Lawyer fined for 'unacceptable' questioning of rape survivor 

Lorenzo Alonzi has been ordered to pay Ellie Wilson for the time and dedication spent bringing forward the complaint.

A lawyer who was found to have crossed the line when questioning a rape survivor has been fined and ordered to pay her compensation.

Ellie Wilson submitted a complaint over the cross-examination of advocate Lorenzo Alonzi defending her rapist Daniel McFarlane during a trial at the High Court in Glasgow in 2022.

The 26-year-old was raped by McFarlane between 2017 and 2018 while they were both students at Glasgow University.

He received two convictions for rape and one for attempting to defeat the ends of justice and was sentenced to five years in prison.

The Faculty of Advocates committee has now ruled that Mr Alonzi’s actions were “towards the upper end of
the scale of seriousness for unsatisfactory professional conduct”.

It was found that he had engaged in unsatisfactory conduct during the cross-examination phase, jury speech and during the plea mitigation.

Ms Wilson complained that Mr Alonzi cross-examination was inappropriate when he attempted to “elicit evidence she was not of good character” and “evidence relating to past sexual behaviour” which did not form part of the charges.

The Faculty found that Mr Alonzi repeatedly commented on Ms Wilson’s sexual history and asked whether she had a personality disorder without evidential basis for doing so to infer she was “not a credible or reliable witness”.

In his closing speech, he seemed to suggest his client was innocent, that the jury got its decision wrong and that it was unfair that Ms Wilson had gone on to achieve a first-class honours degree, a master’s degree with distinction, and work in her chosen career.

The committee said the lawyer has not appeared to accept any wrongdoing and has not offered unreserved apology to Ms Wilson.

They said his submissions instead focused on the fact that he had been the subject of a significant amount of negative publicity which had caused him “reputational damage and consequential loss”.

However it was noted that he does “regret any upset caused to the complainer as well as any perception of discourtesy to the court”.

It was ruled that the lawyer should be issued with a severe written censure as well as a £2,000 fine.

He will have to pay a further £1,000 compensation to Ms Wilson for the time and dedication spent bringing forward the complaint.

Speaking following the ruling, Ms Wilson said the “paltry” fee and compensation order pales in comparison to the fees the lawyer receives for cases.

“I’m also disappointed, but not surprised, to see that Mr Alonzi takes no accountability for his actions and offers no apology, only being considered with his own reputation”, she added.

“⁠Regardless, I don’t doubt that this will send a strong message to others who wish to use their privileged position as a lawyer to traumatise victims in courts. This behaviour is unacceptable and it will not be tolerated.

“I’m proud of myself for having endured this arduous process when the odds were all stacked against me, it shouldn’t be this hard.

“Survivors who are brave enough to come forward to do not deserve to be treated in such a dehumanising and humiliating way.”

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