HC Deb 24 May 1906 vol 157 cc1422-3
MR. BOTTOMLEY (Hackney, S.)

I beg to ask Mr. Attorney-General whether he will consider the desirableness of introducing legislation to make barristers, who accept retainers on behalf of litigants and fail to appear on their behalf, liable in damages for broach of contract.


I fear the sort of legislation the hon. Member suggests is not possible, and, in my opinion, if it were possible, it is not necessary or desirable. It is not possible, because there is no contract entered into between a barrister and his client, and damages in respect of a non-existent contract can scarcely be recovered even under the sanction of an Act of Parliament. If there be any breach of faith or duty, the client has a remedy, because the matter can be brought to the notice of the Benchers of the Inn, to which the counsel belongs, who have ample powers to see that reparation is given. The remedy is really in the hands of the client himself, because, in my experience, he prefers the mere chance of the services of a meteoric counsel who ranges over the whole legal firmament to the certainty of the presence of a stationary but less brilliant luminary. I may add that he may also follow the course which has been pursued with such conspicuous success by the hon. Member himself and conduct his own case.


I was not asking the question on my own behalf, but in the public interest. Has the Attorney-General ever known the benchers to order any kind of recompense to be given to a client who had suffered in this way, and what does ho mean by "stationary luminary" so far as the King's Bench Division is concerned?


I am not aware that a case has been submitted to the benchers, but I am quite sure that, if a case was submitted, the counsel would be asked to make the reparation demanded of him. I used the word stationary in a comparative sense with regard to the King's Bench Courts, and in a more absolute sense with regard to the Courts of Chancery.