Sir Richard Henriques aghast at tradespeople out-earning lawyers
A former High Court judge has hit out at rock bottom rates of pay at the criminal bar — complaining that even his electrician makes more than a junior barrister.
Sir Richard Henriques, a retired criminal specialist, said that legal aid cuts had reached the point where tradespeople are out-earning lawyers.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Henriques noted that “over the last decade or so, legal aid fees have been reduced and further reduced”, with the result that “a career in the criminal law… is no longer attracting young people of the highest calibre”.
Henriques revealed that his own godson had quit criminal practice in favour of a career in financial services, and went on:
“I’m quite sure that’s happening across the board. I’m equally sure that my electrician earns more than a younger member of the bar. Surely that can’t be right when 24 or 25 is the age when most young barristers start to earn a living.”
Henriques has spoken out about legal aid cuts before. In 2013, only six months after the LASPO cuts, he declared that “nobody in their right mind would advise a son or daughter to become a criminal barrister“.
His remarks on this occasion sparked controversy. One Twitter user branded the ex-judge a “snob”, while another called his comparison “pure elitism”.
Junior government minister James Cleverly — one of very few senior Tories with decent social media game — responded to Henriques’s comment on behalf of tradespeople everywhere:
Barrister friend looking at the invoice after getting an emergency boiler repair in mid Winter: “That’s more than I charge, and I’m a barrister!”
Plumber: “Everyone knows how to argue, but do you know how to fix a boiler?”
— James Cleverly (@JamesCleverly) June 1, 2020
Henriques went on to argue that the growing backlog of criminal trials can only be solved by using judge-only courts — a stance likely to infuriate the many lawyers deeply attached to trial by jury.
As well as being an eminent lawyer, Henriques obviously has some PR nous as well: his headline-grabbing pronouncements come just as he’s launching his memoirs. The 76-year-old acted in some of the most high-profile criminal trials in English legal history, including the prosecutions of GP serial killer Harold Shipman and the child murderers of toddler James Bulger.