9 Bedford Row
London WC1R 4AZ
1st November 2013
Dear Lord Chancellor
I hope you will forgive me if this response to the consultation paper does not engage much with the detail. This is because a condemned man does not have much appetite for scrutinising the small print of his death warrant.
Not being a lawyer yourself it may be that when you took office you were wryly amused by barristers’ instinct towards melodrama and theatricality. And it is certainly true that the coming death of the Bar has been predicted over many years.
And if it is your supposition that the Bar will soldier on in one form or another regardless of the savage cuts that you propose then you are probably right. However it will not be populated by barristers worthy of the name. The public may believe that it will be business as usual but they will be wrong. We are at the tipping point beyond which miscarriages of justice will proliferate.
There is a real willingness and resolve on the part of the Bar to take action that will make it abundantly clear to the Government and the public that we can’t go on like this. Every barrister owes a duty to the court and to his client. However the duty owed to the course of justice eclipses all others and if the Bar becomes unable to facilitate the course of justice then the only proper course is for the Bar to withdraw its services.
The Bar is not blind to the financial exigencies of the situation or the extreme pressure being brought to bear on you to reduce the Ministry of Justice’s expenditure. It is however disappointing in the extreme that you propose enormous reductions to the livelihoods of those that work in your Ministry’s name that you do not lead by example and pledge an equivalent percentage of your salary and pension to the Treasury. I ask, as a demonstration of your good faith that we are all in this together, that you do so.
Your view is that the Bar must shrink. You do not explain why that must happen. You do not explain which are those barristers that must seek employment elsewhere. You do not explain what criteria should determine who it is that should leave the Bar.
The reality is that the first to leave the Bar will be the last to join it. Pupils and junior tenants with debts, that you as a young man could not even have conceived of, will realise that there is simply no way for them to earn a living at the criminal Bar and they will leave. Judges and QCs of the future will be cut off at source.
The only entrants to the criminal Bar in the future will be the idle rich joining the Bar as a hobby. You well know that the Bar of 2013 is a hugely more diverse profession socially and ethnically than that of just a few decades ago. The more that has happened the more legitimately the Bar, and your Ministry, can claim that the criminal justice system reflects the society it exists to serve. It is astonishing that in 2013 there is only female member of the highest court in the land. The cuts that you propose will ensure that no progress at all will be made towards improving that balance.
The Bar has already submitted to years of relentless cuts. There is no scope or tolerance for more.
Please listen to the warnings from those that know and care and turn back.
Max Hardy, Barrister