Hard-up juniors to pay same rates as employed colleagues

Bibi Berki

BARRISTERS are to see a 12 per cent across-the-board increase in subscriptions to the Bar Council from next January.

But the Bar has pledged to remember the "poorest in our profession" by looking again at rates for hard-up junior members.

Subscriptions were last increased in 1992, when they rose by 15 per cent.

The increase, announced at the Bar's AGM, comes in response to a "substantial deficit" of u143,000 for 1993/94.

Treasurer Martin Bowley QC said the deficit followed two years of "small but satisfactory surpluses".

He said that the Bar was still in discussion with the Lord Chancellor's Department about the prospect of removing rights of audience to those members who did not pay their subscriptions.

No junior would be asked to pay more than 90 pence a week extra and they were already excused payment for the first two years at the Bar, said Bowley.

The meeting also voted in favour of a motion, put by Francis Sheridan, to equalise the rates for private practice and in-house barristers under seven years' call.

Sheridan told members: "This motion is to help the poorest in our profession."

He said some barristers were working for "derisory rates" and added: "There is no point setting a subscription rate that is beyond their reach.

"If it means silks have to add u5 to their subs to balance the books then so be it. At least we can tax deduct it."

Brian O'Neill, chair of the young Bar, said: "I have come across cases of real and genuine hardship. Young barristers are going to court for u30 or less a day."

The council voted in favour of a motion calling for managers of the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund to publish total subscriptions to the funds and details of payments from the fund to each of the specialist fields.

Criminal law barrister Francis Sheldon said the criminal Bar was being "ripped off". He said: "The Mutual Indemnity Fund only insures barristers. Who the hell gives a damn if the world knows. We are the only people affected."