PR inexperience of ‘weirdly silent’ striking criminal barristers could cost them dear

The success – or otherwise – of striking criminal barristers’ campaign to prevent the dismantling of their profession will ultimately be decided by whether or not they can get the public onside…


As attorney general Dominic Grieve indicated to Legal Cheek last month, the government doesn’t think the Bar will be able to pull this off: “The criminal Bar would find itself in a very difficult position if it were to be seen to be resisting this move, because I don’t think that it is likely to have public opinion on its side in the arguments it is putting forward,” he said.

But others reckon that there may be more sympathy out there for criminal barristers than the likes of Grieve are estimating – especially if a clear message can be articulated about the dangers of handing the keys of the criminal justice system to companies such as G4S.

Ominously for criminal barristers, though, even on their big day of boycott of the northern courts, the government seems to be winning the PR war…

It hasn’t helped that the official Twitter account for the boycott meeting – @NotopctNorthern – is locked, meaning its messages can’t be retweeted.

It’s a shame, because the meeting seems to have been a big hit, hauling in 450+ lawyers to the Radisson hotel in Manchester (see photo below). I guess we’ll get to read about how it went later…


9 Responses to “PR inexperience of ‘weirdly silent’ striking criminal barristers could cost them dear”

  1. Jaime Hamilton

    You were provided with the information as to who is handling the PR side of things at 12.13 this afternoon. JackofKent has been in contact with him and had information provided.

    The purpose of the meeting is to provide and collate information to be put in to the response to the consultation. A process which is difficult to report as it is ongoing, as the people involved are involved in contributing.

    This is not a protest but a necessary response to the short timetable provided for consultation.

    Like(0) Dislike(0)
  2. alistair mitchell

    Give it time! We are waiting for consensus to emerge from the Northern Bar meeting and the Manchester solicitors’ anti-PCT meeting today. Many more meetings are scheduled this week all over the UK. Today is just the start of what will prove to be an overwhelming counter-attack on Grayling.

    Like(0) Dislike(0)
  3. Michael Henshall

    A full days meeting no doubt will be fully detailed in a comprehensive update later on. Lets not get on anyone’s backs. We are all in this together and this will be just the starting point to tackle issues that will no doubt be at the forefront of our aims later on.

    Like(0) Dislike(0)
  4. Joseph Sherlock


    I think the point being made is that while the meeting may not have been a protest, it looked like one, and even if it didn’t look like one it can certainly be portrayed as one. In the absence of briefings from your side the media are more likely to rely on briefings from the other.

    I agree with you and hope you win, that is why I share the fear expressed in the title of this piece.

    Like(0) Dislike(0)
  5. Jaime Hamilton

    The press have been briefed both before and after the meeting.

    Like(0) Dislike(0)
  6. Joseph Sherlock

    Yes, and that clearly did a good job given the response in the Telegraph and Guardian. The point is this story still appeared, Two questions from David Allen Green and Sean Jones QC (questions which were quickly answered) provide quotes which can be spun to make the opposition look less than brilliant. The reality that the press were briefed is less important in this context than the perception that the meeting was cloistered. All that would have been needed to avoid this would be occasional, say hourly, tweets from an unlocked account which everyone who follows this issue knows about saying: ‘Now discussing X’ ‘Still talking about Y, conclusions to follow after the meeting’ ‘we’ve moved onto X’ ‘We expect a draft response on the Xth’ etc.
    Nothing substantive just updates to fill the vacuum.

    Once again, I support what you are doing. I am not a barrister I am a member of the public who gets his news like the rest and am terribly concerned that the people who are defending the justice system might lose because they have underestimated the importance of PR.

    Like(0) Dislike(0)
  7. Paul Cross

    One of the main points about yesterday is that it shows that the Bar can act in unison. As well as the attendance at the meeting it is important to recognise that, to a very large extent, members of other circuits did not step in to cover the cases on the Northern Circuit. If there was to be a strike the main issue would be how long the government was prepared to put up without a functioning criminal justice system rahter than whether the public were on our side.

    Like(0) Dislike(0)
  8. David Allen Green

    “The point is this story still appeared, Two questions from David Allen Green and Sean Jones QC (questions which were quickly answered) provide quotes which can be spun to make the opposition look less than brilliant.”

    What does this actually mean?

    Like(0) Dislike(0)
  9. Joseph Sherlock


    It means that you are one of the most prominent legal bloggers around and a writer for the new statesman and they hadn’t sent you a message letting you know how to get information about the meeting. That is poor organisation. You said it yourself in the tweet quoted in this article, this is how media coverage is won and lost.

    I’m not sure where your confusion about my comment comes from though I suspect that I was careless with my subjects and objects. ‘This story’ refers to the legal cheek article and ‘opposition’ refers to the lawyers and others who are opposing the MOJ on QASA and PCT.

    Like(0) Dislike(0)