Cab-Rank Rule: Statement of the Four Bars

26 May 2023

In advance of the forthcoming Four Jurisdictions Conference in Belfast, the leadership of the Four Bars issue the following statement:

The cab rank rule is a bedrock obligation for the independent referral bar. The rule means that barristers cannot discriminate between clients, and that they must take on any case provided that it is within their competence, they are available and appropriately remunerated.

The cab rank rule promotes access to justice. It means that clients will not be deprived of the advocate of their choice because the client or the client’s cause could be seen as objectionable or unpopular. People with unpopular causes or accused of serious offences do not need the additional challenge of having first to persuade a lawyer to take them on.

Barristers do not choose their clients nor do they associate themselves with their clients’ opinions or behaviour by virtue of representing them.

The independent referral bars of England & Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland collectively re-affirm our commitment to the cab rank rule. It:

  • Promotes access to justice;
  • Recognises that it is for judges and juries to decide and to judge, and that passing judgment is not the role of advocates;
  • Imposes an obligation on the independent referral bar to accept work even from those with whom we profoundly disagree, and of whom we profoundly disapprove;
  • Means that our role and duty as advocates is, and is only, to advise, and then to represent, always subject to our duties to the court.

Nick Vineall KC Chair, Bar Council of England & Wales

Sara Phelan SC Chair, The Bar of Ireland

Moira Smyth KC Chair, The Bar of Northern Ireland

Roddy Dunlop KC Dean, Faculty of Advocate