Mark George QC on why we do what we do (ie, Legal Aid)
14 May 2012
A debate has been running in the social meda since last week on whether Legal Aid clients get a second class service. This debate was triggered by the Law Society Gazette article “Legal Aid equality a myth, says solicitor advocate Kelcey” which reported on solicitor advocate Ian Kelsey’s address at the Law Society’s Criminal Law Conference on 8th May 2012.
Here are some extracts from the article:
“The essence of being a dedicated defence lawyer has always been a desire to do the very best for any client. That has been the ethical stance of London chambers like Garden Court and Tooks Court since the 1970s and 80s and Garden Court North in Manchester follows the same line. We built our reputations on taking legal points that the local barristers scoffed at until we won, and then won again, and they soon stopped laughing at us behind their gowns and began to take us seriously. If you bother to look there is all manner of helpful stuff in the unused material which can be used in cross-examination and can make the difference in winning cases.
You don’t do criminal law to get rich. You do it because you care about the clients. You want to make sure that in a system where every legislative change since PACE has been designed not to promote justice but to increase the rate of convictions, that the interests of your client are protected as best you can. You do read the unused material schedule and make boring requests that make the CPS and their lawyers groan. You do take points on the admissibility of evidence not to show how clever you are but because its your job to use the law to your client’s benefit. It’s called “making a difference” which to my mind is exactly why you become a lawyer doing legal aid cases.”
Mark George QC is a barrister and Head of Chambers at Garden Court North Chambers.