Defence lawyer takes a bow on the box

A BBC producer who shadowed a hard-working criminal solicitor for a documentary has admitted the experience was a real “eye opener”.

London solicitor June Venters, of Venters & Co, will feature next month in a documentary series highlighting the work of women professionals who work in the criminal justice system.

Producer Tracy Cook said her time filming Venters had shattered her illusion that the work of the solicitor largely involved pushing paper.

“She works incredibly long hours, she is 110 per cent committed to her work and it is an extremely varied job,” Cook commented.

“This is something which certainly does come out in the film.”

The three-part documentary series, called Law Women, features the work of a deputy prison governor, a detective and Venters.

For the programme on Venters, the film makers were permitted to film her advising clients at police stations and magistrates courts, although cameras were not allowed inside courtrooms.

Venters, who has already seen the documentary, is happy that it accurately reflects her work.

She said she had been very cautious about doing the film, but had received support and encouragement from the Law Society.

Venters added that she hoped the film would counter public misconceptions about lawyers.

“I'm conscious the whole time that people believe that solicitors do as little as possible for as much money as they possibly can,” she said.

“I hope the film will demonstrate that to be a lawyer, especially in legal aid, you have to be totally committed to what you do.”

The programme on Venters will be broadcast on BBC 1 on 9 July.

Barristers are being called on to do more pro bono work under a new scheme launched last week.

The Bar pro bono unit was officially launched at its premises in Gray's Inn Square last Wednesday. It will hold a register of barristers willing to do three days pro bono work a year for deserving cases.

The unit is chaired by Peter Goldsmith QC, with Robin Allen QC and Chris Owen, senior clerk of 9 Bedford Row, as vice-chairs.

An advisory board will give independent advice to the project. Its members include the Master of the Rolls, Lord Woolf, Baroness Wilcox, former chair of the National Consumer Council, and Lord Borrie, former Director General of Fair Trading.

Goldsmith emphasised the new scheme is not a substitute for legal aid. He also insisted that the unit will work closely with and complement existing pro bono schemes and advice agencies such as Citizens Advice Bureaux.

Goldsmith expected the range of deserving cases would be wide and would include judicial review and appeals. He said the unit would be particularly appropriate for test cases where getting legal aid could be a problem.

“There is concern that the White Paper on legal aid will mean that fewer test cases are taken on as they are seen to be too risky,” he said.

The unit has already received the backing of 300 barristers, including 60 QCs, and would like to hear from more willing participants.

Goldsmith also announced the creation of the Sydney Elland Goldsmith Award to recognise exceptional commitment to pro bono work by members of the profession.

The Bar pro bono unit can be contacted on 0171 831 9711.