On 18th March 2016 there was another to add to the list – Omar Khan. Previously an employed criminal barrister but who was in the process of setting up his own chambers before becoming, quite literally, a criminal barrister.
We don’t know much about the allegations, but Mr Khan pleaded guilty (with three others) to supplying cocaine between 1st October and 4th December 2015.
Sentence has been adjourned for all four until 15th April.
What will he get?
At this stage, there’s not much to go on by way of actual details. The fact that he was remanded in custody from the start may well be an indication that the case is a pretty serious one, and the fact that there were four people is also an indicator.
But the sentence will be arrived at with reference to the Sentencing Guidelines for Drug Offences (see the table at page 12).
There will be credit for a plea of guilty. Normally in the region of 25-30% for a plea at PCMH (which is when this was).
We will have to see the full facts before judging the sentence, but barring something truly exceptional, Mr Khan will be facing a prison sentence measured in years rather than months.
People sometimes think that legal professionals get a ‘touch’ when they get in trouble – the ‘system’ helping them out. In fact, the opposite is probably the truth – they tend to get whacked, not least as Judges are aware of the public perception and are scrupulous to avoid any suggestion of ‘favouritism’.
Why is he not a ‘top barrister’ though?
Good question. The normal rule whenever a barrister or Judge gets into the news, they become ‘top’ barrister/Judge. This is invariably the rule, even if they are very junior.
So as an example when Constance Briscoe was arrested, the headline in The Telegraph read “Top female judge Constance Briscoe arrested and bailed“. In fact, Ms Briscoe was a Recorder – a part-time Judge in the Crown Court. And with no disrespect meant to any Recorders (some of my good friends are Recorders), they are not at the ‘top’ of the Judicial hierarchy.
It’s different when it’s the Lord Chief Justice – he definitely is a top judge, so well done to the Guardian.
Again with barristers. I would suggest that for a barrister to qualify as a ‘top’ one, they would have to be a QC. But here’s the Daily Mail in 2009 describing a junior barrister as a ‘top one’ when he was arrested (it should be noted that that barrister later got £100,000 in damages for wrongful arrest and, although he is top of his field, if you have to be a QC to be ‘top’ he wouldn’t qualify).
So why was Mr Khan relegated to being an ‘ordinary’ barrister? We don’t know. It would be nice to think that it’s a sign of more realistic reporting in the press, but we won’t hold our breath …