Fat cats or poor hacks?
Faraz Shibli a lawyer who practised at the criminal bar for eight years before throwing in the towel two years ago offered some myth-busting advice on the grim realities of life at the junior Bar for the Justice Gap (here).
The question is: why on earth would someone want to become a criminal barrister nowadays—to rack up huge amounts of debt in university fees and the necessary further years of training to earn a pittance for what is extremely hard work, with no minimum wage, no maternity leave, no paid holidays and no pension?
I applaud the criminal barristers now refusing to work in protest. And I’d be joining them too, if I hadn’t already thrown in the towel and left the bar two years ago.
Heads of chambers met yesterday to discuss the offer the government has made to the Criminal Bar – as reported in the Criminal Bar Association’s Monday message to members. The group also called for an end to the flexible operating hours (FOH) pilot.
Meanwhile, the Times’ Brief reported that minimum pay for pupil barristers in London should rise by nearly 45 per cent. As part of proposed reforms for barrister training, the Bar Standards Board called for pupils to be paid ‘at least the so-called living wage’. If the policy were implemented immediately, it would mean that the minimum salary for pupils at London sets would rise from £12,000 to £17,212.
The Legal Services Board has ‘slapped’ the Law Society with the first ever public censure, reported Legal Futures.
Apparently, Chancery Lane was in ‘serious breach’ of its internal governance rules and its actions undermined ‘the public interest in effective regulation of legal services’.
A 103-page report found that the SRA was ‘not allowed to design and manage the appointments process for its own board members’ and the Society’s oversight arrangements were incomplete, out of date, not transparent and not proportionate.
The Times welcomed a proposal by the Master of the Rolls, Sir Terence Etherton that civil proceedings of the Court of Appeal should be streamed live on YouTube. A Times leader explained that this would mean that hearings such as those involving the recent tragic cases of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans would be broadcast as they happened.
It is nonetheless the right thing to do. Justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done. It would be wrong to let tradition or inertia spare the blushes of jurists stuck in a bygone age, but in any case the signs are that their cultural sensibilities have done a lot of catching up since the days when a judge could inquire “and who is Gazza?”. Or when, less quaintly, a rape victim could be castigated from the bench because she happened to be wearing a short skirt when attacked.
Too high a bar
Finally, a former Court of Appeal judge criticised the court for a hardening attitude to potential miscarriages of justice cases which had the knock-on effect of making the Criminal Cases Review Commission overly cautious. Sir Anthony Hooper told the BBC’s Panorama (as reported on Justice Gap here) that the CCRC had become ‘more cautious because the court had set the bar higher than it had been in living memory’. ‘It’s become much more difficult for an appellant to succeed…and, therefore that will no doubt influence [the CCRC] on what cases that they send through,’ he said.
The presenter Mark Daly asked if he was saying the bar currently set by the Court of Appeal was wrong, Sir Anthony said: ‘I’m saying that.’
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