It has been a draining few weeks for the Criminal Bar. For many months before, both barristers and solicitors stood side by side, in a unity I have never known, to fight the savage cuts to legal aid which this Government seemed determined to push through. It is worth dwelling for a moment upon that determination. Expressed over this protracted and intense campaign in the most trenchant terms both in negotiation and in public, Chris Grayling and his spokes people, notably Bob Neill, a barrister at 2 Bedford Row and Vice Chair of the Conservative Party aggressively criticized the Bar and its attempts to axis the dispute around access to justice.
Nigel Lithman QC, Chair of the Criminal Bar Association repeated the rallying cry of “Not a penny less” and whatever the impact of the “days of action” the no returns policy, even in its infancy was beginning to bite. Alongside this, despite the understandable occasional tensions between the two sides of the profession, the rank and file were as united as they have ever been. The court of public opinion was also beginning to get the measure of the debate. Editorials and Comment in a diverse range of newspapers were expressing the growing concern that this dispute was not so much about pay, but about a fair criminal justice system. It did not stop there.