Barristers will outnumber solicitors nearly two to one on the new advisory council that Michael Gove (pictured) pledged to establish when he scrapped the criminal legal aid contracting regime, the Gazette can reveal.
The Law Society has responded by expressing concern that the body is unrepresentative and fails to reflect the diversity of the profession.
Chaired by high-profile criminal silk Gary Bell QC of No5 Chambers, the new body’s membership will also comprise:
Tarsem Salhan, solicitor and senior partner at Salhan & Co, Birmingham;
Paul Selby, solicitor and partner at Mann & Co, Smethwick;
Richard Nelson, solicitor and senior partner of national firm Richard Nelson;
Andrew Trotter, senior criminal clerk at No5 Chambers;
Priya Bakshi, a junior barrister from KCH Barristers in the East Midlands;
David Etherington QC of 18 Red Lion Court;
Victoria Gregory, legal executive from Janes Solicitors;
Rebecca Herbert, a junior barrister and recorder from 36 Bedford Row;
HHJ Adrienne Lucking QC, a judge at Northampton Crown Court;
Priya Malhotra, a junior barrister from 25 Bedford Row;
HHJ Rupert Mayo, the Recorder of Northampton;
Earl Pinnock, a junior barrister from No5 Chambers;
Mark Trafford QC, 23 Essex Street.
A representative from the Legal Aid Agency is still to be appointed and there will be one more solicitor.
Announcing in January that he would not press ahead with dual contracting for criminal legal aid, the lord chancellor (pictured) said the new council of barristers and solicitors would help him ‘explore how we can reduce unnecessary bureaucratic costs, eliminate waste and end continuing abuses within the current legal aid system’.
Writing for Gazette online earlier this week, Bell invited anybody involved in the criminal justice system throughout England and Wales to email if they have matters they want the council to consider.
‘The council will… consider all matters affecting efficiency, delay and waste within the system and make recommendations to the lord chancellor as to how best they can be eliminated,’ he wrote.
The Law Society has urged solicitors to engage with the new body. However Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said that Chancery Lane is ‘very disappointed’ by the membership.
‘There is little if any geographical balance with eight out of 13 members being based in the Midlands,' he said. 'There is no representation from Wales, and no attempt to balance experience in urban, market town and rural areas. It is dominated by barristers when the majority of criminal defence work is carried out by solicitors.
'We are concerned that the members of this group will not have the day-to-day experience of routine criminal practice that is supposed to be the focus of the council’s work and it is unclear whether issues of diversity have been considered.’
Smithers also questioned the number of people from Bell’s own chambers on the council – two in addition to him.
‘This is an important initiative therefore ensuring membership is truly representative of our diverse profession is critical,’ Smithers added.