The future of the Bar & drug driving

There was a bit of a debate on Twitter last night about solicitor-advocates in the Crown Court.  These debates generally annoy me a lot.  As with last night they'll kick off with a barrister saying something that ridicules or undermines solicitors with no factual basis.  For example, last night the theme was, would solicitors keep a case for themselves even if a barrister would do a "better" job.  In other words, do solicitors ignore their professional obligations and act even where there is a conflict between their personal interests and those of their client?

Now, this is frankly offensive to me as a solicitor.

The Solicitors Practice Rules have long contained rules that require solicitors to put their clients' interests before their own.  There is nothing different between the rule that has existed for a very long time and the current position with solicitors deciding whether or not to instruct Counsel.

Many of the arguments I hear from the Bar is put in the abstract, in other words, you never hear any concreate examples that we can all go and look at the transcripts to see for ourselves.  All you get is, well this might happen.  It is scaremongering and nothing more.  If I claimed that barristers might accept cases that were beyond their abilities to handle just to line their own pockets then I'm pretty sure a whole slew of barristers would line up to tell me it wouldn't or couldn't happen because of this or that.

The attitude of these barristers (who are by no means the majority, but are very vocal) is not surprising.  When I was at Bar School we were encouraged to be rather arrogant towards solicitors.  Solicitors were referred to as the "junior profession" and the Bar students had special areas set aside just for us.  We had a whole suite of teaching rooms and computer rooms where only the Bar were allowed and any solicitors sneaking in would be asked to leave.  There was even a separate library that had a lock on it to prevent any one not on the Bar course from gaining entry! 

These in fights among lawyers really get me down.  Because while we spend all this time arguing among ourselves about whether solicitors are incompetent advocates or whether the Bar is the cream of the advocates we are allowing Government to get away with ruining both our professions.  It is my firm view that the sooner the professions are fused the sooner we can get back to doing out best for our clients both in the court room and outside it in campaigning against Governments intent on removing the rights of our clients.

On a completely different point, I hear that the Queen's Speech will today propose outlawing driving under the influence of drugs.  I have no idea why since I notice that section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 is entitled "Driving, or being in charge, when under influence of drink or drugs."  Would seem this "new" law has already been on the statute books for 24 years.


  1. Reference the drug driving, it's probably down to the fact that you must prove impairment to the court.

    Not easy to do without video footage and a lot of police officers also misunderstand the law, assuming that it is for the doctor to prove impairment rather than the officer witnessing the driving.

  2. Anon, I don't think that's true at all. Police officers are more than capable of giving evidence about whether the driving they witnessed was below the standard expected and whether the suspect appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or a drug.

    The police have officers who are trained to administer impairment tests, such as you sometimes see on the police chase TV programmes.

  3. Indeed, training is the key. The problem is that roads policing is so far down the current list of priorities it doesn't get a look in.

    S4 RTA is a doddle to get to court, the problem is that unless you've been trained you don't know this. I've lost count of the times I've heard "you'll never prove the impairment" from supervisors. I feel like smashing my head against the wall sometimes.

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