Oxford MSc Criminology students, Yali Peng and Daniel Olaniyi met virtually with barrister, Anthony Metzer QC, Head of Goldsmiths Chambers–who specializes in crime, immigration and civil actions against the police–about his experience at the bar and his thoughts on the criminal justice system.

Like many barristers, Mr. Metzer’s did not originally set out to be a lawyer. He initially studied chemistry but after a year of studies, he decided that the course did not meet his expectations. Taking advice from an older cousin of his who studied law, he decided to follow in his footsteps by pursuing a law degree the following year.

Mr. Metzer notes that the typical workday can vary for a barrister specialising in criminal law, defamation and civil actions against the police. Cases involving actions against the police may be thought to be exciting; individuals going head-to-head with a powerful and sometimes oppressive state institution, cheered on by activists outside the courtroom. In reality, such a barrister would typically spend more time drafting advices on the likelihood of winning a civil case. Moreover, most cases would settle before reaching court.

In advising students who are keen on pursuing a career at the bar, Mr. Metzer notes that the road to pupillage is not easy. This is especially so this year as the current pandemic has forced some chambers to halt or postpone recruitment. He also stressed the importance of joining an Inns of Court–the professional associations for barristers–as soon as possible. He notes however, with hard work, perseverance and resilience, succeeding at the bar can still be achievable. In the meantime, he advises, it would be worthwhile for prospective applicants to get as much experience debating, mooting and securing mini pupillages.

Anthony Metzer QC was awarded Bar Pro Bono QC of the Year 2019

Mr Metzer also shared his thoughts on the current criminal justice system from his perspective as a practicing barrister. He had high praise for sentencing guidelines, arguing that they promote consistency in legal decision making. Prior to sentencing guidelines, judges were more arbitrary in their sentencing. In cases concerning the abuse of police power, Mr. Metzer notes that as a lawyer, one can always look to where there has been an abuse of power and use the law as creatively as possible to effectively challenge the perpetrators individually or collectively.

Moving on to the topic of youth justice, Mr. Metzer believes that people are not born natural criminals, but often come from broken homes, suffer from poverty, and tend to lack positive parental guidance. In addition to that, juvenile delinquents tend to be disconnected from the rest of society.

Mr. Metzer has experience of dealing with cases that involve “crimes for the rich" (e.g. money-laundering) and "crimes for the poor" (e.g. murder and manslaughter). When asked about fairness in proceedings, he found that evidence would suggest that the latter group would suffer more from discrimination. This, however, may not be a product of intentional discrimination by the courts, but rather judges not necessarily realizing that there is a race and class element that underpins most of these cases. Metzer admits that tackling racial discrimination in the criminal justice system is a tough task. For example, the Police usually represent the views of the wider society. As such, one of the best ways to solve racial discrimination may be to be to identify measures that could enable us to move towards a less racist society. A positive aspiration for us to end our conversation on…