QCs Face the Axe in Biggest Legal System Reform for Centuries

By Murphy, Joe | The Evening Standard (London, England), July 14, 2003 | Go to article overview

QCs Face the Axe in Biggest Legal System Reform for Centuries


Murphy, Joe, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: JOE MURPHY

THE elite ranks of highly paid QCs may be abolished from courts in a bid to make justice more client-friendly.

Ministers will today move to scrap silks as part of the most sweeping legal reforms for centuries. It follows complaints from the Director General of Fair Trading that the designation of Queen's Counsel creates distortions in the market for barristers.

The distinction will only be kept if barristers can convince the Government it is worth keeping - say, as a kitemark to guarantee high quality legal advice.

"The onus is on the system's supporters to convince Government that the current system of silk does serve a public need," said a spokesman.

Out of 10,742 barristers about a tenth - 1,145 - are QCs. The rank dates back to the 16th century and traditionally designates a barrister who takes bigger, complex cases - and who pockets fatter fees.

However, barristers have vowed to fight to save the silks. Bar Council chairman Matthias Kelly - himself a QC - said: "The QC system is something all the judiciary support. They find that in large and difficult cases it is simply invaluable." Among other reforms being spelled out this afternoon in one of the biggest legal upheavals for centuries is the creation of a Supreme Court and an independent Judicial Appointments Commission to select judges.

Somerset House is topping a shortlist of sites for the Supreme Court, which will replace the House of Lords as the highest court in the land. The shortlist will be unveiled this afternoon when ministers set out the plans for consultation.

The new court will be similar to the US Supreme Court but unlike the American model it will not have powers to block government legislation-The changes follow last month's announcement that the post of Lord Chancellor is being abolished.

Lord Falconer, who was given charge of a new department of Constitutional Affairs to see through the changes, said the aim was to modernise the courts system.

He said: "These proposals will put the relationship between parliament, government and judges on a modern footing," he said. "We will have a proper separation of powers and we will further strengthen the independence of judges. …

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QCs Face the Axe in Biggest Legal System Reform for Centuries
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