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Misinformation by public bodies

Ahead of Monday’s action the MoJ has published an “Ad Hoc Statistical Release”. Its purpose is clearly to prejudice readers, which will include the media, against the Bar.
A blog produced by Mr Simon Myerson QC

Read the full blog here.

Ahead of Monday’s action the MoJ has published an “Ad Hoc Statistical Release”. Its purpose is clearly to prejudice readers, which will include the media, against the Bar. As such it is a disgusting piece of work – a Ministry should not seek to argue a political case against a group of private citizens at all, still less by the use of data obtained in an effort to promote ‘efficiency’. The counter-argument is that everyone is entitled to “the truth”. Alas, that argument cannot properly be deployed in this case because:

  • These figures have not previously been released. They have not been reviewed by any neutral body and have not previously been thought necessary.
  • However, the MoJ says that “These [sic] data are released to address the public interest in the area and provides improvements to previous published figures that will add to the additional information in the upcoming consultation response“. The grammar suggests speed at which this has been done. How you add to additional information is unknown. The gobbledegook is strongly suggestive of an attempt to blather on.
  • The MoJ says that 25% of barristers “earn” £100k. You have to look at the footnotes to see that the figures include VAT. The statement is therefore a lie: any barrister making more than £100k will be paying VAT. For the sake of accuracy, just under 20% of barristers make more than £100k in fact. The MoJ’s argument therefore appears to be with 1 in 5 barristers.
  • The footnotes also make clear that this is not “earnings” referable to any particular period. It is not annual income. In those circumstances, the reference to “earnings”, if not a lie is, as Damon Runyon says, as close to a lie as will make no difference.
  • It is unclear whether these figures are up to date as the prosecution reductions coming into force last year may not have filtered through.
  • The VHCC payments figure includes 343 ‘barristers’ paid off-panel. However, these are referred to in the footnotes as ‘advocates’ suggesting at least the possibility that these 342 people are solicitors or employees of solicitors acting as junior.Otherwise more than 50% of VHCC work is being done by barristers not on the panel.

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