Permit me to correct the assertion of Marialuisa Taddia in her article ‘Raising the bar’ that solicitor-advocates are a relatively new breed of lawyer and first acquired their rights of audience in the higher courts in 1994.
In 1974, with the abolition of the Assizes and the Quarter Sessions, and the introduction of the Crown Court in their place, all solicitors who had appeared as advocates in magistrates’ courts automatically retained, on behalf of their clients, rights of audience in Crown courts on committals for sentence and appeals against both conviction and sentence. I widely exercised those rights in the 1970s and 1980s in the north-west, gaining invaluable experience of the environs of the higher courts alongside members of the bar.
On my travels in the late 1970s, I discovered a much older tradition and somewhat curious anomaly. This provided, in certain very restricted circumstances, for a solicitor-advocate to appear in the Crown court in a case where a defendant had been sent for or elected jury trial.
This tradition apparently had subsisted from the old assizes. It appeared that in just three court centres in England and Wales where there was deemed to be no local bar, such a right of audience existed for solicitors. One of these was at Caernarfon in north Wales and another at Bodmin in Cornwall. To the surprise of the judiciary and some consternation from the members of the Chester Bar, I recall appearing to conduct my first jury trial at Caernarfon Crown Court in the mid 1980s. So we solicitor-advocates are not by any stretch ‘new boys on the block’.
David Kirwan, senior Partner, Kirwans, Merseyside