The internet blazes with charge and counter-charge as criminal bar chief takes repeated hits for agreeing to speak at pilloried event
England’s barristers kicked off an internecine cyber war today as clamour rose for the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) chief to withdraw from next week’s controversial and jinxed Magna Carta celebrations.
CBA chairman Tony Cross QC of Manchester’s Lincoln House Chambers, is scheduled to speak at the Global Law Summit, which has been lambasted by legal aid lawyers for arguably focusing too heavily on commercial law.
Critics claim Cross’s high-profile attendance will lend the summit a veneer of rule-of-law credibility, when in reality the event is little more than an extended networking session for City lawyers and a photo-opportunity for Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
Cross has defended his decision to take a high-profile speaking slot, arguing recently in The Times that he will use the platform to tell some home truths to ministers and the great and good about government cuts to legal aid.
But over the last few days, Cross and the Bar Council leadership generally have sustained a barrage of Twitter incoming fire.
Paul Darling QC from London’s Keating Chambers suggested barristers should picket the event. That view was widely supported — not least by 36 Bedford Row barrister Rebecca Herbert, who called on lawyers to “line the streets in protest” at the summit.
No excuses. The Bar should be lining the streets in OUTRAGE at the ridiculous Grayling farce called the Global Law Summit.
— Rebecca Herbert (@RebeccaHerber44) February 6, 2015
And today, John Cooper QC of 25 Bedford Row Chambers in the capital, took to The Times newspaper’s Law online to describe Cross’s scheduled appearance at the summit as having “created a barrage of criticism”.
According to Cooper, Cross’s decision to accept the speaking gig was made “without reference to the CBA executive committee”. Cooper said the move “will be challenged; although by all accounts, he [Cross] is not for turning”.
On Twitter, Cooper has repeatedly demanded to see the CBA committee minutes of the meeting where the decision was taken. The association’s hierarchy responded with a suggestion that Cooper’s attendance at its meetings was generally poor, and that he has not turned up since July 2012.
@John_Cooper_QC as im sure you know. If were truly interested in what went on, you cd have attended a single meeting during your yrs on exec
— The CBA (@TheCriminalBar) February 19, 2015
Cooper pointed out that he resigned from the association at that time in protest at what he described as “concerns over CBA democracy”, which explains his subsequent lack of attendance.
@TheCriminalBar And the reason for my resignation on that date were concerns over CBA democracy.
— John Cooper (@John_Cooper_QC) February 19, 2015
Meanwhile, the Bar Council has gone into Twitter over-drive in reaction to suggestions that it has partially underwritten the summit’s finances.
It was understood that to get the event off the ground, the MoJ, the Law Society, the City of London Law Society and the Bar Council had all stumped up seed cash.
But today the Bar’s representative body has adamantly denied — albeit invoking some curious grammar — that it had coughed up subsidy cash for the summit.
— The Bar Council (@thebarcouncil) February 19, 2015
Getting to the bottom of the issue of who will take a hit if the summit doesn’t break even after sponsorship and delegate fees are totted up is like wading through treacle. The MoJ and summit organisers bounce the question between themselves with no sign of a clear answer.
For what it’s worth, an MoJ spokeswoman told Legal Cheek today that no organisation is underwriting the event; however, the “founding partners” — namely, the ministry, the Law Society, the Bar Council and the City of London Law Society — are “funding it”. According the woman from the ministry, “that is a very different thing”, although she declined to explain that difference.
Criminal Bar Association makes awkward U-turn over Global Legal Summit [Legal Cheek]