The Bar Council should claim its share of the £1.35m cash pile held by Queen’s Counsel Appointments to help barristers during the pandemic, the Public Access Bar Association (PABA) has said.

In a letter to Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, the association said the ‘huge’ reserves held by the company that recommends the appointment of QCs serve ‘no obvious or legitimate purpose’.

‘Whatever the ostensible justification for holding this large fund, without apparent challenge from the Bar Council, it will pale into insignificance when one hears how our members are facing up to the prospect of months without income, or an income derived only from going to courts that present them with insanitary conditions, which may very well not prevent them contracting the potentially deadly coronavirus,’ it said. 

However Pinto said it is up to the QCA to decide what role it plays to help the bar. ‘It is not an agency of the Bar Council, but a company limited by guarantee, jointly owned by the Bar Council and the Law Society, which makes its own decisions. Both branches of the profession have emphasised that they are not prepared to subsidise QCA; it must cover its costs.’ 

In January, the Gazette revealed that QC Appointments had reserves of £1.35m at the end of March 2019. The company collected more than £750,000 from silk application and appointment fees in 2019 and £850,077 the previous year.

The company said ‘it would be desirable for reserves to be at a rather lower level’ and has begun to issue annual grants of £75,000 to the solicitors’ and barristers’ professions to increase diversity among QCs and the judiciary.