On Monday morning, large numbers of decent, worried, angry criminal barristers will chose not to work. They have thought of the consequences and are convinced by the argument that they should put the uncertain future of tomorrows clients before their duty to todays. It is, above all, honorable. Then it is brave. Then it is unselfish.
Readers know that I do not share the tactics of Direct Action, believing that today’s punter must come first and should never be abandoned.
On that single point of difference, I have sought as an individual to beg my fellow barristers to think again. A few have: the great majority are up for a fight.
Now the die is cast, at least for half a day. And I have little doubt that it will be strongly supported on this occasion.
Fortunately it will not prevent representation of the most vulnerable or those at risk of their liberty, as the protocol sensibly recognizes.
Yet as a strategy for relief of injustice it carries huge and continuing risks, if only because a strategy which sidelines so many other clients must remain vulnerable, like it or not.
That of course is why we must, sooner or later, find another way out of this mess.
Before that, I want to risk advice to all those who do not agree with me and who will stand by their own principles on the picket lines of Justice.
Beware of your enemies. Clothed as they may be in sheep’s clothing.
I mean – all in the media who cannot wait to exploit your position.
So if even one of you calls out ‘Scab’ to another barrister doing his or her duty – as they conceive it to be – you diminish and damage all of us.
The media will love that, but the Bar won’t.
The risk of far left non lawyers jumping on the bandwagon is one that you will have considered already and will recognize, as well as the risk of provocative mini violence which can disfigure the most worthwhile of causes.
All fuel for the intransigent right or those preferring fee misrepresentation to the true facts.
No, dare I say it, on and off the picket line, there is one factor which probably unites virtually every criminal barrister at this moment in time.
It is the desire for a just settlement.
Not capitulation. Honest resolution.
How is that to happen?
It is time to address The Lord Chancellor, at least in print – much as I would like to do so, face to face, if only to echo the representations of others.
The differences between a mere politician and a real statesman are vision and judgment.
You have the chance to reach out and listen to concerns running far deeper than reductions of fees. There are real and identifiable injustices which cry out to be addressed.
I urge you to pay heed to a wise and independent very senior perhaps judicial voice who could promote resolution. There will be a number of very acceptable names.
Agree to the immediate intervention of that figure.
Before or after Monday, do the right thing.
The publication of figures of barristers doing legal aid crime is hedged with many reservations and incidentally will make the issues more difficult to cover for non specialist journalists. But it is likely to be a line of defence on and after the day of action. I still think the best response is to produce well presented real life examples, particularly from the very junior bar. Even at this late stage, it should be possible for spokesmen to have these to hand.
When the dust has settled, the only question that now matters is – where next? That I wIll risk in a a day or more.
Nigel Pascoe QC