Secret E-Diary - April 2014

Battle lines are drawn

My party political allegiances remained pretty constant until the day I found myself driving behind a car that had a sticker on its rear windscreen.  Generally, I fi nd these proclamations very annoying. Top of my hate list is “Drive Carefully! Baby on Board!” Whenever I see this particular command, it coincides with a car that is being driven badly in some way – the last one cut me up having undertaken my car at high speed on the M4 – and has no baby in the vehicle at all, unless it has been placed in the boot. However, on this day of my political metamorphosis, I found the rear sticker not only completely failed to irritate me but actually expressed a thought that had been germinating in my head for some time. It read, simply and succinctly: “Don’t Vote! It Only Encourages Them.”

The Bar in general, and Chambers in particular, is exceptionally out of sympathy with politics and politicians. I presided over a very stormy Chambers’ meeting last week. I had some difficulty preventing the younger members marching there and then on the Ministry of Justice to escort Chris Antoinette Grayling to the Temple for a chat with Madame Guillotine. Even the Twist brothers, famous for never joining any side until it was already victorious, were hopping with rage.

I tried to instil a small note of caution, but quickly bowed to the mood of my members. Having warned about the dangers of public demonstrations I noticed the front row of the meeting was bearing an increasing resemblance to the chorus of Les Miserables. I explained that refusing to do other people’s returns might sound bold but would take some time to bite whilst the bills would still be coming in. There was a growl and no-one blanched. I abandoned reserve and finished with a resounding denunciation of our political masters and was given a standing ovation before we poured out into the night.

I needed a drink. Repairing to a nearby wine bar, I came across two of my fellow heads of chambers deep in conversation over a bottle of Rioja. I hovered at their table until one of them looked up. Stuart Graham was a head of chambers in the modern style. He saw himself as the Chief Executive of a business and, according to my spies, rarely intruded his own views at his chambers’ meetings. His set had challenged ours for work outside of London recently and, evil though it may seem, I had wondered whether he might use this period to steal a march on us, whilst we loyally refuse to accept return briefs. Stuart is not a demonstrative man, but his nod for me to sit down with them was as affable as he can manage. With him was George White QC, who had prosecuted me in the case of Jason Grimble who, in the view of the jury, had not murdered Claude Allerick, late of the circuit bench and former member of Gutteridge Chambers – leaving that honour to one Moses Lane, a psychopathic youth defended by an older soul-mate, Rico Smyth QC, who had also once belonged to our set until I failed to guarantee him a new Porsche every year.

"I explained that refusing to do other people’s returns might sound bold but would take some time to bite whilst the bills would still be coming in. There was a growl and no-one blanched. I abandoned reserve and finished with a resounding denunciation of our political masters and was given a standing ovation before we poured out into the night"

George was not the CEO type. Indeed, I imagined the headship of his chambers,  a serious prosecution set, had devolved through some hereditary link to the House of York. He seemed pleased to see me. “Sit ye down, sit ye down.” he said. Perhaps the Rioja had not been quite sufficient to compensate for Stuart’s downbeat style. We stared into our glasses. “Your lot firm?” asked Stuart, with a glint in his eye. Perhaps he had his doubts about us. “Rabid,” I replied. “Likewise,” he said.

We both looked at George. I remember he had told me of times when his ancestors had not just sat in their castles awaiting the inevitable but had sallied forth to battle, even fighting each other on occasion. “We’re with you,” he said. “Some of mine want to move out of criminal work and even those who don’t are persuaded that what those creatures inflict on the defence today they will mete out to the prosecution tomorrow. And I’m with them. The Government may care to lose the acquired expertise of a generation of outstanding criminal lawyers. I don’t.” His eyes lit with a sudden blaze that made six centuries come to life. “And, what’s more, I won’t!”

William Byfield, Gutteridge Chambers

William Byfield is the pseudonym of a senior member of the Bar. Gutteridge Chambers, and the events that happen there, are entirely fictitious.

 

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