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By Dan Bunting
On 7 May 2014 the report by Sir Bill Jeffrey on “Independent criminal advocacy in England and Wales”, the first of the triumvirate of reports into the state of the criminal justice system, was issued. It is a mixed bag. Many lawyers were hoping for more, specifically for ammunition in their battle with the MoJ, but that point is largely ducked. Whilst there is a lot that the (independent) bar can take comfort, and perhaps even pride in, make no mistake – however it is sugar-coated, this is not a homage to the Bar, or a plea to maintain the status quo.
The status quo is not sustainable. That is the key message to take away from Jeffrey's Review. The system is not “operating competitively or in such a way as to optimise quality”. Some solicitors are implicitly criticised for putting profit over the best interests of the client in choosing which advocate to instruct. There are too many barristers chasing too little work in a time of falling crime rates.
As to the way forward, it is clear that the bar must adapt. Whether this is by ceasing to be a referral profession and applying to the LAA for contracts (not feasible at the moment given the deadline for application is 23 May and the BSB has still not sorted out regulating entities), or by moving towards a fusion with a common legal training,
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Dan Bunting is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising
mainly in criminal and immigration law. He is able to take on cases
directly from people under the public access scheme.
Dan is also a legal blogger. He has a personal blog and is an editor of the UK Criminal Law Blog.
You can follow Dan on Twitter: @danbunting.
Dan’s articles for Halsbury’s Law Exchange.
0330 161 1234