The Criminal Bar Association’s acceptance of an invitation to speak at the government’s Global Law Summit next month is “pandering” to the Lord Chancellor’s “political opportunism”, John Cooper QC said today in an interview for this website.

going to this jamboree in my opinion is copping out

said the leading criminal barrister.

We should not be attending an event in my opinion which is simply a political tool by this Lord Chancellor to make him and the government look good on the eve of a general election … by going there, we are tacitly endorsing what Grayling is doing to the criminal justice system.

The criminal bar should, he said

be seen not to be pandering to that political opportunism.

In a wide-ranging interview, John Cooper also spoke about Sir Brian Leveson’s proposals for improving the efficiency of criminal justice, the DPP’s consultation on supporting victims in the trial process, and recent criticism of a Crown Court judge who said a former teacher convicted of having sex with a pupil had been “groomed” by the girl.

On the Leveson proposal to limit defendants’ right to choose jury trial, he said

jury trial’s already under threat, and we need to be very careful about this development … what one person might call trivial or low level … could well be important to you and I.

John Cooper surprised me by saying he’d changed his mind, over time, on the role of victims in the criminal justice system. Earlier in his career, he said

I was thinking in a straitjacket

but in what might

sound like a slap in the face to the fundamentalists

he said we need to think about increasing the role of victims in criminal trials. And he said he was open-minded about extending the Attorney General’s power to refer unduly lenient sentences to the Court of Appeal.

We also spoke briefly about Saudi justice and our government’s involvement with it.

You can listen to the whole interview here, or follow the links if you’d like to listen to just one section of the interview. You can find all the clips at Soundcloud.