Monday, February 20, 2012

Judges should not be involved in assessing barristers' performance

I see that the suggestion that criminal barristers should be given marks by judges is still set to be implemented. Joshua Rozenberg comments on this in The Guardian and I'd like to add my own two pennorth. Without wanting to sound pompous, the need for independent advocates is as important as that of an independent judiciary. Yet the idea that judges who you appear before should have the power to mark your performance completely flies in the face of this principle. By all means employ a few judges to trundle round the courts, sitting at the back and marking advocates independently. But of all the people in the world the very last ones who should be holding sway are those trying the case. This is because advocates need to be fearless in the face of judges and sometimes this means upsetting or irritating the odd judge. Not often you'd hope but nevertheless, the idea that an advocate might start being more cautious simply to keep on the side of the judge so that he might mark them higher is a terrible one. Now, rest assured I'm sure that most if not all advocates wouldn't explicitly go around hedging. But on the other hand, the system should not be setting up disincentives to independence.

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