Concerns that British ambassadors and senior officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) are ignorant about basic legal issues has led to the launch of special advisory schemes run by the Bar Council.
Ambassadors and senior FCO staff are being taught about how the English and European legal systems operate, such as the structure of the Bar Council, the procedures of the International Criminal Court and the Commercial Court, and rules governing referral of work from solicitors to barristers.
Secretary of the Bar Council’s International Relations Committee Chris Wisskirchen told The Lawyer: “The main reason for this is that we want to educate ambassadors so they can do a better job all round. Ambassadors will only get a superficial understanding of how the system operates, but it means that if they come across a foreign businessman who needs somewhere to arbitrate they will know where to go to in England and also who is the best person there to do the job.”
The IRC has also been trying for two years to meet with the FCO to discuss providing more in-depth legal advice to senior staff that are one level down from ambassadors. This would involve advice on areas such as legislation and immigration. The FCO has so far not agreed to a meeting. The IRC says this is not due to any “bad will” on the Government’s part.