Body blow to Bar

What's going on at the Bar Council? Its mission a year ago was to think the unthinkable. Now, it's defending the indefensible.

The latest blow from the Lord Chancellor has laid low the Bar's efforts to marshall its own forces and balance its books.

So what's happened? For two years, the Bar Council has watched the tortuous progress of its application under the courts and Legal Services Act for a new mechanism in its code of conduct to allow it to enforce barristers to pay their subscriptions, by threatening disbarment.

The need for action is evident. Non-payment of subs left a £157,000 hole in its budgeted subscription income of £2 million last year.

But Lord Mackay has just ruled that such a mechanism is ultra vires and “contrary to the public interest”. The Bar cannot enforce payments.

Whether this encourages independent-minded barristers to withhold payment and further damage its finances, as some predict, is yet to be seen.