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Paine was on trial for having published the rights of man.

Thomas Erskine (for the defence) said,

I will for ever, at all hazards, assert the dignity, independence, and integrity of the English Bar; without which, impartial justice, the most valuable part of the English constitution, can have no existence.- From the moment that any advocate can be permitted to say, that he will or will not stand between the Crown and the subject arraigned in the court where he sits daily to practice, from that moment the liberties of England are at an end.- if the advocate refuses to defend, from what he may think of the charge or of the defence, he assumes the character of the judge; nay he assumes it before the hour of judgment; and in proportion to his rank and reputation, puts the heavy influence of perhaps a mistaken opinion into the scale against the accused, in whose favour the benevolent principle of English law makes all presumptions, and which commands the very judge to be his counsel.

Erskine later became Lord Chancellor.

This reading is of historic interest.The BSB Code of Conduct (contained in the BSB Handbook) now governs the ethical behaviour of barristers.

David Pannick’s book ‘Advocates’ is well worth reading.

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