Bar Council responds to Justice Secretary’s Speech - What does a One Nation justice policy look like?
Alistair MacDonald QC, chairman of the Bar, saidtoday's speech by the Justice Secretary hasshown his awareness of, and commitment to, our adversarial legal system and its value in delivering a world-leading justice system
The Justice Secretary’s one nation approach to the justice system mirrors the core commitment of the Bar to give expert advice and representation to all in society, regardless of their means. It is very encouraging that he has recognised the importance of the rule of law as the most precious asset of a civilised society and the importance of a healthy independent Bar to ensure high quality advocacy. In addition, the Secretary of State has emphasised the importance of legal aid as a vital element in a fair justice system.
By acknowledging the need to maintain and protect an independent Bar and high quality advocacy in our courts, the Justice Secretary has shown his awareness of, and commitment to, our adversarial legal system and its value in delivering a world-leading justice system. He has also demonstrated a willingness to listen to key elements of the legal profession.
Most importantly, the Ministry of Justice is seeing what barristers and the judiciary have seen first-hand, and struggled with, for many years; that the delivery of swift and efficient justice is increasingly being put at risk by antiquated IT and out of date systems of working.
We welcome the commitment to investment in the infrastructure of the courts just as we welcomed the recommendations of Sir Brian Leveson to improve and update the way in which cases are brought to trial.
There is more to do, but the Bar Council will continue to work with the Justice Secretary and the Ministry of Justice to ensure that justice is delivered efficiently and fairly to all.
The Justice Secretary has expressed a desire to work with us and other leaders of the legal community to look at the pro bono contribution we make. The Bar, including the privately funded Bar, already makes a very substantial contribution to this work. Over 3,600 barristers sit on the Bar Pro-Bono Unit volunteer panel - this includes one third of all QCs. The BPBU, which is funded almost entirely by the profession, seeks no public funding at all. The BPBU gave legal assistance in over 1,120 cases to members of the public in 2014. We will strive hard to increase this commitment. It must never be seen, however, as a replacement for a properly funded legal aid system for the good of all.