Some Experiences I Had at the Bar (with reference to a recent book on the justice system in England)

I see that The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken (or, as The Guardian online has it, “Brokem“) is published:

I have no idea who “Secret Barrister” (apparently a criminal specialist) is; in fact I block him (or her) on Twitter simply because he (or she) seems to be friendly with some Jew-Zionists and others who have proven themselves to be hostile to me. It will be recalled by some that, though I ceased Bar practice in 2008, I was nonetheless disbarred in 2016 (!), after a malicious complaint by a pack of Jews calling themselves “UK Lawyers for Israel”. The main facts can be found here:

I should add that I have not read the Secret Barrister book.

My Bar pupillage (on-job training year, in my case mostly in 1992), was largely criminal (the rest being mostly civil and public law). Prior to that, I had done –and was only able to do– unpaid “pro bono” work, such as helping an eccentric small publisher to win a libel perpetrated on him by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the famous Russian author having claimed via innuendo that the plaintiff –now “claimant”– had acted as an agent for the Soviet K.G.B. We won £10,000 and costs; if anyone is interested, the case was Flegon v. Solzhenitsyn and was reported on the front pages of the more serious newspapers.

I did no ordinary criminal cases after the mid-1990s and –as mentioned– ceased Bar practice entirely in 2008, and so have no direct knowledge of the damage done to the justice system in England and Wales by reason of post-2010 “austerity” (that being the subject matter of the Secret Barrister book), but my observations more generally may be of interest.

When I was at the “Bar School” (the Inns of Court School of Law in Gray’s Inn, at the time the only place where the academic part of Bar training, culminating in the Bar Finals Exam, could be undertaken), the legal scene in London was vibrant. The pre-recession late 1980s saw major newspapers ( Times and Independent especially) carrying dozens of display ads weekly for lawyers of all types and levels of seniority. In the private salaried realm, pay for employed lawyers went from perhaps £25,000 for very junior to £100,000 and even £200,000. I knew a Bar student who needed to get a salaried job on Call to the Bar. The Crown Prosecution Service, founded only in 1986, offered him £26,000 a year as starting salary, quite good by the standards of many non-legal employees at the time. I have no specific knowledge about the salary which his equivalent might be offered today, but I doubt that it is much more, despite inflation in the succeeding 30 years.

As to those I knew who went on into private Bar practice, I followed their progress from afar, mostly from the USA. One got into criminal chambers doing fairly heavy criminal (including white collar) crime: fraud, armed robbery, serious violence. The frauds paid especially well and my friend was, by the early 1990s, making well over £100,000 a year as junior Counsel often led by a “silk” (QC). This was, to me, a stunning amount paid to a young man in his mid twenties from a no more than average academic background (a comprehensive school in the North of England, then a law degree from a provincial university) to be making, but in his milieu it was just accepted as the norm. I mention all that because it was at that time that the newspapers started to report on the amounts some barristers were making from legal aid fees. Indeed, it was about then, or not very many years later, that a handful of barristers paid via legal aid were starting to break through the million-pounds-a-year barrier.

As to others I knew, they were doing well too: an appearance in the Mags (magistrates’ court) might only pay a couple of hundred pounds, but that has to be set against the fact that many “ordinary people” were paid that much, or less, for a week of work, as opposed to what might well be, in terms of time in court (leaving aside preparation, waiting, travel) only half an hour or less in some small magistrates’ cases. I joined the throng in 1993 and, though scarcely in the stellar league (much at the Bar depends on the quality of the chambers you are in; chambers supply almost all of your work), made a reasonable living, anyway. I do recall one brief I had, an “old-style” committal for trial in a modestly-large multi-handed (7 or 8 defendants) cheque fraud case, at City of London Mags. It went on for a few days and I remember even now that my fee for that was £5,000, which for me at the time was a windfall very gratefully received (it could not happen now and of course I recall it mainly because of its rarity. I did not get the expected £20,000-£40,000 Old Bailey trial, because the Nigerian solicitor gave “my” trial to a recently-Called young Nigerian woman barrister who just happened to be a daughter of his friend…but that’s another story).

Scroll on a decade or so to the years before the Conservative Party victory of 2010. I had made my last appearance in court in late 2007 and since my return to the practising Bar in 2002 had done only privately-paid civil work, no criminal (except for the odd regulatory violation committed by large companies); in fact, before mid-2002, I had also spent years overseas in various parts of the world, from the Caribbean to Kazakhstan. During that time, legally-aided Bar fees in England had generally not kept pace with inflation. For example, back in about 1993 I had appeared on a Mention at a Crown Court, this being more or less what it sounds like: the matter (an upcoming trial) is listed for Mention, the judge examines any issues arising and makes any directions necessary, then it finishes, about 5 minutes or ten minutes after it started. A silly thing and it paid £46. I heard some time ago that, 25 years later, the fee is still less than £50! It is said that the same is true of many fees for both criminal and family work that is legally-aided.

Apparently, somewhere around 258 courts have actually closed in the past 8 years. This means that parties often have to trek quite far to their cases. Some people are poor, cannot afford fares and may not have a car. Unjust in itself.

It was in the fake “austerity” atmosphere after 2010 (which in fact started before 2010, under the equally “ZOG” Gordon Brown government) that the Jew-Zionist “Conservative” MP Jonathan Djanogly commented, as Parliamentary Under-Secretary (a junior government post for an MP), that the UK justice system was “the most generous in the world” []. This laid the ground for the Ministry of Justice becoming a prime target for “austerity” cuts. Djanogly himself left government in 2012 and his political career seems to have stalled, probably permanently.

I want to be clear. I have little sympathy for the Bar, meaning barristers, as such (and less for solicitors). I think that those who made good and often very good livings out of legally-aided work (criminal, family and other) were lucky when compared to many people in the UK who work at hard, boring, maybe dirty jobs, often for a pittance. Many at the Bar still are fortunate. Having said that, any decent public service or arm needs to be properly funded, whether it be the Army, Navy, Air Force, SIS, NHS or Ministry of Justice. There are arguments to be had about some aspects of MoJ funding, as about priorities too, but as the book in question seems to be saying (from reviews seen), the justice system (and that includes prisons, probation, forensic science etc, as well as courts and legal services) is now under very serious strain.

July 2018

Since I wrote the above, The Guardian amended its article and, inter alia, cured its spelling error.

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