I read with considerable surprise and dismay the latest complaint of the beleaguered criminal bar that we are now apparently seeking ‘squalid backhanders’ from barristers in return for instructions in court cases. This article is based on a claim by Alistair MacDonald QC, chair of the Bar Council.
While he attacks his fellow members, describing them as ‘charlatans’, the inference that we are equally smeared for allegedly asking for such payments is blindingly obvious. I say allegedly, for I am absolutely dumbfounded by this wild and uncorroborated accusation, which is completely new to me after 45 years in practice as a criminal lawyer.
I challenge Mr MacDonald to refer his evidence to the SRA, for this is a scandalous accusation regarding an activity which no decent and right-minded solicitor would dream of involving themselves in. I suspect, as many others do, that there is not one scintilla of truth in this and that it is simply a ‘hare running’ to support the criminal bar’s joint endeavours with the Ministry of Justice to remove from firms like mine, who have heavily invested in the development of in-house advocacy, the right to instruct our own HCAs in the Crown court.
It is a nasty slur upon our branch of the profession which should be withdrawn in the absence of cogent supporting evidence. It also reflects badly on the MoJ for lending weight to this attack at a time when, arguably, publicly funded criminal defence is on its knees.
David Kirwan, higher courts advocate (crime and civil), Kirwans, Merseyside