Rapist's lawyer 'repeatedly crossed the line' when questioning victim

Lorenzo Alonzi, Daniel McFarlane's defence advocate, repeatedly 'crossed the line' in Ellie Wilson's cross-examination, committee finds.

A rape survivor has had her complaint against the inappropriate questioning by her attacker’s lawyer upheld by the Faculty of Advocates.

Ellie Wilson submitted a complaint over the cross-examination from 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 both were attending 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.

Mr Alonzi was found to have “repeatedly crossed the line” despite numerous interruptions from the trial judge.

Of eleven complaints referred to the Faculty of Advocates by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, the committee found Mr Alonzi had acted with unsatisfactory professional conduct in six instances.

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, Mr Alonzi 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 Complaints Committee “unanimously” considered Mr Alonzi guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct under the Faculty of Advocates Disciplinary Rules 2019, though falling short of professional misconduct.

“I fought the law and I won,” Ms Wilson said after the decision.

“After being subjected to a humiliating ordeal in court by my rapist’s defence lawyer, I started the arduous process of submitting a complaint.

“I had to study the law, compile it all myself, facing off against a team of lawyers and it’s been upheld.”

Ms Wilson said she left court feeling “traumatised, shamed and humiliated”.

She said: “I was accused in court of having various personality disorders with no evidential basis. I was told I made my rapist jealous. It was implied I was promiscuous.

“Worst of all, after my rapist was found guilty, his lawyer implied he was falsely convicted and said it was an ‘injustice’ that I’d graduated with a first and masters with distinction. He also said that my rapist had simply ‘fallen in love with the wrong person’.”

She added: “I did not have any lawyers to help me. I am not a legal professional, so had to set about learning about the relevant sections of the law and the code of conduct for advocates. I spent hours and hours working on this complaint and going back and forth with the relevant bodies.

“Complaints of this nature are enormously rare, and after going through this process I can understand why. It is a complex, lengthy, and expensive process. That’s before considering the trauma and emotional toll.”

Ms Wilson claimed many defence lawyers operate within a “culture of immunity” adding that some believe they can do “whatever they want as there won’t be any consequences”.

“They believe they can say or do whatever they want as there won’t be consequences,” she said. “They depend on the secrecy and complexity of the court system to protect them.

“I hope that this sets a precedent and shows advocates and other defence lawyers that actions have consequences, and they cannot say and do whatever they please regardless of the law.

“I am immensely proud of myself for having persevered through this process and having never given up, despite the obstacles.

“It also goes without saying that I’m so, so grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way and donated to my fundraiser. This happened because of you.”

Following the decision, the Faculty has invited Mr Alonzi to make representations in relation to a penalty for his conduct.

A Faculty of Advocates spokesperson said: “The process remains ongoing, therefore it would not be appropriate for Faculty to comment on this matter.”

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