Honorary QC nomination period now open

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

You are invited to nominate people for appointment as Queen’s Counsel ‘honoris causa’ (honorary silk). Nomination forms must be returned to us by Friday 29 July 2011.

The Ministry of Justice intends to recommend a number of people to Her Majesty for appointment as Queen’s Counsel ‘causa’ (honorary silk) in spring 2012. We are inviting both the legal sector and the wider public to make nominations.

How to make a nomination

We welcome nominations for honorary silk from anyone. If you would like to suggest someone for appointment, please let us have the following information:

  • the person's full name
  • their contact details, if you know them
  • their legal qualifications, if you know them
  • your reasons for believing that the person you are nominating has made a major contribution to the law of England and Wales outside practice in the courts.

Please tell us:

  • what the person has done, where, and (if appropriate) for whom
  • how, in your opinion, this amounts to a major contribution - beyond what might normally be expected for someone in this person's position.

Please give as much detail as you can. The more we know about a nominee, the easier it is to assess whether they meet the honorary silk criteria. If we have only a limited amount of information about someone, it is unlikely that we will be able to recommend them for appointment.

You can nominate as many people as you like, but please ensure that you keep their details separate.

You need to fill in the nomination form and send it to us by Friday 29 July 2011 preferably by email or alternatively by fax or post to:

Jo Sawyers
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
Fax: 020 3334 4296

Nomination form (Word 0.03mb 2 pages)

Please note we will only accept nominations which are included in the pro forma attached to this webpage. Letters of support for a candidate will not be accepted or attached to a nomination. In cases where more than one person wishes to nominate a single candidate, each individual must send in a separate form for the nominee in order to give a fuller representation as to the candidate’s suitability for Honorary Silk.

Criteria for appointment

In making a nomination you should ensure that your nominee meets the required criteria set out below:

  • The award is open only to qualified lawyers and to legal academics. However, although the substantive QC rank can be awarded only to lawyers with rights of audience in the higher courts, the honorary rank is not so limited. It is available to any practising lawyer, whether in private practice, working as an employed lawyer, or in public service. 'Public service' includes any public-sector organisation - national government, local government, or other public bodies such as the CPS or the NHS - and also lawyers working in bodies such as charities or not-for-profit agencies.
  • Honorary silk is awarded to lawyers and legal academics who have made a major contribution to the law of England and Wales outside practice in the courts, which has not been recognised through other forms of honours.
  • 'Major contribution to the law of England and Wales' can be interpreted as widely as you like. It means not only contributions to the development of the law, but also to people's understanding of it, their ability to make use of it, and its promotion. This can potentially cover a wide range of activities so, while it is difficult to give a definitive list we would like to make it clear that we are happy to consider accomplishments in any area
  • 'Outside practice in the courts' will generally mean that the award is made for an achievement other than a person's normal practice as a lawyer or academic, which also brings with it a significant degree of public benefit. However, there is no definite boundary to this - for instance, the development of pro bono work is usually closely associated with practice. We would also like to recognise particular distinction in both practice and academic law.

Please note that:

  • We recognise that those who are not lawyers or legal academics make equally valuable contributions to public life, and may have done so in similar fields, but we regret that the award of honorary silk is not available for such contributions. If you feel that someone in that position ought to be recognised, you can instead nominate them for an honour. If anyone is nominated for honorary silk who is not a lawyer or legal academic, we will not refuse the nomination - we will instead include their name in the Ministry of Justice's consideration of honours. However, if anyone is nominated for honorary silk who has been nominated for an honour this year or has already been honoured in the last year, it is very unlikely that we will be able to put their name forward.
  • Honorary QC is not a 'working rank'. It cannot be used in practice as a lawyer and, although this has never been a problem, we strongly discourage holders from exploiting the rank to attract business. This does mean, regrettably, that honorary silk cannot be awarded as an alternative to the substantive QC rank for people who, for whatever reason, do not fit its eligibility criteria.
  • Honorary silk is awarded only in England and Wales. There is no parallel to it in Scotland or Northern Ireland. This does not, of course, mean that achievements of this nature cannot be recognised in those jurisdictions. The honours system is able to do that. If you would like to nominate someone whose work is in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you can contact the Scottish Executive or the Northern Ireland Court Service.

The six appointees in 2011 were:

  • Sir Geoffrey Lionel Bindman
    Geoffrey Bindman was admitted as a solicitor with Honours in 1959.  He was recommended for his contribution to the law of England & Wales and international law in several fields. He specialises in civil liberties and human rights issues and is Chairman of the British Institute of Human Rights.  He is a visiting professor of law at University College London and a visiting professor in human rights at London South Bank University.  He holds two honorary doctorates and received a knighthood in 2007 for ‘services to human rights’.
  • Professor Anthony Wilfred Bradley
    Anthony Bradley was admitted as a solicitor in 1960, and in 1968 became Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Edinburgh.  He was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1989 and became Emeritus Professor at Edinburgh in 1990.  Now a research fellow at the Institute of European and Comparative Law, University of Oxford, from 2004-10 he was the UK’s alternate representative on the Council of Europe’s Commission for Law and Democracy (the Venice Commission); from 2002-05 he was legal adviser to the House of Lords Committee on the Constitution; and he has often given expert evidence to committees at Westminster. He is the author of books and articles on constitutional and administrative law, including European human rights law. His role with the Venice Commission has contributed to setting standards of the rule of law and democracy, principally for the new democracies in Eastern and Central Europe.
  • Mr Philip Montague Raphael
    Philip (Monty) Raphael was admitted as a solicitor in 1962.  He was recommended for his work as Deputy Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate from 1982-1988. He was then appointed as assistant Recorder of the Crown Court from 1989-1991. He is widely published and known globally for his work at the forefront of explaining and promoting law relating to fraud, financial regulation, business crime, corruption and money laundering. He has undertaken a large amount of work in lecturing younger lawyers and was appointed a Visiting Professorship in Law at Kingston University London.
  • Master Roger Andre Venne
    Master Roger Venne was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn in 1972 and was elected a Bencher in 2000. He has been recommended for his work as Registrar of Criminal Appeals and as an editor of Civil Procedure and the Administrative Court Digest. He recently advised the Australian State of Victoria on the reform of its criminal appeal system. He is also the Queen’s Coroner and Attorney, and Master of the Crown Office.
  • Sir Stephen Charles Laws KCB
    Sir Stephen Laws is a barrister who was called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1973 and became a bencher of the Inn in 2009. He has been recommended for his work as a Parliamentary Counsel and, since 2006, as the First Parliamentary Counsel.  His work has contributed to the development of improved Parliamentary drafting practices and to building a wider understanding of the work of the legislative drafter and of legislation and the legislative process more generally. His contribution has been particularly significant in the areas of constitutional and fiscal legislation.
  • Mr Stuart Godfrey Popham
    Stuart Popham was admitted as a solicitor in 1978. He was senior partner of Clifford Chance from 2002-10.  He has been recommended for his contribution in the creation of the Clifford Chance Foundation, which supports corporate social responsibility activities e.g. pro bono work.  He is the chair of TheCityUK (a body established to promote UK financial and related professional services).
    As you can see, this is a wide range of achievements and we are keen to ensure that the award continues to be at least as widely available as this.


We intend to make the next QC appointments in spring 2012 and we plan to include honorary silk appointments with them. In line with standard practice, we would like to allow as much time as possible for nominations to be made, but we do need time to consider them and decide who should be recommended to Her Majesty. Because of this, please ensure that your nominations reach us no later than Friday 29 July 2011. If we receive nominations after this date, we will do our best to include them, but we cannot guarantee that they will be considered.


The rank of Queen's Counsel is awarded to advocates (barristers and solicitors) who have demonstrated particular skill and expertise in the conduct of advocacy. It has been awarded in various forms for around 400 years. Since 2005, an independent Selection Panel has made recommendations to the Lord Chancellor, using a new system of assessment based on competencies and rigorous analysis of evidence.

The rank of Queen's Counsel honoris causa is separate. The first awards were made in the late nineteenth century and it has been the practice for governments to recommend a small number of lawyers and legal academics for the honorary rank with each round of substantive appointments. Despite its name, honorary silk is not part of the honours system and is administered separately within the Ministry of Justice.

Both versions of the QC rank were suspended in 2003 while the Department for Constitutional Affairs (as it then was) conducted a consultation exercise about the future of Queen's Counsel. The QC Selection Panel was the result of that consultation. The first new awards of QC and QC honoris causa were made in October 2006.

Contact us

If you would like any more information about honorary silk or how to make a nomination, please feel free to contact us by phone on 020 3334 4270, or by email


Get email alerts
Find a form
Find a court form