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Human rights lawyer Philip Dykes calls for expanded legal aid in Bar Council election platform

Human rights lawyer Philip Dykes has called for expanded legal aid for the public and greater opportunities to young barristers in his Bar Council election platform.

The veteran barrister says that – if elected to lead the influential professional body – he will also ask the government to review the monetary remuneration it offers to young barristers.

philip dykes

Philip Dykes. Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

The council – which governs the Bar Association – will hold its annual election this month. Dykes is launching a well-publicised challenge against incumbent chair Paul Lam, citing a need to defend the rule of law in Hong Kong.

A ‘sustainable’ Bar

In his platform published on Monday, Dykes wrote that he was aware of challenges facing young barristers in the city.

“Most young barristers survive the early years of their career by doing publicly-funded work,” he wrote. “We believe more can be done by the Bar Council in this area which will at the same time make legal representation available to more people who cannot afford a lawyer.”

“Only by barristers being able to have viable careers in the early days will a strong Bar be sustainable in the next generation.”

Unlike solicitors, barristers are independent legal professionals unattached to law firms. Thus they are not paid a salary, but an honorary fee for the cases they receive.

【PLATFORM】BREAD AND BUTTER ISSUES, PARTICULARLY FOR THE YOUNG BARPhilip has all along been vocal about the…

Posted by PhilipDykes' List – HKBA election 2018 on Sunday, 7 January 2018

Dykes added that strict means testing for legal aid applicants means that free legal support is only available to the poorest people in Hong Kong, while those on a middling income might be unable to afford lawyers.

He proposed in his platform relaxing entry requirements for barristers to work on government-funded legal aid cases, providing remunerated understudy and training opportunities to young barristers, and relaxing restrictions on taking up employment outside of the Bar.

Incumbent chair Lam has not yet published a platform for re-election. Last month, he wrote in a statement that over the past year, his council has defended unjustified attacks on the judiciary, provided opportunities to young barristers, and discussed important legal and constitutional issues with Beijing.

Under Lam, the Bar Association also strongly criticised Beijing’s legal explanation of an arrangement to situate a high-speed rail checkpoint enforcing mainland laws in West Kowloon, describing it as an “irreparable” breach of the Basic Law.

Human rights lawyer Philip Dykes calls for expanded legal aid in Bar Council election platform