Library talk causes a ruckus

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Jul 10, 2017
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Of all the important issues jostling for attention in the minds of legal professionals, what has exercised them most over last week? Plans to redevelop a library.

Of course, this is no ordinary high street library in a post-modern brutalist building Surbiton. It is the cherished Inner Temple Library, where prospective and practising barristers have pored over legal texts for more than half a century.

As The Times reported, officials at the inn want to develop the building by adding a level for a lecture theatre and training rooms. That has gone down as well as a smack in the face with a hardback copy of the White Book with some lawyers, who bombarded the editor of this newspaper with letters.

But first up was a leading proponent of the controversial plans, Lord Hunt of Wirral, who chaired an independent review of the future of the inn. “Our conclusions, accepted by the Inn,” he wrote, “were that legal education and training should be at the core of its activities.”

That didn’t wash with the protesters. Lord Lloyd of Berwick said the plans would “do irreparable damage to the library”.

Another correspondent to the letters section was Timothy Briden, who wrote: “As so often when such vanity projects are at stake, the voices of restraint went unheeded.”

Thankfully, debate over interior design at the Inns of Court was not the only issue exercising lawyers’ pens. Two correspondents also weighed in on the brewing row over the appointment of Sir Martin Moore-Bick as chairman of the public inquiry into the Grenfell fire. Sir Christopher Rose, a former Court of Appeal judge, said Sir Martin should be “allowed to get on with this inquiry”.

But Stephen Solley, QC, disagreed. While he accepted that Sir Martin “is totally capable of doing a good job … his standing has already been undermined too much”. Instead, said Solley, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the soon-to-be-retired lord chief justice, was the only ideal candidate for the role.

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