I hope that more sensible counsel prevails over on the other side of the profession than is revealed here. I am bound to say that the feedback and feeling I get from local solicitors is that they are rather clearer about the extent to which our interests are linked than is Mr Hudson.
The reality is that – whether Mr Hudson is piqued by not being invited to a meeting with our beloved Lord Chancellor before the Circuit Leaders (I gather the Law Society are having their own meeting on 8th May but, at the time of writing are not taking any solicitor who practises in criminal work to that meeting) – or whether he believes that the way to deal with the cuts is to try and sacrifice the Bar – this is not a sensible way to approach matters.
It is not sensible because, even if our beloved Lord Chancellor inflicted the entirety of his cuts on the Bar and eliminated us from criminal work altogether, and even if solicitors were then willing to deal with all the advocacy that would be required, the ‘success’ of this tactic would last as long as it took the government and its corporate friends to say “no need for OCOF now, let’s just get on with price competitive tendering at 35% below current rates”. In “1984” Winston sells out Julia rather than face his worse nightmare. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.
These cuts are the end of a legal profession devoted to client choice, client care and justice. They impose a system devoted to the form of representation, not its substance, as cheaply as possible and, if you can’t afford to pay for something better, it’s your fault for being poor. That is the message that the legal profession needs to put out. Squabbling over who are the best advocates is footling. It risks damaging the trust that the professions have managed to build in the face of the common threat.
There is no more that a barrister can do than say that our opposition to QASA and the cuts is as firm when they apply to solicitors as when they apply to the Bar. I truly hope that Mr Hudson comes swiftly to the same view and that those solicitors who read this assist him to do so. The trouble with loving Big Brother is that the next thing that happens is you get shot in the back of the head…