LETTER : The Bar: cheap at the price

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From Mr Stanley Best

Sir: As a practising barrister (and former solicitor), I was depressed by the article written by Polly Toynbee ("Time for a new order in the court", 18 May). Not least among the many inaccuracies and mistaken conclusions, which will serve only to mislead the layman, was the suggestion that, if solicitors were allowed to appear as advocates, then they could conduct all cases single handed, whereas counsel require a solicitor or clerk to sit behind them, by implication twiddling their thumbs.

Quite apart from the general management of often voluminous files built up by the solicitor in all the necessary steps taken prior to the hearing, and of which he should be master -in case any point is raised by the judge or anyone else, ex improviso, during the course of the trial - there is an even more important role for the solicitor or his clerk sitting in courts. He has to take a careful note of all examination and cross- examination of the witnesses while counsel is on his feet and unable, without unduly interrupting the flow, to do himself. The answers of the witnesses can then be deployed in examination and cross-examination of later witnesses and in submissions to judge or jury at the end of the evidence.

Yours faithfully,

STANLEY BEST

Broadwood Kelly, Devon

19 May

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