As part of yesterday’s mass lobby of MP’s a group of intrepid Barristers, fronted by the fearsome (!) @emmanash2, confronted the Justice Secretary, the Right “Honourable” Chris Grayling, who appears to have taken a wrong turning into the lobby.
We have reproduced below Emma’s account of the conversation. It is clear that as she towered under him, she’s the one with fair hair at the front of the group, he was unable to answer most of the questions.
His remark about the #NoToQasa badge is interesting, especially when he and Tom McNally keep insisting that Quality lawyers will still be available under PCT.
The details of the conversation are followed by Emma’s email to Mr. Grayling, which she sent last night. We await an answer with bated breath.
Well done Emma and those who went with you!
Meeting with Chris grayling
Houses of Parliament lobby
Mr grayling was walking though and stopped and asked to discuss legal aid with about 14 or so lobbyists. He wasn’t keen to stop and talk and said he had to be somewhere. He was persuaded to give us a couple of minutes. He skilfully avoided answering much!
He was asked if he just wanted the savings or was set on a new working model. Replied all areas of moj budget had to be cut and solicitors had to work to new models to save money.
Asked if he was set on pct. asked to listen to other ways to save money. He denied saying previously that any alternatives would have to be breathtaking.
He was given various examples of delay at court and court wastages which occur daily which are not the fault of defence lawyers.
He was asked to consider the effect on all the smaller law firms who could simply not compete if pct comes in. Warned re dangers of big business running defence firms eg g4s. He denied g4s had expressed interest. Told it didn’t matter what big business interested point was only big national firms could compete. Asked to consider those big firms current performances both in the criminal justice system under various contracts and also generally eg Olympics.
He pointed to my ‘no to QASA’ badge and said that’s not to do with me!
Told him I was sort of person bar should want to attract and retain ie comprehensive education, not rich, teacher parents who had worked hard because its a system I believe in. But that I had to pay my bills from my job and I was being forced out as job uneconomical and not sufficiently remunerated to reflect hard work.
I offered him opportunity to come to court with me or any if us for just one day to see realities for himself before making decisions. He said he’s been to court before but suggested not at coal face. He ought to understand job and court and see real issues for himself before making decisions which will likely ruin system. He said he’s very busy. I said he must be able to spare one day at any time that’s convenient to him to come and see. He said to email him. I promised I would and asked for a promise he’d reply.
He was asked why he refused to meet mike turner qc. He said that he’d met lots of people involved. Asked again. Said lord McNally met mt qc a few weeks ago. Asked again. Said that the consultation period was now concluded. Asked whether the meant he was unwilling now to listen to alternatives. No answer.
Everyone implored on him that there were people there from distances such as Cornwall not because of self interest but because of a real fear of a system of which we are currently mostly proud being destroyed forever.
He then made good his escape!!…
And then the email
Dear Mr Grayling
My name is Emma Nash. I’m the barrister you met this evening in the Houses of Parliament lobby area whilst on your way to another appointment. You will recall inviting me to email you regarding my offer to come to court with me or one of my colleagues in chambers. The offer stands. We would be very happy to have you shadow for a day or even a few hours at one of the courts your department is responsible for.
I make this offer as I truly believe that you should, prior to making decisions on reform, come and see what really goes on at court. I know you said you’d been to court before but there is a vast difference in being a guest for the day or sitting in the public gallery as compared to working there as I do day in day out. It will give you perspective and insight unobtainable in any other way. You will see for yourself where improvements can reasonably be made and where delay and waste occur. I am confident that you will see that this is rarely the fault of the defence lawyers. More often the fault lies with the large contracted companies such as those who may bid for contracts under pct who currently provide interpreters, cell staff, prison transfers and the like. You will see examples of how hard lawyers work for their modest or often derisory renumeration for that hearing.
This email is not meant to be a rant nor is it meant to argue the case against your proposals; those arguments have been forcefully and well put in detail in the response to your consultation. This email is meant only to extend to you the offer to come and see the system you’re responsible for as minister for justice at work, to learn from that and to help you then make more informed decisions about it.
It’s not a perfect system, savings can be made, waste does happen but your current proposals will not solve the problems. Instead they will exacerbate them whilst destroying irretrievably what is excellent about it.
I implore you to take me up on my offer and to do so soon. I believe it will inform your views and that as our first ever non lawyer lord chancellor will be an invaluable and enlightening experience.
I loom forward to your reply which is what you promised to me when I made you the offer today.