A QC has been forced to pull out of the election for vice chair of the Criminal Bar Association following a furore over his comments appearing to liken solicitors to ’the postman’.
In a letter published on the CBA’s website Simon Spence QC wrote that he was ‘prepared for an honest debate’ but not for the ‘personal abuse’ he received form some quarters.
It means his rival candidate Christopher Henley QC will automatically become the new vice chair on 1 September.
The controversial comments appeared in Spence’s manifesto in which he called for the advocates’ graduated fee scheme (AGFS) to be altered and for a ’re-allocation of funding away from the litigators’ fee.’
At present litigators ‘are often paid more than the advocate for little more than instructing counsel and inviting them onto the CCDCS [Crown Court Digital Case System]. It is quite wrong that the postman gets paid more than the person to whom he delivers the post and who has to read and digest it,’ Spence wrote.
Solicitors were quick to criticise Spence. In an open letter, the Criminal Law Solicitors Association said solicitors see clients on ‘countless occasions’ before a brief is even delivered and that clients ‘regularly turn to us with a manner of problems that don’t ever come anywhere near your letterbox’.
Spence wrote an open letter in response in which he said he was not suggesting a reduction in fee levels for solicitors but was making a point that fewer cases proceed by way of committal through the magistrates’ court than before and that the introduction of the CCDCS has removed the necessity of solicitors physically briefing counsel.
In his resignation letter Spence says that proposed changes to both the AGFS and LGFS is the ‘single most important issue’ facing the two branches of our profession but also the most divisive.
He added: ‘I am sorry that the way I expressed myself in my statement has caused such difficulties, especially to my colleagues at Red Lion Chambers.’
Red Lion Chambers said the manifesto does not represent the views of the chambers.