Let us consider the realities of the situation.
We are dealing with a government that is ideologically and fiscally wedded to unprecedented cuts across the public sector. The bottom line for Mr Gove is, as it was for his predecessor, money. Without action now no more will be made available for the system we care so deeply for.
We are told by those in the NO camp that the Government is listening and there is hope of negotiating some form of protection for the Bar. Yet, not even the slightest hint has been given that the Lord Chancellor has the power to regulate the professions in such a way as to prevent the rise of HCA’s or, if he does, that he intends to use it. Were such a deal to be struck whilst the further 8.75% cut is allowed to stand then what will be the reaction of the solicitors? There are 2 possibilities: either they will fold as the devastating effect of the cut is further compounded by the restriction on their access to advocacy fees; or they will take action to bring the system to a halt, as we are now seeing they are able and prepared to do.
The result of this will be that rules will have to be relaxed or money will have to be found from somewhere. The obvious place will be advocacy fees, which we will be told by then, have been protected long enough. You can bet that Gove’s affection for the Bar will count for nothing when that time comes.
We as defenders of justice owe a duty to the whole system. Our clients will not be saved simply by having ‘quality advocacy’ if there are not experienced and specialist solicitors to prepare their cases. I do not want to be part of a Bar that sees itself as an island to be protected at all costs. I want those who cannot afford to pay to have at least a chance of excellent representation from the police station to court. Failure to take action now will ensure that remains a fading memory. Isolationism is no escape from this. However noble they believe their intentions to be, senior members of the Bar will not protect those of us at the junior end by pursuing such a course.
Let us be united and vote YES to salvage something upon which we can build.
Garden Court Chambers