, Giving the finger to Harriet Harman: part 5: leadingcounsel.co.uk
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Giving the finger to Harriet Harman: part 5

Lawyers are frequently ridiculed for arguing about or pronouncing upon things that they really know nothing about. This is in part why the public always enjoys reports of judges saying things like "Who is Cristiano Ronaldo?" or "What is salsa dancing?". At least things have moved on somewhat since the comment of the elderly and prudish judge in argument long ago when counsel was addressing the heads of loss of an unfortunate man who had suffered genital mutilation in a factory accident. "He has lost his sex life." counsel observed, receiving the judicial response "is he married?". When counsel's reply was in the negative the judge stated "How can he have had a sex life then?". (Even in that very different world, this particular judge was regarded as myopically naive beyond belief: that makes even the most idiotic judicial comment today look pretty cool by comparison).

I am also aware of the dangers of talking about things of which you have little or no experience. I wrote a number of articles about whether drugs should be legalised, never having taken drugs (alcohol and prescription drugs such as antibiotics not counting for this purpose). This column will in coming weeks turn to the question of whether prostitution should be legalised, and that will be addressed from the perspective of someone who has never used a prostitute (albeit that I have met prostitutes since in my very early days at the Bar on two or three occasions I defended prostitutes, although one could hardly say that gives you a great insight). As regards lapdancing clubs, I have only ever once been inside such an establishment, with a large group of lawyers going into a late-night bar after a lengthy champagne party to celebrate one of them taking silk. (That is one of the barristers, not one of the lapdancers). I did not know it was a lapdancing bar when I went in, but you would have had to being pretty unobservant not to notice once you were in there. Perhaps this means that I do not have a sufficient insight into the world of regular lapdancing club visits, but perhaps it means that least I can take an objective view which cannot be said to be self-serving.

Personally I would not want to take clients of any sort to a lapdancing club. I think that allowing such clubs to spring up all over the place on an unlicensed basis was a huge mistake. However by taking this stance the government essentially sent out a message that this was normal entertainment which required no particular or special form of regulation. It is a bit difficult once that stance has been taken to say that there is something unusual or objectionable about visiting such clubs, or to be surprised that this has grown into a standard form of entertainment.

Having said that I would not want to take clients to a lapdancing bar, if I were invited to go with a group of people with whom I was seeking to establish or develop business relationships, I would not want to be seen to be dictating to everyone else what they could or could not or should or should not do. Moreover if I were in a business whose clients expected to be taken to such establishments, I doubt that I would be unwilling to do it. If it is not illegal then anyone trying to make a success of their business or the business for which they work long and hard hours, is unlikely to do anything other than "respond to the market".

Whatever one's views as to the propriety or desirability of visits to such establishments, client entertainment (provided it does not demean or degrade the employee concerned and is not illegal) has to be a question of business judgment. It neither is nor should the place of government or ministers to indicate what should or should not be done.

Michael J. Booth QC