Courtroom advocacy in decline?

13 Nov

Previously, solicitors could only represent their clients in a magistrates court, whereas a barrister would represent the client in higher courts.  Now, solicitors can apply for different advocacy/representation rights and represent their own clients, and collect both fees. Barristers can now also apply for “direct access” to clients, but this is rare and relevant in only certain sectors.

I doubt the role of barristers is being challenged, however many claim that the junior bar is being deprived of work and ultimately the quality of advocacy will decrease as work is not passed on to those specifically trained and experienced in the profession.

The most significant question however is whether the blurring of the different roles has contributed to miscarriages of justice.  The Bar would argue it has. The Law Society itself has agreed their advocacy training is “not fit for purpose”. Apparent lack of familiarity with rules and courtroom procedure or advocacy generally may give an unfair advantage to the prosecution (or the defence if we’re talking about in-house CPS advocates).

With cuts in legal aid contributing to the decline of the “legal aid equality myth”, the justice system really doesn’t need any more obstacles.

Get rid of the “middlemen” (we can apply that to either profession actually) and reduce costs or encourage each to stick to their traditionally defined roles to ensure the quality of advocacy and therefore justice is preserved?

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