With the many issues confronting the Bar – legal aid changes, increasing rights of audience for crown prosecutors and the increasing numbers of solicitor advocates, one would have thought that the Bar Council had better things to do than bother about the fact that a few barristers have requalified as solicitors but have not disbarred themselves as barristers.
Your story, "Dual-qualified solicitors are suspended from the Bar" (The Lawyer, 21 April), illustrates the Bar Council's eternal tendency to concentrate on trivia.
More concerning is the fact that the purported suspension is unlawful. In R v Grays Inn (1780) 1 Doug KB 353 it was noted that the Inns only had such power as was delegated to them by the judges. In Re S (a barrister) (1969) 1AER 949 it was noted that the powers given to the Inns by the judges allowing them to disbar or suspend barristers were restricted to those who "after call to the Bar ceased to be a fit and proper person to have a right of audience". Someone who is a solicitor cannot be described as someone who is not "a fit and proper person" and therefore the Inns of Court have no legal right to suspend them.
The Bar Council have not attempted to introduce this change through the Courts and Legal Services Act machinery because they know they would be rejected by Aclec and the higher judiciary.
What they have attempted is an illegal method of intimidating those who wish to qualify as solicitors but retain the title of barrister which they earned through their own hard work.
My advice to any solicitor-barrister who receives the Bar Council's letter is to ignore it and continue to use the title of barrister to which they are entitled. If the Bar Council or any Inn attempt to enforce this illegal, unenforcable and fatuous rule then I will be delighted to assist, in any way, any barrister affected.
Neil Addison, Whitley Bay, tyne & Wear.