Cherie Blair, the poll tax and what barristers have to do : LETTERS

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The Independent Online
YOUR report on the professional activities of Miss Cherie Booth ("Cherie Blair sought to keep poll defaulter in jail", 22 January) risked setting a dangerous precedent by directing personal criticism at a barrister for defending an unpopular client. In the interests of justice, it is essential that any litigant, however unpopular his cause, opinions or conduct should be able to find representation of the same quality as any other litigant. If lawyers are vilified by any section of the public or media for conducting a client's case and fearlessly putting that case forward, this will act as a disincentive to take on such clients. Those people will then be denied the opportunity of a fair trial which British justice demands. That is why the rules of the Bar deny - and should be known to deny - barristers a free choice in the cases they take on. Although your report paid lip service to the cab-rank rule, its spirit in castigating Miss Booth for her conduct in court and for being associated with a cause which the Labour Party disliked, undermined the importance of this rule.

Peter Goldsmith QC Chairman The General Council of the Bar London WC1