Bar denies it fails to look after alcoholic barristers

The Bar Council has defended the level of support it provides for alcoholic barristers in the face of claims from one of the founders of a solicitors' dependency project that barristers' problems are going unnoticed.

The former Law Society president Charles Elly made the claims last week at the launch of SolCare, the society's new assistance scheme for drug- or alcohol-dependent solicitors.

“I don't quite think the Bar have quite seen the problem yet,” said Elly, a driving force behind the establishment of the organisation.

But a Bar spokesman defended the absence of a similar organisation for barristers. He said barristers formed a closer-knit community than solicitors and tended to have a strong system of informal pastoral care.

If that failed, the Bar Disciplinary Committee could take steps to help barristers face up to their problem.

“It [alcoholism] has not been, as far as we know, a major problem so far,” said the spokesman.

SolCare co-ordinator Barry Pritchard said the new service aimed to rehabilitate, not destroy, the careers of solicitors with drug or alcohol problems.

Society vice-president Phillip Sycamore said that ultimately SolCare was protecting the public and safeguarding the name of the profession. “Despite what we are often told, solicitors are sometimes human,” he added. “We have a duty not to abandon our colleagues when the going gets tough.”

SolCare can be contacted in strict privacy on 01766 512222.