This Guest Post is by Will Nelson, Solicitor Advocate.
I haven’t composed a blog entry regarding the “consultation” since back in April but sadly on the day that our response is due, I feel the need to express dissatisfaction at a part of my side of the profession.
Since I secured rights of audience in the Crown Court, I have often looked at certain sections of the Bar and formed the opinion that they are deliberately obtuse and reactionary towards HCAs whether we are good, bad or the same as they. I found this to be dispiriting, especially as I impose upon myself the rule that I would never undertake to conduct any hearing that I felt was beyond my skill and knowledge, and because I always make sure that I am very well prepared as to both the facts and law pertaining to my matter. However, I always understood that the role of the Bar should be respected and that as I was trespassing upon their livelihoods I should do so carefully and with sensitivity.
Then came the consultation. The Criminal Bar, now with Mr Lithman at the helm, has been exemplary. Barristers have lived up to their motto and have taken the fight to the government in a direct and erudite way. The Bar has recognised that we are all now stood on the precipice and that simply to acquiesce in some way would be akin to stepping over the edge and slowly falling to our inevitable demise. In consequence, they have chosen to draw a mark, stand fast and this time fight. They are not alone. The excellent CLSA has also recognised the peril the profession and indeed the CJS is in.
What saddens me is the attitude not only of the Law Society, this is no surprise, but of a great many local solicitors in the Magistrates Courts at which I appear. There are only a limited number who have bothered to respond. The partners/directors of their respective firms have not sort to set an example nor have they organised much by way of information for their staff. I am met with blank stares and the scratching on heads. Perhaps worse though is the fact that at least two firms have made it clear that far from supporting the fight, they will simply sweep in and hoover up whatever they can from the destruction. I am ashamed to have to share my professional status with these people and if the government ploughs on, it will be because they are counting on this type of practice.
So often solicitors practicing criminal law are seen as the poor relative. We are often not catered for by local Law Societies, and certainly there are some that see it as a dumping ground for lawyers who are not quite up to other more lucrative areas of law. For the first time I’m starting to see some truth in the sentiment. Times are bleak but there is a fight to be had. If you sit in a fog of apathy you will end up as part of a ruined CJS where pride and commitment in the cause of Justice will be priced out. If you have not yet replied to the consultation, do so by five today. Stand with the Bar resolutely as one profession, adopt their motto “do right fear no one” and do not simply believe others will do the work for you.