Weekly Round Up 01.02.13
1. The Cab Rank Rule.
2. New Contractual Terms: Bar Council Guidance.
3. The CBA Blog
5. Do Right, Fear No One: Comments from you Chair.
1. The Cab Rank Rule
My comments on the LSB’s commissioned report on the cab rank rule has sparked considerable debate. The few critics of the CBA stance suggest that far from being a retrograde step, all the LSB is doing is sensibly modernising an anachronistic rule by borrowing a rule from the New York State Bar code of conduct and slightly smartening it up. This is the proposal:-
“10. You may not be refused representation on the basis of race, creed, colour, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or disability.”
This rule is clear and unambiguous. It protects clients and it can apply to all lawyers, and we see an equivalent in the SRA Handbook. It has no need of exceptions and exemptions, which presently serve only to confound and confuse clients. For the purposes of the client and consumer representation will be supplied and access to justice and the upholding of the rule of law would be ensured by the profession. It would be practicable, within the English context, to augment the rule by including references to type of client, the nature of the case/crime or the defence required. These would deal with the original aspects— unpopularity of clients and heinous nature of crimes—of the cab rank rule that have since been overshadowed by arguments over funding.
In the first place the proposed replacement simply does not deal with the criticism of the Cab Rank Rule in respect of the public funding. As you all know, public funded legal aid cases are now “undeemed”, which entitles a barrister to turn away a case because the publically funded fee is inadequate. The new proposal does nothing to change that situation. It is unlikely that any rule could be passed that required a barrister to take a case regardless of the level of remuneration provided by the state. The difference between the Cab Rank Rule and what is proposed is glaringly obvious. One dictates that a barrister shall not refuse a case for a proscribed set of reasons, race, gender etc. Whereas the Cab Rank Rule requires a Barrister to take a case that is within their knowledge and expertise providing they are free to do so. There could be nothing clearer. It effectively outlaws any form of discrimination whether it is in the list or not. The advocates of the change claim the rule is breached on a regular basis. The only example that is given in the report prepared for the LSB is the refusal by specialist sets to accept cases which do not fall within their specialism, which is a breach of no rule at all. The astute amongst you have already spotted that the replacement of the CAB Rank Rule with it’s supposed American counterpart, has once again got nothing to do with serving the public interest or protecting the consumer. The purpose behind it is to ensure that when the Bar is forced into work with the likes of Eddie Stobarts, because they have the contract, the public will be forced to accept the barrister they are given, provided he or she has the necessary QASA badge. Freedom of choice for the consumer will disappear, which of course is precisely the situation with publically funded cases State side. For many years the public and the Bar have been fooled into thinking that new proposals for the reform of our profession have nothing more behind them than the reform for the sake of the public interest. Everything that comes out of the LSB, BSB and Government is designed to achieve but one aim and that is the wholesale destruction of both professions and its delivery into the hands of the private sector.
2. New Contractual Terms: Bar Council Guidance
3. The CBA blog;
We have a new way for you to participate and express your views. For reasons I have yet to fathom you all appear reluctant to express your views on the forum. So here is the CBA blog
Many of you know that I have been slow to appreciate the power of the Tweet. But I have responded to your calls to get the CBA Twitter feedback up and active. Link is below.
5. Do Right Fear No One: Comments from your chair.
I am acutely aware that pointing out to you on a weekly basis how our profession is being dismantled gives you little succour unless we are putting forward a proposed course of action which might turn this juggernaut around.
Action will only be effective if a number of things come together. A full membership, nationwide communication with all our members, a strong publicity machine, unity within ourselves, unity with our counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland and with our colleagues in our sister profession. In past years it was not recognised how important all of these matters are. Max Hill QC, your previous chair understood precisely what was necessary and started a process which I have merely continued and expanded. You will see form last weeks message that we have linked arms with both the Law Society and the CCSA over QASA. Bill Waddington (Chair of the CCSA) and myself have agreed on further initiatives, which, if you will forgive me I will not publicise at present. We have fostered a strong relationship with our brothers and sisters at the Northern Irish Bar and I hope to start that process next week with my equivalent in Scotland. Our membership initiative has picked up a momentum which I believe will produce a fully signed up membership of the entirety of the Criminal Bar in the next two months. The South Eastern Circuit Heads met last night. I do not propose to report the detail of that discussion. However, there was complete unanimity that QASA in its present form was not in the public interest. What was crystal clear is that all chambers wish to unite behind effective action which will stop the current regime’s determined assault on our profession. Unity is strength and in consequence I am not prepared to suggest what that might be until all our Circuits have met and the Criminal Bar as a whole agrees on a unified way forward. There are other initiatives we are taking to ensure support from the judiciary and the opposition front bench. Successive Governments have taken the attitude that the Bar can talk the talk but can not walk the walk. Interestingly, I believe that inability has stemmed from our wish to provide service to our clients at all costs. The situation has changed. The Bar and our sister profession are the only people who realise what is over the horizon and how the public, victim, defendant and tax payer are going to be affected. We are surely now duty bound to take action to protect there rights and a legal system that at one time was the envy of the world.View more news