HC Deb 19 June 1972 vol 839 cc26-7
32. Mr. S. Clinton Davis

asked the Attorney-General if, having regard to the liability of the Bar to cope with the representatives of persons accused of crime, he will seek further powers to extend the rights of audience of solicitors in Crown courts.

The Attorney-General

I do not understand the first part of this Question. As to the second part, my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor already has this power, under Section 12 of the Courts Act, 1971.

Mr. Davis

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there is a printing error in the Question and that it should refer to the "ability" of the Bar? Is he aware, further, that in one recent case at the Central Criminal Court it appears that the defendants were unable to obtain any representation from some 15 silks because of their other commitments? There is a very great shortage of silks in the Criminal Division and it is therefore very important that more should be appointed who are familiar with criminal work. In order to deal with the situation which would thereby arise as a result of the appointment of more silks in the Criminal Division, does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that solicitors should be given additional rights of audience?

The Attorney-General

The hon. Gentleman has referred to a specific case. I am informed that at the time that the legal aid certificates were granted on 25th January, when it would have been the duty of solicitors to retain counsel, there were some 49 Queen's Counsel available and that on 1st May, a month before the trial began, 35 Queen's Counsel were available. I understand, further, that the names of 10 were suggested but that none of the 10 was approached by the solicitors on behalf of the accused persons.

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