A senior member of the Court of Appeal has called on judges to speak out to protect the independent bar and help dispel ‘misleading myths’ spread about junior barristers, to educate the public and politicians about the vital work they do for justice.
Lord Justice Moses (pictured) told the Young Bar’s annual conference at the weekend that a ‘fair and just system of law’ depends on the ‘independence and courage not just of the bar but the young bar’.
‘Unless a vigorous independent young bar who can see a future is valued and safeguarded there will not be justice, there will not even be a system of law and there will be no judges and no judges worth their salt,’ he said.
Because only the ‘minority misfortunate’ members of the public require their services, most have no understanding of the importance of their work - so they ‘lap up misleading myths about the life of the young bar and the work they do.’
‘You are after all fair game to any spin,’ he said.
Moses said the message to protect, nurture and cherish those who seek to provide ‘independent and powerful advocacy’ is not given to politicians through their postbags and Twitter feeds. ‘Each time some myth is spread about the ease and opulence of your life, or the wiles of your craft there will be few in authority and power to speak on your behalf because those in authority observe and acknowledge no reaction from the public on whose support they depend,’ he suggested.
He called on judges, who rely on those who argue before them, to speak up for the members of their own former profession, noting that it is from the ranks of the young bar that the ‘independent and brave judges of the future’ will be drawn.
Judges ‘must’, he implored, say ‘over and over and over again that the law depends upon the lawyers; that the courts cannot fulfil their obligation to do justice without a band of skilled and fearless advocates’.
He suggested that judges abandon the reserve that prevents them expressing ‘necessary indignation’ in the face of ‘attacks’ on the independent bar.
However he said that today’s senior judges had no experience of the financial and regulatory pressures faced by the junior bar today.
In a reference to the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA), he said today’s judiciary ‘never worked in a system whereby to gain the necessary qualification they have to please the judge’.
‘They never had to face the competition of wondering how they were to live or pay back their education debts as they chased pupillage’ and they did not face the scale of the proposed public funding pay cuts.
In a stinging attack on politicians and on the bar’s regulators, Moses decried the ‘wholly unjustified absence of trust’ shown in the profession.
‘Does there not pervade throughout all the reforms, the changes, the rules, the regulations which so heavily occupy your work, a dreadful sense that those who impose so leaden a load no longer trust you?’
In particular Moses expressed concern over the threat to fearless advocacy posed by the introduction of QASA.
With characteristic irony, he said how much he is looking forward as a judge to marking advocates in their QASA assessments.
‘Provided you agree with every proposition I put to you, support me when a colleague dares to disagree, keep your client quiet and your legal submissions which I do not understand short, sit down when I tell you to sit down, and laugh at my jokes, you will have demonstrated outstanding ability.
‘You will be guaranteed my wholehearted support and you can conduct as many tier four cases as you wish.’
Speaking later at the conference, Vanessa Davies, director of the Bar Standards Board, defended QASA as the means to ‘protect the public from advocates who are not as good as they should be.’
No profession, Davies said, is immune from quality assurance. She pointed to the final judgment of the outgoing lord chief justice Lord Judge to support the need for QASA.
In the case, Judge criticised the ‘flagrant misconduct and alleged professional misconduct’ of a defence advocate, who had used ‘ambush’ techniques throughout a trial and likened the trial judge to a dishonest seller of worthless goods.
To dispel what she called ‘confusion’ that ‘persists’ about QASA, Davies stressed it is not linked to the procurement of criminal defence services or legal aid reforms. Rather it sets minimum standards and creates a level field for all advocates regardless of their training background.