Strike at your peril

Your Honour, I have an unusual application to make, namely that this Court should not sit tomorrow at all.

Why not, Mr Jinks?

Because I shall be on strike, Your Honour, which sadly would leave the defendant unrepresented. And we have reached the stage in the trial where tomorrow I am due to cross examine the prosecution accountant. In my submission, the defendant is entitled to have me here for that purpose.

Quite.

Your Honour says ‘Quite’ May I infer that Your Honour is indeed prepared to grant my application?

First principles first, Mr Jinks. Are you seriously telling me that you are choosing quite deliberately to refuse to be present in my court tomorrow morning?

Indeed that is my position, Your Honour. I intend no disrespect by that.

So that if I take the view that the trial must continue, your client will indeed be completely unrepresented?

Yes Your Honour, sadly that will be his position.

Well let me just stay with your position, Mr Jinks. A personal decision, I take it?

Well, yes and no, Your Honour. My elders and betters in my professional associations take the view that tomorrow all criminal barristers should withdraw their labour, as it were. The legal aid cuts are so serious that that stance must be taken. However the personal decision is left to me.

And how about the Bar Council?

Your Honour, as I understand it, they do not take quite the same position. Whilst opposing the cuts very strongly, they have indicated that it is never right to leave the client unrepresented in the course of proceedings.

I am relieved to hear it, Mr Jinks. Abandoning clients in their hour of need is not the way I was brought up at the bar. Mr Justice Melford Stevenson would have called it a dereliction of duty. And he wouldn’t have been alone.

Your Honour, I cannot say that this application is giving me any pleasure.

No, Mr Jinks I don’t suppose it is. Because in refusing your application, which of course I’m going to do, I need to ask you if you have thought through the professional consequences of your non appearance tomorrow morning?

You mean a wasted costs order, Your Honour?

That for a start.

Well I understand that my betters have budgeted for that in the short term. So happily I will be in a position to dip into the whip round and pay any order that Your Honour deems appropriate.

Unfortunately then that is the least of your worries, Mr Jinks. You realise that I shall have to report you to the Bar Council and or the Bar Standards Board and probably your own Head of Chambers?

If Your Honour thinks fit.

I would have no choice, Mr Jinks. We have the clearest guidance from the Lord Chancellor downwards not to allow the progress of the courts to be interrupted. And if you choose deliberately to do so, the professional consequences are inevitable.

Indeed Your Honour.

But sadly Mr Jinks, it may not end there. Courageously you have made your position clear in advance. When I refuse this application and you fail to attend tomorrow, I may have no option but to begin proceedings for contempt. Have you thought about that?

No, Your Honour, I have not.

Then may I suggest you give it your very careful consideration.. Very sadly that would put your entire career on the line. A criminal conviction is difficult for any regulator to ignore. Whatever the mitigation. Sadly you would face suspension at the least and possible disbarment.

I hope Your Honour is not threatening me.

That is impertinent, Mr Jinks but understandable and I will ignore it. I do recognise that your position is not an easy one. But you need to think this through very carefully.

What would Your Honour advise me to do?

Think of your client, Mr Jinks and the high standards of our profession. You are a perfectly good and competent barrister who is representing the defendant entirely properly up to this minute. I simply cannot believe you want to desert him tomorrow in his hour of need. I take it we are agreed that tomorrow’s cross-examination would be a living nightmare for your client to undertake on his own?

He couldn’t do it, Your Honour.

No Mr Jinks, but that is precisely what he will have to do and think about tonight. Your application is refused. The court will sit tomorrow morning as usual.

ALL RISE

Mr Jinks, would you forgive me one more friendly piece of advice. Have a word with your wife tonight. It may be that she has a point of view. I happen to think that families come first

Your Honour.

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