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Why Did The Criminal Bar Association Choose Judge John Deed To Deliver Its Annual Lecture?

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Surreal scenes yesterday evening at the Criminal Bar Association’s (CBA) annual ‘Kalisher lecture’, which was delivered by Judge John Deed actor Martin Shaw. The gist of Shaw’s weird speech was: I don’t know much about law, but I love the glamour of the Inns of Court and I’m worried deregulation might spoil it.

Shaw’s big theme was that the Bar might go the way of the TV business, where a decline in independent production companies has apparently led to “more soap operas and X-Factor” and “less Shakespeare”.

The legal equivalent of this situation, Shaw went on to clumsily imply, was more solicitors and less barristers.

The Bar “cannot be fobbed off with in-house advocates. It will not be cheaper,” stated the actor solemnly, before adding with a knowing look at his audience of criminal barristers: “The Court of Appeal is an expensive place”.

Their reaction to the speech – which I actually attended, unlike the legal correspondents of the Evening Standard and The Guardian who churned out pre-event copy on the back of an advance press release – was polite bemusement.

But behind the smiles, surely they were wondering, like me, why the hell the CBA had chosen Shaw to deliver it.

I guess it was because having a celeb do it increases the likelihood of press coverage – and in that sense the plan worked.

But is it really a good idea for the CBA to foster an association with a lightweight TV judge at a time when it desperately needs to convince the world that its members do more than simply add a bit of glamour to the court process?