Barristers' hooliganism halts Inns of Court charity ball

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The Independent Online

Judges are refusing to host a charity ball for lawyers after reports of drunken barristers, loud rock music and a chewed up medieval lawn.

Judges are refusing to host a charity ball for lawyers after reports of drunken barristers, loud rock music and a chewed up medieval lawn.

The Inns of Court Ball, which attracts 2,500 barristers and their guests each year, has gained a reputation for raucous behaviour. Drunkenness has become such a problem that the organisers have stopped giving out free alcohol.

The ball, which has raised £100,000 for charity over the years, even attracted the attention of the laddish magazine Loaded, which gave it a glowing write-up after its reporters drank themselves to oblivion.

But, because of the potential for bad publicity, the organisers have asked anyone buying a £75 ticket to sign a written promise not to take photographs or publish accounts of their experiences.

The trouble has proved too much for the masters of the benches of Inner Temple, the judges and senior barristers who host the event on a three-year rotation with two other inns. They wrote to the organisers last week telling them they were planning to pull out of next year's event, which they were due to host.

The reason given was concern about the Inner Temple lawn, which was damaged at the 1998 ball. But it is understood that the drunken antics of a minority, combined with loud rock music from artists including Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Bananarama and Jimmy Somerville, have set the wrong tone for some of the judges.

Tomorrow's ball, headlined by Dannii Minogue, Hugh Cornwell, formerly of the Stranglers, and the 1980s band ABC, looks likely to be the last.

Stuart Adamson, of the Scottish rock band Big Country who played at the event in 1998, described the event as "Glastonbury in a tuxedo".

Martin Fry, the singer with ABC, praised the ball for its commitment to charity fund-raising. "There is no doubt that these are worthy charities. It's great to be involved with them," he said.

But Saira Zaki, a non-practising barrister and a reporter with Legal Weekmagazine, described the event as "wall to wall drinking in the main hall, with many of the barristers involved in drunken behaviour".

Jonathan Rich, the ball's founder-chairman, admitted that some people have "trouble managing their alcohol consumption" and used it as an excuse to "let their horse hair down". But the balls had been a huge success for the charities and the profession, he said.

Peter Little, the sub-treasurer at Inner Temple, confirmed that the inn was negotiating with the others about the event carrying on under the present arrangements.

"If you have 2,000 people at a ball which goes right through the night then you can work out what will happen," he said.