Bar accountability: Key measures to help smooth legal process

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The Independent Online
OTHER KEY measures in the report include: Laws prohibiting barristers from speaking to a witness prior to cross-examination should be changed. Counsel should be allowed to explain the court's procedure, especially to nervous and vulnerable people, although they should not discuss any details of the evidence.

Clients should be given, where possible, a quote for the fees to be charged along with a break-down of the costs.

Defending counsel in all Crown court cases should discuss the case before the day of trial in cases where there is a not guilty plea or one that has not been decided. This should help reduce the number of 'cracked' trials - cases in which the defendant suddenly pleads guilty on the day of the trial and thereby causes expensive and time-consuming delays.

A written explanation must be provided if a barrister gives up a case. Chambers should also have written guidelines about how they deal with cases, fees and complaints.

The adoption of a new simpler version of the 'cab rank' rule that requires barristers to accept any case if they are available - including unpopular ones such as defending people accused of rape. Barristers would, however, be allowed to turn down cases if the legal aid fee was substantially less than their usual payment.

Barristers should be compelled to continue education in their first three years of practice in areas such as racial awareness.