Coffee House

Harry Mount is wrong: Chris Grayling’s legal aid reforms will damage justice

9 June 2013

I just wonder how long Harry Mount has been waiting to put his boot into the Bar. Having a first-class degree from Oxford, membership of the Bullingdon Club and then getting a pupillage in a top class set of chambers, it must have been devastating to his well-nurtured ego to have been turned down for a tenancy.

His piece in this week’s Spectator was a masterpiece of bitterness and bile. It was a travesty of what is really happening.

There are no fat fees at the criminal Bar. Far from spiralling out of control the criminal legal aid budget has been cut by a third from 2006/7 and fees  between 46 and 36 per cent, depending on the type of case. And as for the 90 QCs who are millionaires? Don’t look to the criminal bar to find them. They will be the commercial fat cats or government-appointed lawyers.

Look at Leveson. Did the Ministry of Justice object to the mouthwatering fees? Of course not. Or the Bloody Sunday Inquiry where most barristers became millionaires. And who paid their fees? The taxpayer.

If only Harry had done a little bit of research he would have seen that Grayling is dismantling our revered system of justice and plunging a dagger into the rule of law.

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For the party that believes in supporting small businesses he will be throwing over a thousand firms of solicitors to the wolves. He wants the number of providers to be cut from 1,600 to 400. Soon the high streets will longer offer family solicitors. They won’t be able to compete with the corporate bloodsuckers like Stobbards, G4s, Serco and even the Coop running our legal system. They will have to operate at 17.5 per cent less than they are now.

Welcome to sweatshop law.

And for a government that believes in choice in health and in education Grayling doesn’t believe in it for those who are accused of committing a crime. There will be be no choice of solicitor or barrister if you are arrested interviewed and tried. A layer of bureaucracy will decide whom you will have to represent you. What does that mean? That there will be no incentive for these sweatshop lawyers to do a good job for you. Quality will disappear. Whatever happened to the Conservative belief in competition and the market?

But the most disgraceful and insidious proposal of all is for the new breed of inexperienced lawyers to be given a financial incentive to persuade their clients to plead guilty. They will be paid the same for a trial as for a plea. Imagine the dodgy and loaded advice. Imagine the pressures to hit targets. And imagine the injustice. The  independent Criminal Bar will cease to exist within a year. Where will the vulnerable, the week and the innocent get advice? Well, not from the experts in murder, fraud and rape. We will be gone. And what does it matter when Grayling says that those brought before the courts are ‘not connoisseurs of legal expertise’. Well, they would damn well need to be if they were a nurse of a teacher wrongly accused. But choice will be gone. Who cares?

The so-called consultation period had been a dishonest farce. We were given eight weeks to respond. Michael Turner QC the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association has put forward a plan that can save the MoJ £2 billion when the Treasury have only asked for £220m. Grayling refuses to even speak to him.

I have been at the Bar for 36 years and was was a Conservative MP for 14. I have never seen the judiciary, the Bar and solicitors united in their revulsion at anything. But these proposals which will end fair access to justice (unless, of course you are the government or rich) and fair trials, have brought us together as never before.

MPs are too supine and terrified of their constituents to do anything other than trot out the MoJ line. I won’t say ‘the Conservative line’ as these policies would make  Margaret Thatcher spin in her grave, put a smile on the face of Mr Putin and give Mr Mugabe a spring in his step.

But Harry, old son, feel free to make fun of the execution of the profession in which you failed. But what does it matter? For you privileged types, not a jot.

Jerry Hayes was Conservative MP for Harlow from 1983 until 1997. He returned to practising criminal law afterwards.

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Show comments
  • Karla’s Man

    A nurse of a teacher?

  • evanprice

    I have to say that I read many of the comments and the original article with dismay. I write as a lawyer who acts very rarely with the benefit and burden of legal aid – I am a lawyer who acts in cases usually involving property, financial and probate disputes and legal aid is no longer available for almost all of the cases that I act in. I was uncomfortable with that withdrawal – but I did not see it as an attack on access to justice and clients have found methods around the withdrawal of public funding that include the increased use of and resort to insurance policies and the use of other methods of funding such as conditional fee arrangements.

    The need for qualification is not ordinarily described as a ‘Spanish Practice’. I appreciate that the Bar needs to diversify its entry and the Bar, through the Inns is increasingly acting to achieve that change. That many gain the basic qualification but find it difficult to find a space to complete that qualification is not a Spanish Practice – it is merely the result of too many applicants and not enough places.

    As to the proposed criminal legal aid reforms; it is interesting to note that with earlier reforms, such as the introduction of fixed fees, the fees then introduced have not even kept up with inflation. As a result, many junior barristers find themselves working very hard (and I know many other people do too) with very little and reducing rewards. The problem with criminal legal aid appears to be that proportion of legal aid that is taken up by very high costs cases. These cases involve the most serious criminal cases and very often some of the most serious issues facing our community.

    Over the Centuries, we have many things as a community to thank lawyers for. Essentially, it was the lawyers that persuaded Kings and their Councils and Courts to provide for the liberties and freedoms that we all take comfort in. Many of these triumphs were achieved many years’ ago, but the essential features of our criminal jurisprudence underpin many of those liberties and freedoms.

    More recently, we have found Parliament legislating to deal with perceivedwrongs done in difficult criminal cases. Whether it is the inferences that can be drawn from silence now (criminal justice legislation in the mid 90’s) or the introduction of new criminal offences and the confiscation of assets from criminals who cannot satisfy a court as to the legitimate source of funding of those assets, these developments have almost always increased the costs associated with criminal litigation.

    In the eighteenth century, the cross examination of witnesses to test evidence in criminal trials developed. Today, that cross examination is used to ensure that the evidence is understood with clarity and where that evidence is suspect it has the possibility of being demonstrated to a jury that it is so suspect.

    Do we really want to return to a time when evidence was not properly tested? For those of you who assert that the innocent need fear nothing, I would simply say that this straw man is one that is not worthy as a response. For under our system of justice every man and woman who is accused of a crime is innocent until proved guilty. That principle is very ancient indeed – and we should be wary of any argument that seeks to undermine it.

    Should the state choose who represents someone in court? My view is that should not be the case. In criminal cases, the state is a party and a party should not have the power to insist on who represents the other side any more than it should be a judge in its own cause. This latter maxim is the very reason why we have an independent judiciary. It is the reason why it is very difficult to sack a Judge. It underpins the very rule of law. If one understands that Parliament is the ultimate court in the land, it is the very argument that led to the civil war and ultimately to the execution of a King.

    The need for properly administered judicial systems is not a matter of defending vested interests – it is defending the very nature of those judicial systems. Will they continue to be seen as impartial if the economics of representation are placed ahead of the interests of a fair, balanced and blind justice?

  • annewareham

    Personal abuse of a writer does tend to undermine the abuser’s case.

  • paulus

    What a stupid idea getting people to plead guilty to save money. The prison system will be overrun and it costs infinately more money to keep them there than provide a decent defence.

  • Tubby_Isaacs

    Wasting your time, Jerry.

    The point of The Spectator is to provoke. Halfwit Mount is straight out of the mould.

  • Karla’s Man

    Are we the British public not thoroughly sick of the unashamed legal and judicial activism by the barristers against the British State on behalf of foreigners at British public expense?

  • Jimmy R

    A barrister making a special pleading for their own particular Legal Aid Gravy Train to be kept running, now there’s a surprise.

    • Sofafella

      Someone using clichés like legal aid gravy train.. there is a surprise..

      No travel expenses holiday pay…no sick staff.. fixed fees that are set by HM Gov.. and that were cut in 06 and have been frozen since…
      Went to court today… all day waiting around to get on, paid 46 quid. out of which I pay chambers rent and cover all my own expenses.
      I don’t want pity I love my job. But don’t tell me i’m on a gravy train.

      • Karla’s Man

        Commercial work, retrain or retire.

  • Coleridge1

    Excellent piece and an antidote to the lying spin being disseminated by Grayling, the MOJ and the only hack they could find to spread their lies Harry Mount. Even the Mail on Sunday has come to accept that they have been the facilitators of the MOJ’s lies and have withdrawn their support for Grayling’s proposals that would destroy Britain’s criminal justice system and see innocent people convicted of crimes that they have not committed.

  • Justathought

    The Magna Carta says nothing about defendants having the right to choose very expensive lawyers paid for by civil society (who are the victims of crime).

    “Whatever happened to the Conservative belief in competition and the market?” Answer; The Law Society and Bar both control the availability of practitioners to the profession. “The independent criminal Bar” is a fiction of your imagination.

  • hitchslap11

    Mr. Hayes opened with an Ad-hominem. To then complain that hundreds of small businesses will be “thrown to wolves”. You earn a crust in the private sector. I do not enjoy taxpayer funded work poorly remunerated or otherwise. No more family solicitors on the high street? Sounds much like the arguments against supermarkets moving into a new town to protect small shopkeepers, usually Tesco, Waitrose is fine, Sainsbury’s at a push.

  • Portendorfer

    Well Mr Jerry Hayes.

    Troughing in Parliament for 14 years.

    And troughing at the expense of either the tax payer or those afflicted by the need to go to law since.

    I do not read any crumbs of comfort for those of us in the middle class who have never received legal aid but bankrupt ourselves to use your services with exorbitant fees.

  • HJ777

    Only a lawyer could think that being given eight weeks to respond to proposals is somehow an unreasonably short period.

    These people could do with a good dose of working in an internationally competitive industry where you either get on with things, or your competition will put you out of business.

    • SimonToo

      Only someone in the bosom of a large corporation would think that eight weeks is a long time to reply to a proposal. Most lawyers have clients who need their attention, so responses to consultations have to be fitted into what would otherwise be free time.

      • JamesdelaMare

        Surely they are not ALL too busy to respond to a consultation in eight weeks? Other people, apart from barristers, are also expected to get on with timescales which may at times be inconvenient.

      • HJ777

        Well, I’m not in the bosom of a large corporation and I think that eight weeks is a long time, thereby disproving your point.

  • Jamo11

    An excellent article. Concise, lucid and factually accurate. In fact, everything that Mr Mount’s was not. His was a bizarre and absurd rant which relied on clichéd caricatures of barristers, rather than any actual knowledge or understanding. Would someone who failed at the training stage and never practised as a doctor be described as an “ex-doctor” and be taken seriously when he purports to expose the way the medical profession is many years after he last had any contact with it? No. So lets be very wary of Mr Mount’s views. Mr Hayes can be described as a former-MP as he served as such for 14 years, I doubt Mr Mount’s experience of the criminal bar extends to 14 minutes.

    So why would he write such an article? It couldn’t be government propaganda could it? No, it couldn’t be. He is only David Cameron’s second cousin after all, not a close relation. And I am sure his membership of the Bullngdon club is a coincidence. Remind me, did he declare all of this in the article?

  • Andy

    The problem is the way Legal Aid is structured. We ought to allow market forces to work on this. More competition please.

    • mrclaypole

      the current system is open market ie work follows the client to his or her chosen firm. The proposed system is fixed allocated firm- with no market competition. It is a very anti Tory set of proposals akin to tractor contracts for the Urals.

      • Karla’s Man

        What is wrong with the principle of “paying for your own legal defence”?

  • judyk113

    I just wonder how long Harry Mount has been waiting to put his boot into the Bar. Having a first-class degree from Oxford, membership of the Bullingdon Club and then getting a pupillage in a top class set of chambers, it must have been devastating to his well-nurtured ego to have been turned down for a tenancy.

    His piece in this week’s Spectator was a masterpiece of bitterness and bile

    Pot? Kettle? Black?

    This article would be rather more convincing if it didn’t begin and end with such ad hominem attacks, topped off with more than a touch of reverse snobbery, envy and condescension.

    The independent criminal bar will cease to exist within a year? Hmmm. Wouldn’t be over-egging the pudding just a tad, would it?

    • HJ777

      Yes, the fact that this piece started with an ad hominem attack surely tells us most of what we need to know.

    • Karla’s Man

      “The independent criminal bar will cease to exist within a year?” Bring it on, I say!

    • Tubby_Isaacs

      Harry Mount is nasty bit of work. See for instance the rubbish he talked about state comprehensives on Newsnight, before Anthony Seldon told him to grow up. People will dish it out to him as well.

      Read the rest of the article.

      • Karla’s Man

        State Comprehensives are rubbish.

        • BarondeHat

          Oooer! More HK expertise!

          • Karla’s Man

            Is your name Ian Wheaton (barrister) or not? Go on!

            • BarondeHat

              Bore on! Most of we Royals enjoy your ludicrousity!

              • Karla’s Man

                And we pay legal aid to this man! Madness!

                • BarondeHat

                  You obviously are wasting your money on legal advice, try your MD and reference onwards.

                • Karla’s Man

                  Well, State Comprehensives are rubbish, and you certainly can’t spell! “Maomao”? “Genghis Kahn”? Well, but then you are a barrister!

                • BarondeHat

                  You are famed for your typing, but no success with your persiflage.

                • Karla’s Man

                  Try the Pub, mate!

                • BarondeHat

                  Try the OED.

  • caseb

    One gets the impression that m’learned friends don’t much like the idea
    of working for the co-op. Who would want to give up the swanky chambers
    in the city centre mews?

    Welcome to the real world guys, the taxpayer wants value and if your
    jobs end up being worth £20k then that’s what you’ll get paid.

    Supply and demand – if being a criminal barrister is worth more than
    what’s on offer then supply will diminish and earnings will go up.

    That’s not the case at the moment though is it? Competition to be
    a barrister is absurdly fierce, middle-middle and upper-middle class kids would
    mud-fight each other to get a pupillage. Why is this? Love of
    humanity? strong vocational calling and an insatiable urge to help your
    fellow man? I could be persuaded of these reasons if we were talking
    about nurses, but not for lawyers, they’re just not that type of person, not
    the ones I’ve met anyway. More likely to be the kudos, the approval of
    parents and the opportunity to earn some very serious money in a job where you
    can feel superior at all times – else why the silly costumes?

    Loses some of its lustre eh? Working for Stobart as a two-bit
    quasi-social worker? Here is the world’s smallest violin playing just for the

    If the market (or the public, i.e the voters) valued the publicly funded
    bar then the government would have a contract with barristers not unlike that
    with GP’s – lucrative. You may value yourselves very highly but the voters
    obviously do not value you. The voters don’t give a monkey’s about Abu
    Qatada’s rights and all the money being earned from the explosion of JR re:
    human rights and immigration.

    A lot of these excesses arise from the UK’s membership of the EU and the
    ECHR but this is just the tip of the iceberg, the truth is that the gravy train
    has been rumbling along for years. Grayling is about to de-rail it.
    Go Grayling.

    • SimonToo

      You say that the taxpayer wants value for money. Do tell just how you you consider that the taxpayer is to assess value for money? How much is the defence of a guilty taxpayer properly charged worth ? How much is the defence of an innocent taxpayer improperly charfed worth ? Should they differ, how do you know which category is involved when first arranging the taxpayers representation ?
      Or do you believe that only non-taxpayers can be charged with criminal offences ?
      You talk of supply and demand. Whose supply and whose demand ?

    • Jamo11

      “welcome to the real world”?!! If your real world involves working for co-op, capita or G4S then you have an odd idea of reality and must have been living on the moon for the last 10 years. These are the same companies that sweep up and muck up all government contracts. They buy up the contract to provide services cheaply, employ people for a pittance and then award themselves enormous bonuses despite failing to deliver a competent service. That is the reality.

    • AnotherOldBoy

      Your arguments about supply and demand ignore the fact that the Department of Justice is the sole purchaser of criminal legal aid defence work.
      Bashing lawyers is easy (see Mr Mount’s silly piece, demolished in the comments section by, among others, Simon Myerson QC and many of the comments here).
      The problem is that, while the last government threw money at most areas of spending, it did not do so in respect of legal aid. So, when the time comes for cuts, there is not much fat left to trim in the legal aid budget.
      But, as the Criminal Bar Association has pointed out, there are plenty of other ways in which very significant savings could be made in relation to the criminal justice system.

  • Rockin Ron

    Both Harry Mounts’s and Jerri Hayes’ arguments have their merits. I would be interested to have more information about the Criminal Bar Association plan to save the MoJ £2bn. Can that be true?

    Another aspect is the ‘closed shop’ nature of our legal representation system. Why is the artificial division between solicitors and barristers still allowed? What purpose does it serve today?

    At the moment, I am with Harry Mount as I think the legal representation system gives little value to the taxpayer, is not transparent, is too ‘cosy’ and is not open to change. On the other hand, I would not want to see justice denied, but there has to be more consideration to those left paying the bill – taxpayers.

    The private sector could probably provide a more cost effective and accountable service, but only if it ‘cherry picked’ the most profitable parts of the legal representation system. That could lead to increased costs for taxpayers in the form of increased regulation costs over the privatised parts of the system, for example.

    How about a Spectator debate bewteen Mr Mount and Mr Hayes to go into these issues in greater depth?

    • SimonToo

      Barristers are specialist advocates. They read the instructions sent to them and stand up in court to speak for their clients. Barristers have relatively small overheads in the form of premises (which they share) or staff, because they produce, copy, etc. relatively few documents trhemselves. Barristers tend to be good at spoken advocacy but weaker on paperwork and its management.

      Solicitors are largely office bound and (in outline) are responsible for amassing or producing the documents involved in a case , for all the correspondence arising, for direct dealings with the client, for tracing and interviewing witnesses, as well as the general record keeping in the case. They have heavy overheads in terms of the cost of premises, staff, equipment and storage. Solicitors tend to be good at paperwork and its management butr weaker in spoken advocacy.

      Some firms close to local courts and which have a high volume of work in those courts may be able to afford to employ solicitior-advocates, Usually, though, the use of a solicitor-advocate will be necessarily more expensive, because of the overheads he has to bear, than the instruction of a suitable barrister would be. In any event, every firm of solicitors has access to the full range of baristers and their differing areas of expertise.

      The barrister is stuck on his feet at the front of court : he cannot get away to deal with anything that arises in the course of the case (e.g. when is the client’s star witness going to arrive ?). He needs someone from the solicitor’s office there, taking notes, holding the complete file and available to sort out problems that arise.

      That is just a quick sketch of the difference between solicitors and barristers. What do you think is artificial about that division ?

    • Jamo11

      The CBA has offered again and again to meet Chris Grayling to discuss these proposals. He will not do so. One of the way the money can be saved is by defendants paying from restrained assets, as used to happened until the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. If convicted these monies are confiscated anyway, yet nobody is willing to say where it all goes…..

      One thing needs to be made clear in this debate – this is not simply (or even
      mainly) about lawyers fees. Fees for criminal s0licitors and barristers have been cut every years for the past three years. Prior to these cuts fees had remained static since 1997, with not even an increase in line with inflation. Yet there was no outcry or protest of the sort we have seen over the past few weeks.

      The lawyers that everyone seems to want to criticise have acknowledged the need to make savings and have suggested ways of doing so.

      • JamesdelaMare

        Very well – would you like to give us some figures on what the fees were back in 1997 and how they have been cut every years for the past three years, please? Not percentages, but true figures?

    • Jamo11

      The debate is a great idea, but don’t think Mr Mount is the right man for the job. Needs to be someone who knows something about the criminal justice system. The only problem is that anyone with any knowledge of the system (Judges, victims support, charities etc.) is against the proposals.

      • Davey4Lyfe

        funny that…

  • Alexsandr

    lawyers only have themselves to blame for this. For years they have been coining it with massive fees, and a subset of them have been doing nicely out of human rights and enquiry work so are as seen as troughers. One feels they are crying now cos they see their lucrative businesses may be curtailed,

    • SimonToo

      The proposal concerns criminal work, which does not have a reputation for making lawyers wealthy. That some lawyerrs working in other fieds may become wealthy is irrelevant to this issue.

      • Jamo11

        Sadly this is precisely the sort of claptrap the government wants the public to believe and think. Criminal lawyers are not earning massive fees. This is ill-informed nonsense.

    • UlyssesReturns

      Quite correct. I see the vested interests are out in force today and I have never seen a vested interest that didn’t put up a fight to preserve or enhance the status quo. Justice for them is keeping their ivory towers intact and the taxpayer can go hang. I am married to a Dutch (ex) barrister who had scant recourse to legal aid in the unenlightened Netherlands where, as we all know, justice does not exist – and very few ambulance chasers also. The legal profession in England, just like our political elite with which they are bound, has prostituted itself at our expense.

      • Alexsandr

        the specialist knowledge necessary until recently has been replaced with the internet and expert computer systems. So building a case is far easier that it was before computers.
        We must also remember that entry to the judiciary is only available to lawyers. mostly barristers. So judges will be pals with counsel. How is that right?

        • Tubby_Isaacs

          Right, yeah.

          I bet someone doing a low level legal aid case is a mate of the judge.

      • CraigStrachan

        There’s no legal aid as such in the United States, either. Quite a few ambulance chasers, though. (Lawyers have to get paid somehow, and if the government won’t pay up, the insurance companies will just have to.)

        And of course, in criminal cases, there is always the public defender, who will spend on average about 20 minutes per case, trying to plead them down.

    • AnotherOldBoy

      Utter tosh! Have you read what Mr Heyes wrote above? The rates for criminal defence work were not raised under the last government and are now being cut a second time by the coalition. The average criminal barrister now earns less than a tube driver and has the additional burden of being self-employed. You should check the facts before spouting forth.

      • HJ777

        Had it occurred to you that the restrictive practises of the tube drivers’ union has artificially inflated the wages of tube drivers?

        The vast majority of well-qualified professional people earn less than tube drivers.

    • Tubby_Isaacs

      “One feels”, eh?

      Read the article.

      • Alexsandr

        legal trolls out in force on this thread are they not?

        • Tubby_Isaacs

          I’m unemployed.

          Read the article, read the responses to Mount. Any layman can see the issues.

          Better to save the money from prisons. Shut some of the old crap ones, sell for development. Clarke wanted to do that.

        • Sofafella

          By ‘troll’ are you actually saying, (in English) ‘person who does not agree with me’ ?

          If so, the answer is yes.
          My question by way of reply, is what, in the context of a discussion is wrong with that?

    • Chatterclass

      I am sorry, but this is cr..p. The majority of legal aid solicitors earn hardly any money: I was being paid less than a classroom assistant. And the changes are not just about criminal law. The changes to civil legal aid include no legal aid for judicial review even if you get permission. I am not sure if you understand what that means, but basically the state can act with impunity because unless you have money you will not be able to challenge unlawful decisions. Judicial review is front loaded, you do the work before you issue the challenge. And it is complicated. The grounds are narrow. Most lay people could not do it on their own.

      In America this has skewed justice, because the cases that make law are often brought by corporations.

      The government under the guise of austerity is forcing through a complete dismantling of the settlement brought about after the second world war. They are demonising welfare benefits, breaking up and privatising the NHS and destroying legal aid.

      They call themselves conservatives. They are destroying the fabric of society.

    • Davey4Lyfe

      broad statements like this are complete rubbish and bring nothing to the debate. you spout out about massive fees and how layers coin it but provide no evidence, merely repeating the rubbish peddled by those who wish to destroy the respected institution of british justice.

      • Alexsandr

        so instead of slagging me off, why dont you tell us how much these guys get paid, so we can make a judgement?
        take home pay i am talking about.

        • Davey4Lyfe

          i dont know the exact figures but im sure if you read through the comments you will find someone who is able to inform you. base your judgement on the information they provide

        • LondonBoy

          My other half is a criminal barrister, called to the bar in 2008 and took home £17k last year.

          Out of that she pays 15% for chambers fees, and £250 for chambers rent.

          Since she is self employed she has unpaid holiday and sick,

          Not really a lot is it.

    • Christopher

      You are absolutely wrong and peddling the same old hackneyed nonsense about fat-cat lawyers. You have to draw a distinction between lawyers retained by private clients and lawyers who are paid by the taxpayer. The former are richly remunerated in line with their status as world-class advocates within a competitive and international market. The latter are often paid sums that sometimes fail to cover their daily travel costs, let alone rent.

      Read this article by a junior criminal barrister to understand my point.

      The cuts are not going to get rid of the ‘fat cats’, those felines will continue to enjoy the rewards of private practice. Rather, the cuts are going to destroy the publicly funded bar which plays a vital role in supporting social services and human rights. Your comment applies an unacceptably broad brush to a debate that relies upon a nuanced understanding of what we have and what we stand to lose. The fact that it received 31 ‘up votes’ indicates the depressing lack of understanding that characterises this whole sorry debate.

  • UlyssesReturns

    Why should I, who keeps within the law, pay for the legal representation of those who do not? And why do lawyers receive such large sums of money representing those who gave never paid a penny in taxes but feel they should be allowed to remain here despite criminal and/or terrorist activity? Why is the UK one of the largest providers of legal aid per head in the western world? Why do you lawyers not provide pro bono work for the poor rather than expect the state to fund your Spanish practices?

    • Bill Ryan

      Barristers do plenty of Pro Bono work. I don’t know what Spanish practices you are referring to. Perhaps you would let me know please.

      • HJ777

        “Spanish” Practises are restrictive practises.

        Are you suggesting that the Bar doesn’t restrict entrants?

        • hitchslap11

          Quite. In the comments of the previous article, much was made of the horrors of “Litigants in Person”. It is not clear whether a litigant in person could call upon the services of a 3rd party to assist them in court. Perhaps a legal technician, or an advocate technician? Apparently it’s a Barrister or nothing.

        • Bill Ryan

          I do know what the reference meant but that was not the question I asked.

          The Bar does restrict entrants.

          It is expensive to qualify and it is a bit of a lottery as well. You do need a decent degree and some aptitude.

          Which bit troubles you beyond that? Elitism? Self Recruiting? Please let me know and i will repsond

          I can say none of the above will apply to me, having done law as a mature student after 11 years as a fireman.

          • HJ777

            My point was quite simple – because it restricts entries, it is (undeniably) implementing restrictive (“Spanish”) practices.

            You may think that is justified (I don’t) but you cannot deny my point – it is a form of “Spanish” practise.

            • AnotherOldBoy

              The Bar has grown in numbers over the years. It has greatly increased the funding available to aspiring barristers both through scholarships from the Inns of Court (funded by donations by barristers and judges) and by pupillage awards paid by sets of chambers to pupils (trainee barristers). Presumably you are one of those who, unfortunately, did not succeed. Bad luck, but get over it.

              • HJ777

                The fact that the numbers at The Bar have changed over the years is neither here nor there. It still has restrictive entry practises – that is undeniable.

                By all means defend that if you believe it serves a useful purpose, but you can’t deny that it does.

                I have never had any interest in being in the legal profession. I studied physics and electronics and have spent most of my career in the electronics industry, first as an engineer and then on the commercial side. Presumably you are suffering from an inferiority complex because you are incapable of earning your living in open markets.

                • Jaime Hamilton

                  In fact a “Spanish” practice is the situation whereby an allowance to staff is allowed to from over time and then exploited by a Trade Union to say that it has become an entitlement.

                  Leaving that aside the restrictions to the Bar are the need to qualify. Most professions require qualification. You cannot be a doctor simply because you fancy it. Other then that it is open to all who can succeed. For now.

                  Anyone posting on this thread who wants to know the realities of life at the criminal bar, just let me know. If you can get yourself to the North West I will gladly explain to you and show you what life at the bar is like.

                  And for those of you who believe Legal Aid is only for criminals and not people like you, please read

                • HJ777

                  You need to look up the definition of a Spanish Practice.

                  The restrictions are twofold (i) licensure and (2) the restriction on numbers which this allows. Qualifications are one thing – licensure quite another. Don’t confuse the two.

                  I worked for many years in the electronics industry. The vast majority of engineers are highly qualified. However, there is no licensure. If you have the ability and someone wants to employ you, they can, regardless of qualifications. There is no restriction on supply and no limits to the number that can be employed.

                  The Bar and medicine in the UK are not open “to all who can succeed”, because this would imply that all those who meet a certain standard, or were chosen by customers, could enter or practise. This is not the case. For example, every year, thousands who meet the published standard for entry to medical training are rejected – because numbers are artificially limited. The same applies to the Bar. You cannot appoint whoever you like to represent you in court. Licensure is used to restrict supply of legal representatives.

                  Milton Friedman wrote his PhD on the licensure of certain occupations. After extensive analysis he found that in all cases it both raises costs AND lowers quality.

                • Karla’s Man

                  But with respect, “Spanish practises” are not exactly a legally-defined term.

                • BarondeHat

                  You’ll find courts have agreed meanings for the phrase.

                • Karla’s Man

                  Some citations would be most helpful.

                • BarondeHat

                  Hardly necessary. If a barrister uses such a phrase there is usually some disquisition on what it means to satisfy the judge (and jury’s) understanding.

                • Jaime Hamilton

                  I am sorry but a Spanish practice cannot be something that is created by statute. I for one am happy that only fully qualified and regulated doctors are able to offer me treatment. And I believe the legal professions should be similarly regulated. Point to me any developed court system where the lawyers are not regulated?

                  The fact is that you can choose any lawyer appropriately qualified to represent you. The irony is that the government’s proposals are designed to remove that choice.

                • HJ777

                  Spanish practice is, indeed, something that many occupations attempt (sometimes successfully) to get enforced by state regulation.

                  Hairdressers in some US states, for example.

                  You may be happy that only ‘qualified and regulated’ medics and lawyers can treat you or represent you but you are enforcing your preference on others. There would be nothing to stop you, or anyone else choosing only qualified and voluntarily regulated medics and lawyers. The question is why you think that this should be imposed on others.

                  Occupations always try to get statutory licensure because it allows their profession to control the numbers entering and this raises prices.

                  I do suggest that you read Milton Friedman’s work on this subject and then your comments would, perhaps, be better informed. He demonstrated convincingly that licensure both raised prices and lowered quality.

                  Incidentally, I presume that you are unhappy to travel in cars, fly on aeroplanes or cross bridges – the safety of which is all dependent on the engineers who design them and who are not subject to any statutory licensure. You are confusing licensure of individuals with quality of product or service – the former does not guarantee the latter.

                • Jaime Hamilton

                  The problem is there are certain professions where choice cannot be the only factor. The doctor/patient relationship and client/lawyer relationship is very different from the plane passenger/engineer relationship. In the modern age one engineer does not design and build an entire plane on their own. There are checks and balances. The same is not the case in the confidential client/lawyer relationship. In many instances the nature of the relationship is open to abuse. Only licensing and regulation can assist to protect the client. It does not guarantee quality but it cannot be an unregulated profession.

                • HJ777

                  And your evidence that licensure protects the client is?

                  I presume that you have read the research by Milton Friedman on this subject. Could you explain point-by-point where his analysis was flawed?

                • Jaime Hamilton

                  My evidence is that I have first hand practical experience of regulation of both the legal and medical profession. Not just the theories of one economist. I am not going to attempt to take apart a thesis point by point in the comments section of a blog in the Spectator.

                • HJ777

                  It sounds like you have a vested interest in statutory regulation, but no evidence that it provides any benefit.

                  I suspect that you have never even read Friedman’s thesis, let alone possess the ability to take it apart.

                • Jaime Hamilton

                  There is a rich irony that elsewhere in the comments on this blog you bemoan the ad hominem attack by the author and then personalise this discussion about my abilities.

                  As a barrister of 20 years experience I can assure you that I have frequently had to assimilate information and evidence outside of my academic training in areas such as science, engineering, accountancy etc. and then go about discussing or undermining the same with experts in their field.

                  I do not have a vested interest in regulation, save for the fact that I am a barrister and in a regulated profession. I can say that my experience of the profession is that it is an incredibly competitve market. I get work due to my reputation and ability. I have further experience of regulation as I have appeare in a representative capacity before regulatory professional bodies.

                • Jaime Hamilton

                  So the upshot of my contribution to this blog is that, in my experience, the Bar is getting more right than it is getting wrong. That the debate about Legal Aid is being clouded by articles such as Harry Mount’s because of the factual inaccuracies. Both about how the Bar operate and, more importantly, the level of remuneration received by Legal Aid practitioners. I welcome debate about the scope and availability of Legal Aid but decry the misinformation which is being fed to and recycled by certain sections of the Press.

                  That people seem to immediately believe that all barristers fall in to some category of blood sucking, ambulance chasing, sneering fat cat saddens me.

    • srsly

      Because if you’re arrested, you’re not necessarily guilty of the crime.
      Because you’re charged, you’re not necessarily guilty of the crime.

      If you’re a fan of the whole “rule of law” thing, and fair justice, and silly things like that, legal aid is a necessity.

      Why is the UK one of the largest providers of legal aid per head in the Western world? Partially due to our higher rate of prosecutions compared to the rest of Europe and (arguably) the adversarial system in the UK.

      Barristers and solicitors do plenty of pro bono work.

      • Andy

        So let Legal Aid apply to those who are found innocent. Not if you are Guilty.

        • srsly

          You mean if they’re found guilty? That already happens.

          1) Defendants may be liable for costs of prosecution if the court imposes an ancillary order.
          2) Depending on financial situation etc a defendant in the Crown Court can be made to contribute towards their defence costs.

    • SimonToo

      Until a verdict has been pronounced, how can you know whether the person receiving legal representation has kept within the law or not ?

      The extent of provision of Legal Aid might be related to the extent with which people are charged with crimes.

      Where do you expect practitioners in criminal law to make sufficient profit to be able to afford pro bono work for the poor ?

      Just how much do lawyers receive for representing those who have never paid a penny in taxes but feel they should be allowed to remain here despite criminal and/or terrorist activity?

      • Karla’s Man

        “Sufficient profit”?

        • SimonToo

          I do not recall seeing any barrister without a scruffy robe, except perhaps on stage or screen.

    • Jamo11

      People do not get legal representation when they do not “keep within the law”. They get it when they are arrested charged and put on trial. The presumption of innocence is one of the mainstays of a a democracy. Why should you pay for the health service when you are never ill? Why should you pay for the fire service when your house never catches fire? We pay for these things through our taxes and these service are there when we need them. Some of us are fortunate enough to be able pay for our own health, lawyers and schools. Many are not. Should they just be hung out to dry? Be sensible

    • steven bones

      well when your wrongly accused of a crime you will no why.

    • Sofafella

      ‘Why should I, who keeps within the law, pay for the legal representation of those who do not?’

      You are exiting your cab outside your London club, a young man approaches you, drunk as a skunk and asking weather you have been ‘looking at his bird?’ the cab drives away.

      You can smell his breath, his spittle lands on your face.. his face is contorted with drink and rage.. without thinking your hands go up in a defensive open palm gesture, this he takes to be you..’starting’. He swings a punch he misses, you push him to get away.. he stumbles falls badly. Blue lights … he is in a coma. The only witness says you pushed him.
      You are arrested. The police cell smells of disinfectant and urine. You are charged with section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 Causing Grievous Bodily Harm With Intent, (it carries a potential life sentence). You will be kept in custody overnight and be brought before Marylebone Magistrates in the morning….How do I get bail? What does the charge mean? what happens next? you think…. with your one allotted call you contact someone who can help, because.. YOU CAN AFFORD A LAWYER..


      • Karla’s Man

        “You are exiting your cab outside your London club”. This might be the Spectator, but are you serious?

        • Sofafella

          I sought to address the gentleman with a scenario that he might be able picture himself in.

          • Karla’s Man

            A chap at one of those “by invitation only” private member’s clubs in Central London should definitely be expected to pay for his own legal fees, yes.

            • SimonToo

              Well done ! You have noticed the point of the comment.

    • Christopher

      In response to your first sentence I might ask: “Why should I, who always respects fire codes, pay the salaries of firemen?” Or maybe: “Why should I, who is in excellent health, pay for the NHS?” You already pay for many services that you don’t personally use. You pay for legal aid because it supports the human right to effective assistance of counsel that is integral to a just and fair society.

      The majority of legally aided lawyers do not receive ‘such large sums of money’. A starting salary is usually £20k or less and is unlikely to rise quickly since government cutbacks have vastly reduced the budget for legal aid. After years in practice, publicly funded senior counsel will earn a sum that is far, far less than their peers in commercial law.
      Please have a look at the below article:

      The UK is not one of the largest providers of legal aid. The UK actually spends to an extent that is comparable to the average of most other European countries. It has also already reduced its spend on legal aid by 29.5% between 2006-2008 (Fig 2.24). Please check out pages 15-48.

      Lawyers already do provide pro bono services like most other professional groups. You can’t, however, expect a consistently high-quality service if you don’t pay a salary that is above the bare minimum to professionals who are committed to legal aid and don’t just do it as an altruistic past-time. As the ancient adage goes: if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. I’m afraid I don’t have a hyperlinked source for that final point – it’s just common sense.

    • Christopher

      The majority of legally aided lawyers do not receive ‘such large sums of money’ unless you think sums like £25k pa are ‘large’. After years in practice, publicly funded senior counsel will command larger salaries but nevertheless will earn far, far less than their peers in commercial law. Please have a look at the below article:

      The UK is not one of the largest providers of legal aid. The UK’s spend on legal aid is in line with the average of most other European countries. It has also already reduced its spend on legal aid by 29.5% between 2006-2008 (Fig 2.24). Please check out pps 15-48.

      Lawyers already do provide pro bono work just like any other
      professional group. You can’t, however, expect a consistently high-quality service if you don’t pay a salary that is above the bare minimum to professionals who are solely committed to their line of work. As the ancient adage goes: if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. I’m afraid I don’t have a hyperlinked source for that final point – it’s just common sense.

  • CraigStrachan

    I though Harry Mount sounded plausible on The Telgram discussion. Until the other guy started talking.

    • monty61

      Funilly enough this was exactly my reaction – it’s certainly a more complicated landscape than he sets out in his article. But even if some of Mount’s assertions are contested, no-one who looks at the system dispassionately and without a direct financial interest would could ever come to the conclusionthat it needs no reform, when it patently does.

      It’s worth noting that this piece above starts with a rather nasty ad hominem that I guess is par for the course from a barrister operating in our not-fit-for-purpose adversarial legal system. Perhaps what we really need is a much more radical root-and-branch overhaul, rather that the rather timid cost-cutting proposed by the Coalition.

      Indeed, in a reversal of Leveson, perhaps Cameron should appoint a committee of journalists to examine and review the legal system in this country with a view to reducing the power of entrenched vested interests and making the whole thing more accessible and affordable.

      Alternatively – Code Napoleon anyone? :)

      • Tubby_Isaacs

        I defer to your knowledge of the Code Napoleon.

        But I wouldn’t make too much of the “rather nasty attack”. Mount is a nasty bit of work, who slags off eg state schools without knowing anything about them.

      • Karla’s Man

        In usual cases of divorce, annulment and custody, absolutely. Both sides and their barristers should have to sit together on the same side, facing the Judge at the other side of the desk.

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