The Lord Chancellor has accused the Bar of ?letting down the public? by going on strike last year over poor criminal case pay rates.
?Last year in certain places, members of the Bar were refusing to take publicly funded cases,? Lord Falconer said at the annual Bar conference in London this weekend. ?Aside from letting down the public who rely on expert advocacy, these incidents last year have led the state to feel uneasy about sole reliance on the Bar.?
In a veiled threat to the continuation of the Bar's ?near monopoly in some types of work?, Falconer said that ?in some areas alternatives have become much more developed?. ?The Crown Prosecution Service is now prosecuting more cases in the Crown Courts than previously, and we are making increasing use of designated case workers to present evidence to court,? he said.
?The justification for the practical monopoly on advocacy enjoyed by the Bar in certain areas of work, has, historically been dependent in part on the Cab Rank principle. That principle has been, in practice, eroded in publicly funded work.?
He added: ?The justification for the practical monopoly on advocacy enjoyed by the Bar in certain areas of work, has, historically been dependent in part on the Cab Rank principle. That principle has been, in practice, eroded in publicly funded work. I would urge the Bar to rethink this.?
The Lord Chancellor also made clear that, despite the continued protestations of the Bar, the new legal complaints body set out in the Legal Services Bill will handle complaints about barristers, as well as solicitors.
?The Bar has argued forcefully that the Office for Legal Complaints should have the discretion to delegate service complaints to Approved Regulators,? he said. ?The Government however is equally firm that the OLC will not delegate the handling of complaints. If we are to have a legal system that puts the needs of the client and the needs of the public first, we need to have a complaints system that is transparent. If we are to engender public confidence there must be, in line with other public services, no appearance of professionals in charge of judging their own.?