A PENARTH man has been found guilty of impersonating a qualified barrister at Crown Court, after he donned a wig and robe to represent a friend he met in prison.

David Sydney Evans, of Culver Close, strolled into Plymouth Crown Court dressed in court attire, gained access to the advocates' dressing room, and visited his ‘client’ in the cells.

But the 57-year-old was rumbled by the court's judge, who spotted discrepancies in his clothing and a series of ‘hopelessly wrong’ legal submissions.

On Monday (March 5), a jury at Bristol Crown Court found Evans guilty of carrying out a reserved legal activity when not entitled, and wilfully pretending to be a person with a right of audience.

The jury of five men and seven women took 30 minutes to return the unanimous verdict, after also hearing that Evans had previous convictions for a similar offence.

The court heard he was serving a sentence at Dartmoor prison for obtaining money by deception, when he met cannabis producer Terry Moss, the man he tried to represent during the ‘proceeds of crime’ hearing in Plymouth.

Mr Moss, having sacked two separate legal teams, was ‘desperate’ for someone to help him, and during Evans' trial he told the court he was ‘one of a few people’ he could talk to in prison, and described him as ‘reasonably well versed’ and ‘able to refer to the law’.

Through his barrister Evans, who did not give evidence during his trial, tried to claim he was representing Mr Moss as ‘lay counsel’ and was simply trying to ‘help’ his friend.

But the court heard that Evans, who had no legal training, had sent a number of headed letters to Truro and Plymouth Crown Courts while he was still in prison, stating he was a ‘senior advocate’.

In one letter he claimed his office would be ‘closed until July 12, 2010’ - the date he was due to be released. He made several legal applications, asking for time extensions and adjournments and also sent a skeleton legal argument to the prosecution.

He also got Mr Moss's sister to buy him a solicitor's gown and barrister's wig before appearing in front of Judge Stephen Wildblood QC on August 17, 2010.

Kenneth Bell, prosecuting, said Evans was ‘not naïve’ and had repeatedly pretended to the court that he was a trained barrister.

"He knew perfectly well that he was not entitled to go to court, put on a solicitor's gown, put the collar and the bands on, put the wig on and stand in court to represent Mr Moss, but he did so," said Mr Bell.

"At no time did Judge Wildblood know that Evans was unqualified - he only found out after persistently asking him about his qualifications."

Giving evidence, Judge Wildblood, who was due to oversee the confiscation order relating to the drugs produced by Mr Moss, told the court Evans had made a series of legal assertions which were "wrong in an elementary way".

When he appeared before him, Judge Wildblood said Evans' appearance had struck him "immediately as strange".

"I believed Mr Evans to be a member of the Bar, so to come in to see someone in a solicitor's gown and a barrister’s wig struck as a surprise," he said.

The Judge, who sits in Truro, Plymouth and Exeter crown courts and has 32 years legal experience, made inquiries of the Law Society and the Bar Council, but found no record of Evans.

When he asked the man before him what his legal qualifications were, the Judge told the court he was stunned when Evans admitted he had none.

It was after this that Evans was exposed, but he was allowed to stay in court to represent Moss as a ‘McKenzie friend’ – someone who can assist a defendant in representing themselves in court.

The confiscation hearing was adjourned until October 1, 2010 when Mr Moss, who was jailed for four-and-a-half years after he admitted growing cannabis at his home in Cornwall, appeared for his proceeds of crime hearing and had £70,000 removed from his assets.

Evans befriended Mr Moss in Dartmoor prison while serving time for various offences of obtaining money by deception.

He dishonestly obtained services from Werndale Hospital near Carmarthen, where he held eight consultations with four different patients, pretending to be a clinical psychologist.

He had previously submitted a CV to the hospital stating he had nine GCSEs, a masters degree in psychology and previous employment with North Devon District Council.

Summing up the evidence heard over the three-day trial, Mrs Justice Laura Cox said his previous convictions could show a "tendency to commit offences of the kind (with which) he is now charged".

After the verdict, the case was adjourned and Evans was released on bail to reappear at Bristol Crown Court later this month for sentencing.