MICHAEL Mansfield QC, the high profile criminal barrister acting for the family of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, has launched a scathing attack on the legal profession. He also claims the Lord Chancellor is not up to the job of reforming it.
Mansfield made his comments at a discussion held after the performance of a new play The Colour of Justice – a reconstruction of the inquiry into the murder.
He said: “I think that structurally the profession has to change, the admissions system has to change, chambers and the way in which the whole thing operates has to change, because it has been dominated, I'm afraid, by people like me – white middle-class males – for way too long.”
Mansfield accuse Lord Irvine of being an ineffectual reformer.
He said: “The last Lord Chancellor started to make a difference, but I'm not convinced the present one is going to do much more than pay it [the reform] lip service.”
Mansfield was one of the barristers the Lord Chancellor labelled as a “fat cat” when he launched his review of legal aid fees. Following a report by the House of Lords, Mansfield had a £20,000 brief fee – for 43 hours work on an unsuccessful two-day criminal appeal to the Lords – cut to £12,000.
The judiciary also came in for a scathing attack on its selection process, which he says is wholly unrepresentative of society and vigorously resistant to change.
“They have resisted steadfastly the fact that the judiciary should be representative of society because they are worried about accountability and democracy, and that is why there are moves afoot to abolish a significant number of jury trials.”
Attending were: Imran Khan, the Lawrences' solicitor, Stephen's father Neville, his friend Duwayne Brooks and his solicitor Jane Deighton.