Tales from the Coalface – I

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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3 thoughts on “Tales from the Coalface – I

  1. The Judge got it wrong as in fact the correct form of bow is a neck bow as would be appropriate if you were meeting the Queen. In the same way that a soldier salutes an officer because he or she holds a Royal Commission, and it is the commission being acknowledged not the individual, we bow to a Judge on entering or leaving court because they represent the Crown/Monarch and therefore they should be acknowledged in the same manner.

    You would have thought that if a Judge is going to be a pompous bully they would at least get it right. Oh, please, do name and shame.

    • It seems that there is an increase in the number of pompous judges who are now sitting in the criminal courts. Many of them are quite simply bullies. Their behaviour would never be tolerated in any other working enviroment; it shouldn’t be excused just because he or she is a judge.

  2. One local judge who was never trusted to do anything of any gravity has become so pompous that he demands an apology if Counsel is a few seconds late for a hearing, even if in a conference room outside court.

    On the street he would be a little runt and would not dare behave like it, but put him in fancy dress and he is a world beater.

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