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'We’re all in this together,' says incoming Bar Council Chairman in Inaugural Address

Date:9 DEC 2014
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Incoming 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'.

In his 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.

'Our 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.'

Despite 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.'

'The Bar 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.
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