Friday, 14 May 2010

Reality check anyone?

DAVID Ford is off to a good start in winning over the public with a challenge to the legal profession. While he has not gone as far as Shakespeare in King Henry the Sixth (“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”) he seems to have offended the barristers to such an extent that one would think that they are under threat of capital punishment from the Minister of Justice.

Already barristers have been withdrawing from defence teams at the thought that the hourly rate they receive from Legal Aid (paid by the NI Court Service from the taxes of everyone) for complex cases has been cut from £180 to £152.50 per hour.

The poor dears – how will they ever cope. Yes, of course they do a fine job and they are without doubt some of the finest legal minds when confronted with the intricacies of legal arguments. But with such fine, analytical minds - nay even with brains that can cope with reading legal tomes of mind-numbing dreariness – have they never strayed into the real world?

One must of course take into account that barrister’s work is not regular (unless they snag a public inquiry then all bets are off!). Let’s say that a barrister is only able to get a couple of hours work a day. That would be £305 for that day. Then let’s say they are only able to get three days work in a week. That would be £915 for that week, and £3,660 for the month. After tax, accountants, taking into account the days that courts close and the cost of buying the silly - sorry necessary – wig and gown, they’d be lucky to clear £2,000 per month. Which for part time work isn’t bad.

So, how can you and I help the barristers in the face of David ‘The Merciless’ Ford’s swingeing cuts? Well, if you are in a position where you may be about to commit a crime (and we don’t, of course, condone any breaking of the law whatsoever!) make sure that your crime is a particularly complex one, so that when you go along to get your Legal Aid sorted out you can rest easy; even with their pay cut you’re helping an impoverished barrister make ends meet.

In the meantime, we, with all sincerity, ask that the barristers of Northern Ireland head to their nearest GP for a reality check-up.

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