The legal profession is often seen as seedy by those who are on the outside looking in. Many ask how it is possible for barristers to sleep at night when they are in charge of defending people who have been charged with heinous acts. The answer is actually more simple than most people believe.
It must first be mentioned that one can never assume that a client is guilty if they have not admitted so. Just because it seems obvious that someone is indeed guilty as charged, this is not the train of thought a barrister has. Whether or not a client is guilty does not affect the way they should be defended. Basically, everyone has the right to a just and proper defence, and it is the duty of the barrister to ensure this happens. People can be convicted based on questionable evidence, as explored in this article about Michael Wolkind QC:
If it seems perfectly clear that there is no way for a client to walk away scot free, a barrister tries to go about things in a different manner. At this point, they review all of the relevant case law, the details of the particular situation and try their best to make sure their client gets the lowest amount of time possible. Perhaps the client broke the law while under the influence of drugs and they are clean and sober now, or they have stopped living a life of vagrancy and they’re now more productive.
It is not very common for defendants to admit guilt to the people defending them, which makes it easier to assist someone without worrying about crossing any ethical lines. With that being said, if a barrister is sure that a client has done all of the acts they are being charged with, they have to go about their defence using a different strategy. Basically, they focus on the prosecution proving the case at hand. This means that they leave it up to the other side to show that the client is guilty of the crimes that they are being accused of.
The point is that barristers are not terrible people who want to help guilty parties go free. It is not their responsibility to judge how the law works or the moral fiber of the people they are hired to defend. What they do is simple: they use the skills and knowledge they have to make sure their clients get a fair outcome.