The London Advocate

Advocate Issue 71

PUBLISHED September 11, 2012

The Olympics turned out to be a (for some, surprising) triumph. The smooth organisation, the magnificent volunteers, the sporting successes: they made us proud to be British - and proud to be Londoners.

Those watching from abroad have been reminded of this country's virtues. Among these, along with a free, high-quality health service, tremendous children's literature and self-deprecating humour, many would instinctively list a fair and uncorrupted legal system, the nonpareil of the civilised world.

But our treasured criminal justice system is going through perilous times. There are those who are still working to improve it, as this issue's report on the work of the Sentencing Council shows. But the destructive combination of financial cutbacks and a series of moves to "speed up justice" are now beginning to have an effect.

Both our president, Jim Meyer, and his guest, Jim Sturman QC, spoke of this at our annual dinner. As Jim Meyer put it, we are in danger of justice being seen to be done - but not actually being done. Both speakers recognised that, in these difficult times, the two branches of the profession are often at odds with each other. But they also took the opportunity to point out how short-sighted this approach is. To quote Jim Sturman, "Each time the Bar scores a point off solicitors, or solicitors off the Bar, we cut our own throats as well as each other's."

As we are reminded by this issue's article on the history of law centres, both branches of the profession have, among their ranks, lawyers who spent years of their careers battling for justice for the very poorest in society.

Long may that tradition continue - even when the times are not auspicious. I hope your holidays (and the Olympics) have refreshed you - and given you strength to resume our struggles.