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Monday Message 07.03.22

The price of freedom

The brutal suppression of freedom in Ukraine, and the casual usurpation of its national sovereignty, serve as a disturbing but timely reminder to us all that human rights are neither universal nor permanently entrenched. They can be crushed at the whims of dictators or sheared by governments for whom such rights present inconvenient obstacles to the pursuit of illiberal political agendas. While truth is the first casualty of war, the systematic dismantling of law and order is never far behind. As a profession that promotes and practises the values of justice, fairness and equality in the work we do, we stand in solidarity with the courageous citizens of Ukraine and with its lawyers and judges who will undoubtedly be targeted in the long occupation to come. The rule of law is a central pillar of democracy and an independent justice system is the means by which it is both protected and delivered. Wherever it is threatened, we share a responsibility and duty to defend it.

The value of democracy

A week ago, we opened our ballot to enable our members to exercise their democratic right to chart the future course of the Criminal Bar. We are at a crossroads and the decisions that we make now will determine our future for years to come. Decades of neglect and the exploitation of our time and labour have left our advocates exhausted and demoralised. Yet each day, we still give everything we have left to serve the public in every corner of our jurisdiction. Through our consistent and extensive engagement with the media, the CBA has exposed the dire deficiencies in funding that continue to plague the criminal justice system, and that same public now increasingly understands how much our courts depend upon our commitment and our goodwill.

It is therefore for Government to recognise our value in a way that re-builds confidence in the profession and arrests the alarming egression of criminal barristers from legal aid work. History has taught us that it is only by hearing your voices that Government will respond with the speed and at the scale that is demanded by the current crisis we face. We are deeply proud of our democratic traditions in the CBA. Each member is equally respected, and each member is entitled to express their view. Every one of you pays a subscription that entitles you to a say. That is why you have received daily reminders last week exhorting you to use your franchise and to tell us which of the two options on the ballot paper you feel will better result in a fair and sustainable settlement for your individual careers.

I know that some of you have been in touch with our CBA Administrator because you have yet to receive your ballot. Invariably, this has been due to particularly sensitive spam filters in some chambers that have inadvertently blocked emails from our account. If you, or any colleague you know, has not yet received a ballot please contact our administrator on [email protected] and he will resolve any issues with his usual efficiency.

Alternatively, you can access the ballot here: You will need your user ID which can be found by taking a few simple steps:

  • Access the CBA website and login.
  • If you have forgotten your password, use the link on the page to be sent a reminder.
  • Go to ‘Edit my Profile’ and retrieve your CBA ID (under profile Information).

The ballot closes at midnight on Friday. Every vote counts.

Human Rights Act Consultation

As many of you will know, Government is currently consulting on revising the Human Rights Act 1998 and replacing it with a Bill of Rights. As ever, the CBA’s Law Reform Working Group has been quick to respond, and it has produced an excellent and thoughtful paper setting out our views on the various questions posed by the Ministry of Justice.  You can access the CBA response here.  We are very grateful to all those who contributed to the drafting of the response, in particular Caroline Haughey QC, Danielle Buckett, Mary Cowe, Karen Robinson and Paul Jarvis.


We note the very sad news of the loss of another highly respected member of the Criminal Bar, Giles Morrison of 15 New Bridge Street Chambers, who passed away unexpectedly on 26th February. Every loss of a colleague is tragic, but particularly so because Giles was still only 42 and had every reason to look forward to a long and fulfilling career. Our heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends.

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