Radical reform of judiciary rejected by 'hecklers' in Oxford Union debate

Some fine legal heckling took place last week as six leading lawyers debated the need for radical reform of the judiciary at the Oxford Union debate.

David McIntosh, senior partner of City law firm Davies Arnold Cooper, which sponsored the event, argued that judges are living on another planet, an assessment that was apparently confirmed when opposer of the debate Lord Slynn, Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, asked: “Who is Vinnie Jones?”

McIntosh retorted: “This is indicative of judges still living in ivory towers.”

On the eve of his official appointment as a Law Society council member, McIntosh used the debate to launch his manifesto for change within the profession, titled 'Winning for Clients'. He said legal reform is long overdue and solicitors must be more “consumer conscious”.

The ballot was a dead heat until the chair of the union, casting the final vote, opposed radical reform of the judiciary.

Proposer of the motion Francis Evans QC, criminal barrister at 3 Raymond Buildings, said afterwards he didn't believe a word of his own speech.

“Our judicial system is impeccable. It has evolved over centuries. But being a barrister is about arguing a case and not the principle,” he said.

During the floor debate, McIntosh, when challenged by an undergraduate law student on a point, retorted by offering him a job at Davies Arnold Cooper, prompting jokes that the old boy network is alive and well.

Afterwards, first year student Andrew Ward said he would be applying to do a summer placement at Davies Arnold Cooper.

The other proposer of the motion was Lord Williams of Mostyn. Opposing the motion were the Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Lyell QC, Lord Slynn of Hadley, and leading libel barrister George Carman QC.