Shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti has called for the Inns of Court to take back control of bar training, criticising ‘profiteering’ private sector providers. 

The four Inns — Lincoln’s Inn, Middle Temple, Gray’s Inn and Inner Temple — were the sole bar training providers until two decades ago. After competitors entered the market in 1997, the Inns stopped offering the BPTC (then the Bar Vocational Course) in 2001.

Last month, it was reported that the Inns were mulling a return to the market. That came shortly after the Bar Standards Board signed off changes to the education system.  

Addressing Saturday’s Bar Conference, Baroness Chakrabarti said the Inns should be the main course providers, echoing a similar call by her colleague Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, shadow solicitor general. Both are barristers.

Regional training centres could be set up to avoid the perception of being London-centric, she added.

’This has been starring us in the face the whole time,’ she said. ‘Supporting reform of the BPTC will warn the profiteers that change is coming. I repeat my colleague’s words … to put the profiteers on fair notice that change is coming and to promise to work with the bar and the Inns enthusiastically and creatively on the best way to invest in the best future of the profession.’ 

Chakrabarti also used her speech to condemn the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act as a ‘national scandal on a par with Universal Discredit [sic] and the ”hostile environment” towards migrants’.

Speaking before Chakrabarti, Richard Hoyle, chair of the Young Barristers Committee, gave an impassioned defence of the justice system which he said is a must for ‘all of society’. The injection of an extra £8m into the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS) was welcome, he said, but added that discussions need to continue.

He also referred to substandard conditions found in many court buildings around the country and called for ‘millions’ more to be invested in them.

’The places where people enjoy working -  think Google - have all invested substantially in making sure the working environment is the best it can be,’ he said, adding that investment would also improve productivity and general wellbeing. As an ’absolute minimum’, said Hoyle, buildings should not have leaking roofs and broken toilets.