Bar Council addresses the European Commission on the importance of legal aid for efficient justice

20 November 2013

The Chairman of the Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, will address a major European Commission Conference entitled 'Assises de la Justice: Shaping Justice policies in Europe for the years to come' in Brussels, on Friday 22 November.

The Conference, which is being held on 21 and 22 November is one of the most significant opportunities to discuss justice issues across the EU of this European Commission. It will bring together justice ministers, judges, practitioners, academics and journalists from across the European Union. Opened by the Vice-President of the Commission and Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, the Conference will closely examine the EU's progress on justice and fundamental rights in recent years, as well as look to the future.

The Chairman of the Bar, Maura McGowan QC, one of only two practitioners addressing the Conference, will tell the 500 delegates that the EU needs a more coordinated approach to justice, which better protects the rights of victims and witnesses of crime.

Speaking on defence rights, Maura McGowan QC will highlight the critical importance of a properly funded and functioning legal aid system to ensuring effective access to justice and protecting human rights.

Chairman of the Bar, Maura McGowan QC, said:

"It is a great privilege to have the opportunity to address such an influential group of delegates with significant knowledge and experience of justice systems across the EU. Whilst in raw numbers, the Bar of England and Wales is a relatively small part of the legal profession, it has long made a significant contribution to developing and promoting the Rule of Law all over the world, which far outweighs its size.

"The reputation of English law and of our legal profession is founded not just in our values, but also in our relevance. That is why it was so important for me to speak at the European Parliament earlier in my term on the topic of Justice in Austerity and for the Bar Council to oppose the UK Government's decision to opt-out of a range of EU criminal Justice measures. It is also why it is so welcome for the Bar Council to be able to be at the heart of this week's Conference and to provide our perspective on issues which go to the core of any democratic society which values the rights and responsibilities of its citizens."

Maura McGowan QC will appear on a panel with:

  • Juan Fernando L√≥pez Aguilar, Member of the European Parliament, Chair  of European Parliament Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee

  • Klaus Tolksdorf, President of the Bundesgerichtshof of the Federal Republic of Germany, Vice-President of the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the European Union (NPSJC), and

  • Jean-Claude Marin,General Prosecutor, Cour de cassation of the French Republic. 


Notes to Editors

1. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525.

2. More details of the'Assises de la Justice: Shaping Justice policies in Europe for the years to come' can be found  here.

3. The full programme can be found  here.

4. The Bar Council's submission to the Government's Balance of Competences Review: Call for Evidenceon theCivil Judicial Cooperation, can be found  here.

5. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes:

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board.