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Justice for all?

Justice for all?

🕔25.Mar 2013

A few years ago I told someone I respected that due to the changes in Criminal Law, the Barristers were going on strike. Sadly he believed the stereotypes and instead of asking the detail of their plight he laughed at the thought of a hard up barrister. The best paid Criminal Barristers make up 1% of those who practice Criminal Law and these are but a minority of the Profession. The majority earn sums that are moderate when all their overheads are paid. Of course other fields such as Commercial or Chancery Law which are privately paid, earn more.

Times are radically changing for the worse and the conditions are becoming harder than anyone could have imagined. It is happening at an alarming rate. Therefore I wish to dispell the preconceptions and lay out why the current changes being imposed by the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has the capability of affecting all of us.

It is a two pronged attack, affecting the Criminal Bar who provide the expertise and Legal Aid, thereby limiting those who can access Justice. Barristers currently practising have had their fees cut by over 25%, this has led to fewer and fewer law graduates choosing Criminal Law as their speciality. Why would anyone enter a profession when, after years of exams and training could mean being paid as little as £46.50 for a days work having had to spend the previous evening preparing it.

There are of course many areas who are suffering in the name of austerity, but a strong case has to be made to keep our Justice system which is the envy of the world. There are a finite number of criminal barristers in the United Kingdom but with few if any new entrants this number can only decrease, when there is no incentive to join a profession where you will surely face hardship.

When considering Legal Aid, do not think of it from the angle of the Maxwell brothers trial which was an anomaly although it is always used to justify the cuts, think of it instead of the ordinary man, woman or child who needs to be represented as they face Professional Prosecutors.

Legal Aid is not a hand out, it is a fundamental right to ensure the poorest in our society are entitled to a fair trial. Innocent until proven guilty is still the bedrock of our system.

If you hear that barristers fees are being cut and it raises a smile then you are probably lucky enough never to have needed their services and I hope you never do. However if arrested, the first person you will want to speak to is a good brief, I just hope there will be someone on the other end of the phone to answer your call and to provide the expert service you need.

I call on everyone to take time to find out the real issues being faced by the Criminal Bar and not simply read the headlines.

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