26th Feb 2021 | Articles

Matthew Happold writes for the New Law Journal on The Cab Rank Rule: English Barristers in Foreign Courts. Matthew looks at the Bar, professional ethics, foreign work, the cab rank rule and the obligation not to discriminate. All in the light of the recent controversies concerning David Perry QC and Dinah Rose QC


When the cab rank rule is no longer a defence: Matthew Happold on considerations when accepting instructions overseas.

Recent events have put barristers’ professional ethics in the spotlight and raised questions about the scope and importance of the cab rank rule. News last month that David Perry QC had accepted instructions to prosecute a number of prominent pro-democracy activities in the Hong Kong courts gave rise to extensive, often virulently expressed, criticism. Foreign secretary Dominic Rabb said that he could not understand how ‘anyone of good conscience’ could agree to act in such a case. Baroness Kennedy QC called Mr Perry’s decision ‘a source of shame’. Shadow attorney general and former lord chancellor Lord Falconer said if Mr Perry did not withdraw, he would not be acting consistently with UK values. Less than a week later, Mr Perry withdrew from the case.

Even more recently, Dinah Rose QC published a statement that she would not withdraw from appearing before the Privy Council. She was acting for the government of the Cayman Islands to argue that the Bill of Rights in the Caymanian Constitution does not guarantee same-sex couples the right to marry. Ms Rose has received ‘pressure in the form of abuse and threats’. With former justice of the South African Constitutional Court Edwin Cameron accused her of ‘prosecut[ing] a homophobic case to deny LGBTIQ persons in the Cayman Islands equal rights’.

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