Chairman of the Bar Council, Alistair MacDonald QC
, has pledged he will
'continue the excellent work' started by predecessors Maura McGowan QC and
outgoing Chairman, Nicholas Lavender QC, in preventing further cuts to legal
aid, in order to defend a 'proud and independent profession'.
inaugural speech, addressing a meeting of the Bar Council in Holborn, the
Chairman-Elect touched upon the themes likely to dominate his term in the
top-job. Unsurprisingly for someone practising as a criminal barrister, cuts to
criminal legal aid and the effects upon justice since the implementation of the
Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) remain
priorities, as well as the way in which the Bar is structured.
Reflecting on London’s position
as a global centre of excellence for the profession and the upcoming Global Law
Summit in February of next year, MacDonald expressed concerns for the future in
the wake of LASPO.
pre-eminence has been hard won. It can so easily be lost. I am really
concerned that the changes brought about by LASPO both in terms of access to
justice and also to restrictions on the ability of the citizen to challenge, by
judicial review, the rectitude of Government decision, will have far-reaching
consequences on the reputation of the justice system of England and Wales.'
MacDonald acknowledged the
pragmatism that exists among the profession, saying, 'The vast majority of those
at the publicly funded Bar are realists. They understand the difficulties any
government faces in times of economic stringency.'
this, MacDonald suggested further cuts simply won’t be practical, saying, 'the
Bar has endured successive fee cuts, and we have done our bit. There is, I
believe, a growing recognition that rock bottom has been reached.'
does not have a monopoly on hard work. There are many people, particularly those
who are self-employed or who are engaged in starting or promoting their own
companies, who work long hours. Many in other professions do too. But the
difference is that no-one in Government accuses them of systemic
irresponsibility, or makes insinuations upon their probity.'
MacDonald, who takes up his post
on 1 January 2015, hails from Lancashire, but practises in Leeds, where he is
co-Head of Chambers at New Park Chambers, and a former leader of the
North-Eastern Circuit. His appointment makes him the first former leader of a
circuit outside of London to lead the Bar since John Rowe QC in 1993. Outgoing
Chairman of the Bar Council, Nicholas Lavender QC, will return to practice
commercial law from Serle Court after a highly successful year in the
post.The speech can be downloaded in its entirety here.