As the year in office draws to a close, final reflections both on how difficult these twelve months have been for the Bar, and on how much there is for all in the profession to be proud of and to fight for.
Maura McGowan QC, Chairman of the Bar
2013 has been, as everyone keeps telling me, a very difficult year. We have seen the implementation of LASPO, which has denied legal aid to very many vulnerable people seeking to enforce or defend their rights in family, housing, employment and immigration cases. It has seen two consultations on legal aid funding for criminal work which demonstrate a stubborn commitment by the Ministry of Justice to cut fees, irrespective of the damage done to a legal profession which is the envy of the world, and in total defiance of the fact that fees in some areas of crime have already been cut by 40%. These cuts are planned against a background in which the legal aid spend in crime was £1.1 billion in 2011 and has since fallen to £0.9 billion in 2012. Of course, nobody can depend on the fact that the rate of crime will continue to fall but a very substantial part of that saving has been achieved by the previous cuts in fees. That is being ignored. We continue to argue the case as vigorously as we can.