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2013 09_Sept_ 05 ASSISE DHERITAGE Speech - Bedell

2013 09_Sept_ 05 ASSISE DHERITAGE Speech - Bedell

elation to the legal aid

elation to the legal aid scheme; the fact that she does not always manage to pleaseall stakeholders is probably indicative of the fact that she is managing to balanceeffectively and fairly their very different interests under the terms of the currentscheme.That does not mean that the profession can be complacent; whether about theterms of the scheme or indeed, the eligibility criteria for those who might receivelegal aid. It is only right that the scheme is subject to ongoing review as there areno doubt improvements which could and should be made to ensure that access tojustice is maintained, if not enhanced - whilst at the same time, ensuring fairness tothe profession. That review is being led by the Acting Bâtonnier with input frommy office and other members of the profession and their conclusions andproposals should be available in the New Year.So what of my role?I was elected as Bâtonnier at the end of June to take over from Advocate SuePearmain and I would like to thank her for all that she did for the professionduring her tenure.Elected by the advocates, my role, its powers and responsibilities are wide andvaried. Try as I might, there is no readily available job description - the LawSociety Law merely states that "I am to be head of the advocates and to oversee theirinterests" - nor is there any list of statutory obligations and powers. In my view, myrole is firstly to represent and to further the collective interests and reputation ofthe Bar. Secondly, but no less importantly, it is to assist the Court and the islandcommunity by amongst other things, delivering legal aid through the office of theActing Bâtonnier and providing an interface (if one be required) between variousdifferent stakeholders in the justice system.DMC/129558/0001/13410536v14

Some more radical members of the profession might ask whether there is still aplace for the Bâtonnier given the incorporation of the Law Society and theestablishment of a formal disciplinary system. Leaving that academic question toone side, what I can say is that given the number of queries and issues that havebeen referred to me by the Court, members of the profession, and others - in whathas only been the very short period of time since my election - there appears to bea real demand for the services provided by this role.I also think that given the threats presented by ever-moving global, regulatory andpolitical landscapes, it is important that the profession has a single individual whois charged with overseeing its interests and who can respond quickly and freely onmatters of concern.You, Sir, have mentioned change, whether in terms of legal aid or more widelythrough the Chief Minister's working party. The profession is not afraid ofchange; but any changes, and the potential consequences of such changes, must beproperly considered. One does not have to look far to find other jurisdictions,where legal and judicial systems which have taken years to perfect, have beenreformed in haste, leaving access to justice in tatters, and both the public and theprofession as victims. That cannot and should not happen here. Part of my role isto try to ensure, as far as I can, that there remains a strong and vibrant professionboth for the next incumbent of this role and for the benefit of the island as awhole.There are clearly challenges ahead for the island and the profession. However, Iwould hope that both the island and the profession would meet those challengesby drawing on tradition, expertise, and determination. Qualities which I think soDMC/129558/0001/13410536v15

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