The right way to fight

I want to bring together a raft of ideas to fight our fight within the law and avoid the twin perils of mass suspension (No to QASA) and wasted costs orders. Hopefully also Sun headlines on the lines of
RAPE VICTIM ABANDONED BY STRIKING BARRISTER

Oh yes they would!

1. The Chairman of the Bar and the CBA and the Circuit Leaders should write an open letter to all the main papers indicating the unprecedented level of anger at the criminal bar on the inadequacy of QASA and the continuing fear that BVT will in time devastate access to justice. It should avoid threats but pull no punches.

2. Two hundred Criminal silks should sign a similar round robin. I am only too happy to write the first draft.

3. We should appoint as soon as possible a first class spokesman to be at the front of all our major communication. This need not be a lawyer – I would settle for a top media journalist.

3. The bar should choose at once a really good small team of our very best communicators on each circuit to explain to the public our legitimate deep concerns. Then we should approach all the media outlets open to us to offer a spokesperson available at all times. We must include young barristers in the team.

4. As part of all communication, we must have available real life fee examples which make plain the true figure after deduction of our chambers and other expenses. Every criminal barrister could provide such an example and that could be then set against comparative GP or consultant figures for a similar period.

5 We need one criminal barrister to adopt, monitor and write to each major provincial newspaper along the lines of the excellent recent article in the Northern Echo.

6. We should rebuild a parliamentary consensus using the bar contacts in both Houses. This should be done on a highly organised basis from a specific bar subcommittee.

7. We should seek public debate with the Lord Chancellor and the Regulator via Today, Newsnight
etc. Refusal to participate should be made public.

8. We should address bar poverty within chambers by creating a minimum chambers bar wage and address our structures so that no one fell below that sum. If that means a major financial upheaval, well that is what the spirit of unity should be proud to have achieved. Or simply create within each set a simple hardship fund administered with discretion. And real depression must be addressed by professional help such as Law Care. I would even suggest a Chambers welfare officer.

9. We should trump QASA by introducing our own high quality QA scheme. We should consider recruiting retired judges to help. We should be proud to claim that we have a far better scheme operating in the public interest.

10. We should be open immediately to a real growth in alternative business structures. That would bring ex police officers on board when required to take proofs for Direct access case and solicitors in house.

11. We need to coordinate support for our solicitors facing unprecedented change

12. We should promote circuit growth by reduced subscriptions and subsidised events for barristers under five years call.

It is a motley and incomplete list and some ideas will be rejected out of hand. That doesn’t matter. Improve it by your own ideas. Just don’t let unprecedented anger lead to indefensible action.
That way we can win. Ultimately reason will prevail.

Nigel Pascoe QC

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