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Home Maidstone News Article
The move from working at a bar to serving breakfasts may not seem a big one.
But for Judith King it has been the most momentous journey of her life.
Because the Bar she worked at for 10 years in Canterbury and Maidstone was the criminal one.
She was a barrister who rightly earned the huge respect, not only her colleagues and judges, but also from the defendants and victims she ensured received a fair trial.
Then the Government began its squeeze on the budget for Legal Aid – and she found herself struggling to make a living.
The 54-year-old mum-of-two, who lived in Lenham, found that she had to use her savings to make ends meet.
She said: “The Government would like people to believe that all lawyers are fat cats – earning six figure sums.
“The truth is that many earn much less than that - some, like me, struggled to make ends meet."
But instead of wallowing in self pity, the nurse turned lawyer decided on a new career... serving breakfasts!
She moved 280 miles north to Yorkshire and together with partner Martin Perkins they have just opened No3atSettle – a sumptuous bed and breakfast guest house.
She said: “The level of financial and personal sacrifice it takes to get to the Bar is considerable.
“Over the last few years the demands have become higher and higher and the money lower and lower.
“For me, defending and prosecuting the sort of cases I did and not to be able to afford a very modest lifestyle is ridiculous.”
The type of cases she was asked to prosecute because of her medical expertise included cases of child rape and the torture by a friend of a mum of her two children.
Judith was a registered nurse from 1981 to 1993 – completed an MA after the birth of her first child – and then was called to the Bar in 2002.
But she fears the present cuts will force many to follow in her footsteps and look for work away from the criminal bar.
She warns: “If, because of the cuts, there is no self-employed bar with all that expertise and training there will be more miscarriages of justice, victims will suffer as will witnesses - particularly vulnerable ones.”
Judith’s main work was prosecuting on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service – and she received a high grade which enabled her to accept briefs for important rape trials.
“Ironically after that all my work just dried up because the CPS started doing more of their own work in house.
“At that time, I was renting a tiny house and running a tiny economical car yet I just couldn’t earn enough to pay the basic household bills and I was subsidising everything with my savings.
“I was faced with the prospect of having to go up to London every day to get work there and I just couldn’t face that. I loved Kent. I was happy here.
“Then I realised if the work was no longer enjoyable and you are not earning enough...then what was the point?”
It was then she had a re-think and took a few days off and headed to Lancashire and Yorkshire looking for houses, which she knew would be cheaper than in the south east.
“I only knew one person, Martin’s sister, who lived in Lancaster. So I did a 20-mile radius tour of the area.”
And it was Settle in Yorkshire – within a stone’s throw of the Lake District and the Dales – she found a house and fell in love with it.
And for the past year – after Martin quit his medical sales job to join the venture – the duo have been busily renovating the property – to turn it into a bed and breakfast guest house.
“It is the first time in my life I have been doing DIY and painting.
"It’s wonderful. Martin and I will also be sharing the cooking.
“At that time, I was renting a tiny house and running a tiny economical car yet I just couldn’t earn enough to pay the basic household bills and I was subsidising everything with my savings" - Judith King
"This is a very exciting time in my life and although it has at times been tough, I have found it so rewarding.
“Although it is strange no longer being in court, in reality I am now happier than I have been for many years.”
And this week, within hours of officially opening up the guest house, Judith took her first booking – and the first guest will soon enjoy the luxuries at the Grade II listed Greco-revival style stone town house.
But has she finally ditched her wig and gown?
She giggled: “Ah those are still hanging up on the top floor. I haven’t ditched them..I mean...you never know!
“No experience is ever wasted. I was used to opening a case in the crown court but this opening has made me very nervous!!
"But I have no regrets. And when I saw my former colleagues stood in protest outside the Crown Court it just reassured me that I had made the right choice.”
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