If Lord Harley of Counsel wants to be taken seriously he should be more polite

Contrary to what some might imagine the Criminal Bar remains, on the whole a polite and civilised profession. Even when offences of deadly seriousness are being contested in court barristers – and indeed solicitor advocates – generally speaking remain on good, or at least polite, terms with each other out of court.

So I was a little surprised to be told yesterday, by one of my learned friends, a Dr Alan Blacker, that I was an “ignorant cretin.” Still more surprising was that the learned friend in question is not just a Solicitor Advocate but an Irish Peer (“The Earl of Dublin”), a Doctor of Philosophy, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a Consultant “Transactional Analysis Clinical Psychoanalytical Psychologist,” a Knight of Justice or Grace of the Hospital of St John and even a Privy Counsellor. Taking a deep breath, he also has two undergraduate degrees, two MAs and an MSc in Clinical Forensic Psychiatry, as well as umpteen other letters after his name. There is more:  he apparently owns the patents on two Second World War artillery weapons, the “Blacker Bombard” (a 29 spigot mortar, since you ask), and the “Hedgehog” (a multiple spigot mortar). He is even a qualified bus driver and a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists. He is, it would seem, a Jack of all Trades and, if his qualifications are taken at face value, he is eminently well-qualified to accuse others of ignorance, even if his online diagnosis of my “cretinism” might be a little controversial in modern Forensic Psychiatry.

The thing which had annoyed my learned friend, who likes to be known as “Lord Harley of Counsel” was that I had described the unconventional coloured collars that he sports when wearing his wig and gown as “wraps.”

dr-the-rt-hon-the-lord-harley-of-counsel-kstj-dphil

Lord Harley hit the headlines this week after he appeared in front of Judge Wynne Morgan at Cardiff Crown Court where he was representing Andrzej Wojcicki who was accused of causing the death of a 30 year old cyclist, Owain James, by his driving.

Judge Morgan waited until the jury had returned its verdict (Mr Wojcicki was convicted) and then challenged Lord Harley about the strange collection of ribbons and badges festooning his legal robes. According to Lord Harley they were awarded to him for service with the St John Ambulance. The judge pointed out that a famous Welsh barrister, Tasker Watkins, had won a Victoria Cross during the Normandy campaign yet would not have dreamed of displaying it: “it would have been the height of vulgarity.” Warming to his task he told the advocate that if he ever appeared in court again dressed “like something out of Harry Potter” he would “exercise my right to decline to hear you”. In fact he could have gone even further – traditionally when judges think a barrister is improperly dressed they will say “I can’t see you Lord Harley.”

The judge was right. Lord Harley’s behaviour was indeed the height of vulgarity. Legal wigs, gowns and the rest of it may strike some as slightly absurd, but they exist for a very good reason: to bring a measure of solemnity and seriousness into the court. Given that Lord Harley was defending in a homicide trial his coloured ribbons and badges were particularly inappropriate.

It was when I expressed agreement with the judge via Twitter that Lord Harley / Dr Alan Blacker became annoyed.

Lord Harley tweet

In point of fact I have got off rather lightly. Lord Harley was even ruder about Boris Johnson, whom he described recently as a “threatening, lying, violent, thuggish shit.”

Lord Harley on Boris JOhnson

Funnily enough, although happy to dish it out, Lord Harley is less happy about taking it. He recently complained to the Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority about offensive language used against him by another solicitor, Mohammed Hannief, another fellow lawyer whom he has described, seemingly without irony, as a “cretin.”

Anyway, I acknowledge my ignorance about his regalia and have tried to get to the bottom of what his coloured wraps actually are. Unfortunately His Lordship has been rather reticent.

When I tried to speak to him, overcoming my irritation at having to dial an 0843 telephone number for his Rochdale Office, it was answered by a woman who said “he doesn’t work for us, he just rents a room here.” Needless to say he wasn’t available to answer questions about his qualifications which are helpfully listed on his Linked In profile:

Lord Harley of Counsel

It would be interesting to know why he styles himself “The Rt. Hon.” a designation normally reserved for Privy Counsellors. Lord Harley’s name certainly does not appear on the list of British Privy Counsellors.

I would also have liked to have asked him where he obtained his Doctorate, as well as all his under and postgraduate degrees, and indeed his peerage. “Lordship titles” are for sale for as little as £18.95, some of them even coming with “two square feet of land in the beautiful Lake District,” but one assumes that Lord Harley would have something a bit classier than a fake certificate from a dodgy website. In fact he has another website, in which he explains how the Blackers have been:

Earls of Dublin since 1660 and Hereditary Lord Defenders of Dublin since King Sithric the Third.

One does not need to be a snob to boast of, or even mention, ones connection to King Sithric the Third, although it probably helps.

As a super-highly qualified lawyer, Lord Harley will know that one thing he must not do if he is not a barrister (and he certainly does not appear on the Register of barristers entitled to practise in England and Wales) is to pretend to be one. Indeed, to do so would be an offence under S.181 of the Legal Services Act 2007. The offence (which carries a potential prison sentence of 2 years imprisonment) is committed by any person who “with the intention of implying falsely that that person is a barrister” takes or uses “any name, title or description.” So it is rather concerning that he styles himself not just “Lord Harley” but “Lord Harley of Counsel.” Old fashioned barristers, my former pupil-master, for example, would often describe themselves over the telephone as “John Smith of Counsel” precisely to make it clear that they are barristers. “Counsel” is often used as a synonym for barrister, although it can probably just about include anyone acting as a legal representative and Lord Harley is apparently a qualified solicitor.

Lord Harley in happier days
Lord Harley (centre) in happier days

I suppose it is just about arguable that his vulgar court room colours, absurd snobbery and ridiculous flaunting of qualifications merely adds to the gaiety of nations.

Lord Harley may even be a competent advocate. Lasy year he successfully defended Wojcicki at the same Crown Court, after the businessman had been accused of selling a dangerous product.

But if he really wishes to be taken seriously as a lawyer the first step would be to become a little more polite.

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Author: Matthew

I have been a barrister for over 25 years, specialising in crime. You may also have come across some of my articles I have written on legal issues for The Times, Standpoint, Daily Telegraph or Criminal Law & Justice Weekly

91 thoughts on “If Lord Harley of Counsel wants to be taken seriously he should be more polite”

  1. You should be honoured even to be addressed by this man. What a rare and exotic bird he is. He has accumulated degrees at all levels which, although their provenance is not perhaps entirely clear to the reader, are extensive in a man so young. I would be privileged to find myself represented by this solicitor/legal exec/barrister especially as he is a Right Hon no less. It cannot be long before he can add a silk gown to his overburdened wardrobe of Masters/Doctors/bachelors…..(repeat to fade) professional couture.
    Perhaps J Lofthouse, Treasury Counsel (peerage and baronetage) should have a peek at this man’s antecedents in order to establish if, perhaps, his lordship has missed out a few titles (Count?) in his rush to print. In the meantime, I am sure the SRA/BSB/InstiLA will get to the bottom of these representations in anticipation of QASA.

  2. If Mr Blacker’s CV on Linked In is to be believed, as well as his LLB and PgDL from Leeds Metropolitan and common professional exam at Manchester Metropolitan, he appears to have taken an MA in “Inclusive Education” at “Trinity College”, as well as an MSc in clinical forensic psychiatry and a DPhil from the same institution (no thesis title is given). On Facebook he claims this was Trinity, Oxford, which does not offer either of the first two degree courses. Is this a matter for the Solicitors Regulation Authority?

  3. Dr. The Right Hon. Lord Harley of Counsel probably joined a dating website, panicked when his profile looked a bit bare and drastically overcompensated.

  4. I had seen his profile on Linkedin, because my clerks have all connected with him.

    I assumed it was all just a joke.

    At Oldham County Court, the old ushers would tell me about a middle aged asian gentleman who used to come into the waiting areas in a wig and gown but no collar and bands and offer legal help to bemused bystanders. I assumed Blacker was of that ilk.

    If he is actually on the Roll and is a solicitor, then the SRA really needs to look into this….

  5. ‘It would be interesting to know why he styles himself “The Rt. Hon.” a designation normally reserved for Privy Counsellors. Lord Harley’s name certainly does not appear on the list of British Privy Counsellors.’

    I would think that relates to the Irish peerage. All UK lords are right hon or above and the same may be the case for Irish peerages about which I admit I know, although that peerage seems to be of a different sort from e.g. Richard Needham’s (Earl of Kilmorey). I would have thought that it should be Right Hon Lord rather than Rt Hon first name surname in such usage.

      1. Perhaps the Roll of the Peerage, kept by the College of Arms by Royal Warrant, needs updating. As Irish titles were granted by the Crown while Ireland was part of the UK, this roll does include the Irish peerage. No current Earl of Dublin is present.

        The Earldom of Dublin has been granted to royal heirs on a few occasions, most recently by Queen Victoria to her son the future Edward VII. If Alan Blacker claims his family have held the title since 1660 perhaps these Hanoverian claimants were usurpers? Nor is a Lord Harley recorded in the Roll.

        What an extraordinary chap he is though. His achievements really are impressive and wide-ranging. I note from his exhaustive LinkedIn page that he is fluent in Urdu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Hindi and Luo, as well as being a Fellow and Trustee of London Zoo. Perhaps he should ask them to update their website too — http://www.zsl.org/about-us/council-members

  6. Am I the only reader to think of the Salamanca Doctor?

    Hands up if you know what (or rather whom) I am talking about!

  7. This blog is absolutely terrific. Having seen Lord Harley’s LinkedIn profile a couple of years ago when he invited me to connect with him, I knew it was 99% BS. I am troubled to discover that he is on the Roll [of Solicitors] and qualified just after me in the first part of 2010. I do hope that the SRA are looking into his conduct, claims and credentials, that is, once South Wales Police have finished with him…

    1. Mr Blacker may get his day in court before Lord Thompson – or even John Thomas. That would be fun. Mr Wojcicki may (who knows) seek to appeal on the ground of “incompetent representation”. Mozart was one of the finest musicians ever to draw breath – but I have heard little of his advocacy skills.

  8. Starting with his web entry ‘Jaflas’, drill deeper and you’ll find this address:

    Carrick Blacker House
    4 Worcester Street
    Rochdale
    Greater Manchester
    OL11 3QE

    Then take a look at his ‘castle’ on Google Earth (Union flag, trailers etc)!

    Nuff said!

    1. Not simply a Union Flag, if my vexillology is correct, and I believe it is, it’s actually the flag used at British embassies. A Union Flag with the Royal coat of arms on it. The mind boggles.

      1. With thanks to ‘LegalChap’, I am pleased to have learned that vexillologists exist and at least one is here to enlighten us with his undoubted knowledge!
        [The rest of this comment has been moderated – sorry]

  9. I understand that he told the judge that two or three years ago the Lord Chief Justice (Lord Thompson) approved him wearing his “medals”. If that is not confirmed by Lord Thomas (LCJ since October 1st 2013) or by his predecessor Lord Judge – then I trust the matter will be referred to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

  10. With apologies for sounding like a po-faced lawyer/humourless cretin, questions need to be asked of the SRA about what qualifications Mr Blacker actually has and what qualifications he listed when he applied for and gained admission to the Roll in 2010. The SRA should be looking closely at these points, as well as checking his websites to make sure that they are not in any way misleading (see Chapter 8 of the SRA Handbook).

    I have no problem with people being fantasists – but I do have a problem with people who are fantasists being solicitors. I have no doubt that Mr Blacker’s heart is in the right place and, if he is not a fantasist, he will have no problem producing documentation evidencing all the qualifications/honours/appointments which he lists on his websites. If he cannot do that, the SRA will need to act.

    His JAFLAS website seems to give the impression that JAFLAS is more than one person. Perhaps it is: if so, he will have no difficulty giving the names of all the legal executes (plural), solicitors (plural), advocates (plural), senior counsel (sic), experts (plural), etc, to which the site refers. Does the name “Joint Armed Forces Legal Advocacy Service” give the impression that JAFLAS is in some way affiliated to or endorsed by the Armed Forces?

    Incidentally, the SRA’s Statement of Standards for Solicitor Higher Court Advocates requires HCAs to “be able to comply with courtroom etiquette” (which must surely include dressing appropriately). The Consolidated Criminal Practice Direction states that HCAs “wear a black solicitor’s gown with bands; they may wear short wigs in circumstances where they would be worn by Queen’s Counsel or junior counsel”.

  11. You say that now, but one day when you’ve been lifted by a copper for something you didn’t do ….I’d just love to see your face when Lord Harley turns up as your ‘duty solicitor’.

    I imagine your yells of “Get me a REAL brief” will be heard all the way to the Temple……

  12. He was reported to the Bar Standards Board for holding out. Apparently calling yourself Counsel is not holding out. Got the impression BSB didn’t want to be bothered. No doubt too busy harassing barristers for not having a properly completed CPD form. I would have thought that wearing a barrister’s gown, embellished or not, must take this into the realms of holding out. But I am not holding my breath as it might be a bit harder than the aforementioned harassment.

  13. Curiosity has got the better of me. As a real FRGS I am fascinated to see he describes himself as a FRGS&IBG which is certainly incorrect. I have alerted the FRG about this.

    Neither does he appear on any list of the ZSL’s trustees.

    Why is this person allowed to get away with all of this?

  14. Does anyone know what this SRA Joint Armed Forces Legal Advocacy Service Accreditation is? It’s mentioned on Blacker’s firm listing on the SRA website. I’ve not come across it before.

    See link: http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/office/509577/joint-armed-forces-legal-advocacy-service.

    It also says that his firm is ‘not an SRA-regulated law practice’.

    Blacker requested me as a connection on LinkedIn only a couple of months ago although I have not met him. Needless to say, I read his profile with interest… Not one I forgot in a hurry!

    1. I will not be surprised to learn that the ‘JAFLAS’ website and various statements contained therein are a product of Alan Blacker’s lively imagination. I believe therefore that (unless and until corrected) the SRA’s statement that ‘JAFLAS’ “is not an SRA-regulated law practice” should be taken as the definitive one.

      Anton Delbrueck made an interesting distinction when he wrote: “Although it is a controversial topic, pathological lying has been defined as “falsification entirely disproportionate to any discernible end in view, may be extensive and very complicated, and may manifest over a period of years or even a lifetime”. The individual may be aware they are lying, or may believe they are telling the truth, being unaware that they are relating fantasies.”.

    2. I think it is down to a confusing Law Society web template/confusing name. JAFLAS is an organisation and Alan Blacker is designated as an in-house lawyer. Likewise Tesco is an organisation and they have 8 in-house lawyers (and other SRA registered employees). Both are ‘not an SRA-regulated law practice’ (although the role of the latter is of course much clearer than the former).

      The Accreditation mentioned is not a ‘Joint Armed Forces Legal Service Accreditation’ but an accreditation held be a member of that organisation (the Higher Rights – Civil & Criminal) in the same way that Clyde & Co, say, have people with 4 different accreditations (Higher Rights Civil, Higher Rights Criminal, Higher Rights Civil & Criminal, and CQS).

        1. In common terms, true – but arguably in legal terms and certainly in SRA terminology it is an organisation.

          How someone can be an in-house lawyer (and only lawyer) in a business which undertakes reserved legal activities (Charity Commission) and the Ltd Co is registered as being in the business of Solicitors (Companies House) is not something I can answer – but the accreditation flag (Law Society) is at least reasonably straight-forward!

  15. It gets better and better. This is from the Zoological Society of London: “Alan Blacker is not a Trustee or a Fellow of ZSL, his Fellowship having lapsed a few years ago.”

  16. This is the Charity Commission page:

    http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/find-charities/

    I searched JAFLAS 1142202. The search results didn’t change the URL so I can’t post a direct link to the results. My search came up, inter alia (a term lawyers will recognise), with “1142202 – JAFLAS – RESERVED LEGAL ACTIVITES – Operating in:

    ROCHDALE, AFGHANISTAN, AKROTIRI AND DHEKELIA, ALBANIA
    and so on, all the way down to
    VIETNAM, WALLIS AND FUTUNA, YEMEN, ZAMBIA and ZIMBABWE
    with another 240 countries/territories listed in between.

    At this point I began to suspect that I was being led on a wild goose chase but I persevered and found on the totalgiving page:

    http://www.totalgiving.co.uk/charity/jaflas

    “What services Jaflas provides:
    Animals
    etc.”

    and on:

    http://opencharities.org/charities/1142202

    “ACTS AS AN UMBRELLA”

    and from:

    http://alanblacker2.webs.com/

    “Our trustees: –
    Ian Mann LLB(Hons)
    Christine Sharp BA(Hons)
    Francoise Blancher LLB(Hons)
    Our associates: –
    Linked to Law
    David Marsh LLB(Hons)
    Duncan Edwards LLB(Hons)

    So what is JAFLAS made up of?
    Chartered Legal Executives / Solicitors of the Senior Courts / Advocates of the Supreme Court / Commissioners for Oaths
    Members of the American and Pakistani Bars / Members of The Industrial Law Society and the Institute of Mental Health Act Practitioners
    Arbitrators / Mediators / Conciliators and experts experienced in all forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution”

    At the risk of being accused of flippancy, I’m reminded of this exchange:

    A FEW GOOD MEN (1992)
    Jessep: (Jack Nicholson) You want answers?
    Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I think I’m entitled to them.
    Jessep: You want answers?
    Kaffee: I want the truth!
    Jessep: You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives…You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty…we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use ’em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I’d rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!

    1. Thank you for this interesting research. I can’t begin to imagine what charitable work Lord Harley has been doing in Yemen, but it’s good that he’s at least trying.

  17. Chough with a real DPhil from 03/09/2014 at 10:42 am

    This would confirm Mr Blacker was a fellow of the LZS, now lapsed. An interesting titbit but may I ask your source please? Thanks

  18. alanblacker2.webs.com/profile.htm

    “Alan makes my arthritis feel better”

    Reita Clark MBE, Chair, Law Centres Federation.

    …and he’s very fond of Giraffes

    1. Today’s ‘Independent’, reports:

      ” …. Yesterday, the Solicitors Regulation Authority said: “We are aware of the matter, and indeed had already noted the content of Dr Blacker’s website. We will be looking at all the necessary information, and are in contact with other concerned agencies, before deciding the appropriate action.” Its code of conduct requires a solicitor’s public CV to be “accurate and not misleading, and not likely to diminish the trust the public places in you.”.

      I guess the Gazette will catch up in due course!

  19. I do hope you lot don’t have to support the Law Society Gazette in some form of subscription?
    Because I’d be opting out before lunchtime, personally. In my day such rags were occasionally printed on nice soft paper that leant itself to other purposes, but in this digital age it’s hard to see what use the Gazette is……if that piece of writing ( I refuse to call that journalism ) is anything to go by.

    I wonder if Paul Dacre is looking for something to occupy himself now? Perhaps not.

  20. The Gazette is a pitiful publication these days, which in itself reflects poorly upon the profession. If you read the comments under the “Lancashire Lad” piece, you will see that not all solicitors are as crass as the journalistic quality of their professional journal might suggest.

    1. I don’t agree. I think you’re being a bit harsh on the LS Gazette. Catherine Baksi has been a brilliant journalist over the last 12 – 18 months, with up to the minute reports on developments in the criminal legal aid saga.

  21. The Gazette is simply an embarrassment to the profession.

    Its given this guy the publicity he craved. And it allowed him to accuse the Judge of bias because he is apparently Irish (anyone see the contradiction with the later headline “Lancashire Lad” headline). Am I the only one to think that openly accusing a Judge of bias is disgraceful????

    No investigation into the guy’s background, titles, achievements… Its been left to fellow lawyers and other journalists to do some digging which was obviously warranted when the story initially broke.

    I really do hope Private Eye pick all this up. Its farcical. And obviously sad for all those involved in the initial criminal trial.

    1. It now emerges that Blacker described himself as Rev Alan Blacker on Companies House documentation in connection with his directorship of Rochdale Law Centre.

      The legal profession has been made to look incredibly stupid over this man.

  22. A bit harsh on the Gazette? A publication which fails to scratch the surface of someone like Blacker, deletes postings which it does not like (even if they are literate and non-defamatory) and regularly presents news releases as journalism? I am afraid that I have little or no respect for it all.

  23. WHat a strange man who apparent has done so much in the last 10 years since i saw him. Plain old Alan Blacket studdied at an instiution called Oldham Business Management School, he indeed took a Law Degree there (as i did) that was presented on behalf of Huddersfield University not Leeds. It would apperat in 10 years he must have studdied constantly in excess of 24 hours per day to gain all these qualification so a highly gifted intellectual and academic. I recall him as being an arrogant egotistical cretin of the highest order. His manu skills do not list being a ‘pleb’ i wonder why not!!!!!!!!!!! This jerk was disliked imensly within the establisshment and perhaps his full list of qualifications need checking thoroughly, so to ensure and protect him from himself on the grounds of misrepresentation!!!!!!

  24. my only reason for posting on here is that I know the man and have thought he was a walter mitty but did not know to check him out

  25. He He – Alan has always been ‘different’ now he wants to be someone special – being born of a father who was a Loom Tattler in the Rochdale mills […] it’s not surprising he his trying to create a BIGGER life for himself – from his 1/2 Brother David 🙂

    [This comment has been edited for legal reasons]

  26. … Alan is my 1/2 brother and son of Vivian Blacker who was a young migrant from Canada who came to the UK when his family could not care for him and he lived with his aunt before WWII. I am his 1/2 brother !

    [This comment has been partially edited for legal reasons]

      1. Rt Hon is not the sole preserve of privy council but also applies to peers who hold other than courtesy titles up to and including earldoms.

  27. Sorry, I should have said…

    Mr.Alan Blacker already knows what charges will be presented at Case Management Hearing of the SDT on 4 November 2015.

  28. The final charges are that he recklessly misled the court while appearing before His Honour Judge Wynn Morgan at Cardiff Crown Court on 28 August 2014, and that he failed to co-operate with the SRA from March to June this year.

  29. Alan Blacker’s next Case Management hearing is at the SDT tomorrow (5 February 2016 @9:30 am) Don’t expect him to turn up though or even answer his phone. The SDT will even supply a recording of the hearing for £10 if you speak to them nicely.

  30. Quite by accident, I came across “Lord Harley’s” LinkedIn profile this morning. Since I have never previously read a “British Lord’s” profile, I was intrigued a well as impressed by his numerous honors and degrees, and thought that perhaps all British lords were similarly titled and learned. Thankfully all of you have removed that shroud of ignorance from this New Englander’s eyes. And here I thought that some of my colleagues are bar were pretentious for using that antiquated title of “Esquire,” which we inherited from you, our cousins, across the sea. Clearly one need only spend a day at trial with “Lord Harley” to understand how insufferable arguing a case against a “peer” of the realm could actually be.

    Please forgive my ignorance for misusing any British honor or title. We Americans are simply fascinated by British titles, as well as your split legal profession.

    1. Thanks for your comment. As you’ll see by the comments on this & other sites, many British lawyers have been intrigued by Lord Harley’s rise to fame.

  31. Alan Blacker is due before a full hearing of the SDT 12-14 July. As 14 July is his 44th birthday and also Bastille Day, he will either not turn up or, if he does turn up, it will be with his Blacker Bombard to demolish the SDT building.

    1. It doesn’t say much for ‘the system’ that it took it 2 years to rid itself of him, does it? Does he have an avenue of appeal?

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