Chambers defector blames Irvine reforms

Top criminal defence set Three Gray's Inn Square has become the first chambers to lose a barrister over the Government's proposed legal aid reforms.

The decision of Gary Summers, a barrister for 12 years, to join West End firm Magrath & Co as solicitor advocate comes as Criminal Bar Association chairman Roy Amlot QC warned his members that the reforms risk tearing apart the foundations of the profession.

Summers said that he is leaving the Bar because of the Government's proposed block legal aid contracts which he says will encourage law firms to use their own in-house advocates rather than instructing independent barristers.

“These proposals effectively rob the Criminal Bar of its ability to control its own destiny,” said Summers.

Summers will head up Magrath's criminal department.

“We're talking about labels,” he said of the change to a solicitor advocate, “I'm hoping in two years to be doing the same sort of job as I'm currently doing in chambers.”

Meanwhile, in a letter to all criminal barristers, Roy Amlot has warned them that Lord Irvine's reforms could impact “upon our status, our professional conduct and the cab-rank principle”.