Worst may be yet to come

Had the Bar Council leadership had the common sense to trust its own members it might have been saved the humiliation of losing the vote at the General Meeting on Tuesday.

Implementing a new complaints procedure was never going to be popular and once it became apparent there was a concerted campaign to destroy the proposals, a ballot of the entire Bar should have been held not a general meeting.

Peter Goldsmith should know how easy it is to 'pack' a meeting to achieve a distorted result. A ballot would have allowed the provincial and employed Bar to have a voice in the decision, rather than leave it to the Inner London Chambers mafia who are able to attend a meeting in London, and the Bar Council would have gained an important advantage.

As it is, the council was forced to call the meeting and is now forced to hold a ballot. It has lost the moral high ground and will probably lose the ballot also.

However, opponents of the new complaints procedure should look to history before celebrating too much. The Bar refused to accept the fairly mild proposals of the Marre Committee in 1988 and the result was the Courts and Legal Services Act and a significant loss of professional independence.

I anticipate that within five years a government quango will have been created to deal with complaints against solicitors and barristers and that a quango will be far more expensive and intrusive than the Bar Council proposals.

After the AGM and the EGM we now have the situation where the profession has decided that if a barrister does a lousy, incompetent job the Bar will do nothing. If, however, a barrister deals with the public directly and does a perfectly competent job he will be disbarred. Nobody will convince the public that that is in the public interest.

Neil Addison

5 Garsdale Road

Whitley Bay

Tyne & Wear NE26 4NT.