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Justice for sale

OldSmoothie was looking particularly smug today, even for him. "Yes, I've just got £10,000 on the brief for tomorrow's one day trial," he mentioned at least twice just when I was within hearing.

"Why on earth would someone pay that much when they could get the junior tenant I shadowed today for £350?" asked a mini-pupil.

"Because I'm worth it," said OldSmoothie as if he were some kind of a barrister supermodel.

"Well, that's highly debatable," said TheVamp. "In all senses."

"But why would anyone pay anyone that much?" said the mini-pupil.

"To help them win of course," said HeadClerk.

"You mean that the more you pay, the better chance you have of winning?" Everyone looked at the mini-pupil as if he was from another planet. "Er, yes," said TheVamp raising her eyes in exasperation. "That's the whole point of coming to barristers in the first place."

"What, like justice is for sale? As if there's a price on the right result?"

"Precisely so," said HeadClerk. "Got it in one."

"What was it a judge once said?" said OldSmoothie. "Justice is open to everyone. Like the Ritz."

"But what if both sides then go to top barristers and splash the cash?" he persisted. "Wouldn't that then cancel out the advantage?"

"Well, maybe, to some extent," said HeadClerk. "But the standard of argument would certainly be a lot higher."

"But even so, if by spending all that money you simply encourage the other side to do the same, why don't both sides just agree to limit their spending to say, £500 a day and be done with it. Then both sides would have a level playing field, costs would be kept low and, er, justice might even be done."

From the silence which followed this impeccable line of reasoning, I'm afraid to say that I wouldn't fancy the mini-pupil's chances if he ever decides to apply to this chambers in a year or two.

BabyBarista is a fictional account of a junior barrister written by Tim Kevan whose new novel is Law and Peace. For more information and to read past posts visit Cartoons by Alex Williams, author of 101 Ways to Leave the Law.

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