Introduction A junior barrister (about 5 years call) who I know well wrote this following their experience today. It’s a story that will be all too familiar to all of us. My reckoning is that the total payment will be about £25 for a days work. Which won’t be seen for months or even years. And from which tax has to be paid. As we celebrate the partial changes to either way elected cases, let’s remember that this is what they’re being increased to. Over to them –
Today I spent £34 and travelled for three hours to cover a defence mention for another tenant’s trial. My payment will be minimal, as will the overall brief fee. I didn’t mind doing that because, frankly, someone has to.
The reasoning behind my little day trip is as follows. The Crown failed to serve any papers for weeks and when they did, disclosure was incomplete. Neither written requests for the outstanding documents nor an administrative direction in the same vein produced any results. With the warned list date imminent, the defence was forced to list the matter for mention.
On arrival at Court, I was handed the outstanding disclosure within minutes. The Judge noted the lapsed court order but levelled no criticism at the Crown. The only person who had failed to meet professional standards was, apparently, me: on rising, the judge reprimanded me for bowing with my head rather than my upper body. During a four minute hearing at which the Crown were wholly at fault, the only apology therefore came from Counsel for the defence.
Earning £30 (on the best case scenario after expenses) for the privilege of a three hour commute and the receipt of a few pieces of paper does not justify the training for which I am still in debt. I continue in this profession, however, because I adamantly believe in the legal aid system.
Today’s display hardly helps to maintain that belief. Let’s leave aside the fact that I have a disability which makes certain movements harder, barristers bow to the Royal Coat of Arms, not to the judge: rightly or wrongly, we do so to show respect to the system in which we serve. But even if the Judge – as an officer of the Crown – took a more personal view, are we really allowed to humiliate subordinates if they don’t bow down low enough? For those in positions of serious responsibility, apparently the answer is yes.