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SUSPENDED CPS barrister Neil Addison has vowed to fight on for employed lawyers' advocacy rights after he suffered a narrow defeat at the Bar Council AGM.
Addison, who says he is heartened by the slim 69-77 margin against his motion, is considering collecting the 100 signatures necessary to force a postal vote on the subject.
Addison's proposal called on the Bar to:
allow the public direct access to barristers;
allow barristers to form partnerships with each other and with solicitors;
give higher court advocacy rights to employed barristers.
A second poll on whether to hold a postal ballot was defeated by only one vote.
Addison says he was not worried about the affect his suspension last month by the Director of Public Prosecutions for his outspoken views would have on fellow barristers' opinions. "I don't think what happened to me affected the decision one way or another," he says.
He says of the vote: "It has made me feel that I should not let the subject just drop now because it was so close and it was so close on the postal vote."
At the AGM, he said fears of a fused profession meant defeatism had permeated the work of the barrister.
"I am not interested in being a member of a profession destined to decline into a small insignificant rump," he said.
But Bar vice-chair Peter Goldsmith QC said the motion was a "call for fusion and the disappearance of a separate and identifiable Bar".
He said the resolution amounted to "the dangerous and defeatist talk of frightened men". He said if a barrister wanted direct access and partnerships with solicitors, "then he or she should do it by becoming a solicitor".
Rachel Brand, a Birmingham-based criminal law barrister, told members: "I resent the suggestion that I should become a solicitor."
She added that solicitor advocates would soon acquire the necessary expertise to compete with barristers in higher courts. "These people are not fringe members of our profession. These people are mature and responsible lawyers. They are doing what they are doing because it pays."