Guides explaining the workings of criminal courts should be corrected ‘as a matter of urgency’ according to the Bar Council, which claims they ‘effectively airbrush out of history the role of barristers’.
The Ministry of Justice has published a four-part guide for defendants in criminal cases. The illustrated guide is designed to be understood by all defendants, including those with low literacy levels, and will be available online and in courts.
According to the MoJ, the move follows reports that lay users often go to court without a sufficient understanding of what to expect, which can ‘cause delays and restrict access to justice'. The leaflets should make courts 'more efficient for victims and witnesses’.
However, Richard Atkins QC, chair of the Bar Council, said he was ‘very surprised’ by the publication.
‘Whilst I understand that they are meant to provide easily digestible information, to effectively airbrush out of history the role of barristers in the criminal courts is incomprehensible.
‘Barristers conduct the vast majority of cases in the Crown court and are involved in many in the Magistrates' courts. Barristers also appear under the direct access provisions without the need for a solicitor to also be instructed. I hope that whoever has produced these documents corrects them as a matter of urgency.’
Barristers are mentioned just twice in the four-part guide. Solicitors are mentioned in every section of the pamphlet.