QC sparks outrage after comparing solicitors to postmen

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By Thomas Connelly on

Simon Spence’s controversial comments appear in his election manifesto

A barrister in the running to become the Criminal Bar Association’s (CBA) next vice-chair has sparked outrage among solicitors after he appeared to liken them to postmen.

Simon Spence QC, a tenant at Red Lion Chambers, made the controversial comparison while outlining his views on the advocates’ graduated fee scheme (AGFS). This is the funding framework which pays advocates to defend clients in the crown court.

According to Spence, a new AGFS needs to be negotiated. Having called for the removal of the page-count element of the AGFS (barristers paid in accordance with how many pages of prosecution evidence are submitted), he then suggests vital funds should be “reallocated”, i.e. reallocated towards barristers and away from solicitors.

Spence’s manifesto, published on the CBA’s website yesterday, goes on to draw comparisons between solicitors and er… postmen. He wrote:

“[Solicitors] are often paid more than the advocate for little more than instructing counsel… It is quite wrong that the postman gets paid more than the person to whom he delivers the post and who has to read and digest it.

Unsurprisingly, the top silk’s analogy didn’t go down well with solicitors.

Yesterday, chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association Zoe Gascoyne revealed she had been left “incensed” by Spence’s remarks. In an open letter titled ‘Recorded Delivery’ (who says solicitors don’t have a sense of humour?), Gascoyne wrote:

As ‘postmen’ we represent our clients at the police station and at the magistrates’ court. Representation at the latter being paid for by the litigators’ fee that you believe ought to be cut. As ‘postmen’ we see our clients on countless occasions before your brief is even delivered by us.

A number of other lawyers expressed their discontent on social media:

Red Lion Chambers, in an attempt to avoid being caught up in the crossfire, took to Twitter to distance itself from Spence’s comments.

Keen to clarify his position, Spence — who took silk in 2009 — quickly drafted an open letter of his own. Published via his LinkedIn page, Spence stressed that he wasn’t “suggesting a reduction in fee levels for solicitors.” Addressing the postman comparison directly, he continued:

If my ‘postman’ analogy was inapt then I unreservedly apologise. It has clearly led to misunderstanding as to what my position is.

Voting for the CBA’s vice-chair role is now open and will close on 7 July.

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