QUEENS COUNSEL – AN ENDANGERED SPECIES

Written by admin
May 16th, 2019

“How is it that my boss can defend him on a drink-driving when I can’t get one to defend me on an attempt murder?” If you think that question is daft or extreme, unrealistic or some sort of misrepresentation, you are just simply misinformed or wrong.

We all know that, on balance, and whether we like it or not, those barristers who have achieved the rank of Her Majesty’s Counsel are generally speaking the best of the bunch. The process for appointment is transparent, robust, and designed to ensure that only candidates of true quality are put forward for appointment.

Every year significant numbers of applications are received, only for a relatively small number of candidates to be appointed.

Why is it then that the addition of two letters after the name of a successful barrister means that they will suddenly become beyond the reach of almost every individual appearing before a criminal court?

There was once a time, and in Northern Ireland that time is still now, when Queens Counsel would appear to represent a significant raft of people charged with serious offences. Rapes, armed robberies in the course of which firearms were discharged, gang-related Section 18 woundings, manslaughters, attempt murders, serious frauds, as well as cases that were likely to attract significant public attention, were all ones in which Queens Counsel might be expected to appear.

Now, despite a lifetime of paying taxes both indirect and direct, as well as massive National Insurance contributions, most people charged with the above list of offences will simply be told that their application for Queens Counsel has been rejected.

We live in times when someone accused of the rape and attempted murder of a stranger will routinely be told that their application for the barrister of their choice has been refused, even though they are likely to receive a substantial a life sentence. Young people, including those under 18, facing allegations of attempt murder or manslaughter are left knowing that when it comes to securing Queens Counsel, the best they can probably do is dream.

Even where the current regulations seem to allow for a certificate for Queens Counsel to be granted, many judges before whom the applications are placed will routinely refuse them on the basis that this makes them look strong, or fiscally aware, or perhaps just the sort of person who ought to be promoted to the High Court Bench.

What with restrictive regulations and over-zealous judges the sighting of Queens Counsel in many Crown Courts will be as noteworthy as hearing the first cuckoo of sprint.

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Categories: Criminal Law

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