearthed” payments made to Mr Ukiwa and that it was “perfectly clear he was expecting to be paid”.

Documentation showed a series of payments from February 2016 to January 2017, for £200 or £300 a time.

“We have to wrestle with the fact that he was originally telling the Bar Standards Board that, first of all, he was a McKenzie Friend, as he told his instructing solicitor, and, secondly, that when he was first asked about it, he said at no stage was he being paid for it, it was being done pro bono.”

Mr Ukiwa also claimed his qualification from the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) “trumped his inability to appear in court in the first six months or four months of pupillage because CILEx had given him the right to attend interim hearings”.

HHJ Bevan said: “The documentation from CILEx is perfectly clear and makes it clear that unless exceptions apply, a person does not have the right of audience unless they have asked for it and been granted it.

“He clearly did not ask for a right of audience at any stage when he was in court.”

The judge said Mr Ukiwa’s claim that he called the CILEx ‘regulatory department’ and was told that “it was alright” was not accepted by the BSB.

“The Bar Standards Board also say that he did not consult or inform his pupil supervisor about attending court to represent clients in a serious matter and he did not notify the chambers where he was performing his pupillage.

“We are bound to say, looking at the realities of the situation, if a pupil in his first week or two of pupillage was to find himself in the Chancery Division of the Rolls Building, he would be telling everybody within earshot about it as being something of a feather in his cap.”

Mr Ukiwa admitted that before his pupillage, while an unregistered barrister, he carried out reserved legal activity and, in the absence of a practising certificate, practised as a barrister.

He also admitted carrying out reserved legal activity and practising as a barrister when he was a pupil barrister and failing to observe his duty to the court by “appearing and purporting” to exercise a right of audience.

These allegations were upheld by the tribunal, along with the allegation that he “failed to act with honesty and/or integrity”, which he denied.

HHJ Bevan said Mr Ukiwa was aged 57, and chose the CILEX route to qualification in 2010 having failed to get a pupillage.

The judge ordered him to be suspended for six months for his misconduct as a pupil, and four months as an unregistered barrister, the suspensions to run concurrently. Mr Ukiwa has 21 days in which to appeal.

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