Barristers, fees and criminal law

A risk of the erosion of the rule of law

Sir, – Sara Phelan rightly highlights the continuing failure by the State to adequately remunerate barristers practising criminal law (“Inverted snobbery behind impasse on barristers’ fees – why criminal barristers are withdrawing their services for the first full day of the new legal year”, Opinion & Analysis, September 27th).

At the crux of this issue is the risk of the erosion of the rule of law, even in democracies. It is the well-functioning rule of law that safeguards citizens against arbitrary arrest, detention and the abuse of authority. Equally, such rule of law holds wrongdoers to account, giving citizens the confidence that they are protected by the State and creating deterrence. The Government seems to understand this in relation to business law, as evidenced by the appointment of more judges and support for initiatives such as Ireland for Law, Ireland’s international legal services strategy. It’s no coincidence that the economies of countries where there is confidence in the predictability and enforcement of business laws prosper, even absent natural resources. But the requirement for a well-functioning rule of criminal law impacts at a much deeper societal level creating confidence in the State both as protector of rights and as the proper party to attribute guilt and punishment. In these times of budgetary surpluses, it is very surprising that the State continues to choose to let this essential service decay. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 4.