Mr Jinks Joins the Real World.

Our thanks to Jaime Hamilton for bringing this crucial debate to greater prominence. Much as we all have the utmost respect for Nigel Pascoe’s experience and unquestioned integrity, we are only too well aware of the views of our members from which we will not shrink.

Please read what Nigel has to say, as you can see, he has had the good grace to respond to those who put a contrary view.

We are now very confident from our own soundings, not least the response from those delegated to attend the Lincoln’s Inn Hall meeting, that the profession is solid. We now know that we are united, and the the MoJ’s bluff WILL be called.

Practitioners up and down the country can be assured of a united approach from all. This is NOT 2005. The world has changed. The LegalAid Bar is staring extinction in the face. There will be no point in trying to appease those who would destroy us, as Ian West’s response makes graphically clear.

If not now, when?

A view from the North

Nigel Pascoe QC recently posted a piece on his blog entitled “Strike at your peril”. I have reblogged his original piece or you can follow the link here to be taken to it. I suggest you read it before carrying on.

I have been sent a response by a junior member of the Bar on the Northern Circuit. They asked if I would post this on their behalf as they wished to remain unknown. I put this down to uncharacteristic shyness on their behalf. Having read their response I am more than happy to do so. If it had been an attack on Nigel Pascoe then I would not have considered doing so. However I view this as simply that young member of the Bar setting out the counter view to Nigel’s. I happen to agree with it. In fact I endorse the sentiments expressed here and am happy to…

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Delays, Fees and Redtape.

Yet again, Jaime shows up the MoJ for the hollow promises for which they are rightly notorious. How has it come to this, that a profession as principled as ours is treated with such disingenuous contempt by a bunch of career conscious dissemblers?

“The Lord Chancellor promises to improve cash flow. It does not take new schemes to do so. It does not take some scheme of interim payment. What he should do is recognise that the changes, the expensive changes, that have already happened have made the situation worse. What he should recognise is that we should and could be paid promptly. He should already preside over a system that works. He should ensure we are paid interest on every penny not paid expeditiously. So forgive me if I find his promises hollow.”

A view from the North

As part of his public pronouncements concerning his reforms of Legal Aid our Lord Chancellor has spoken of how he is acutely aware of the problems surrounding cash flow for lawyers. He is going to do something about it for us.

Now I have been at the Bar for twenty years. I have seen many changes in fees. I recall that when the Graduated Fee Scheme was first introduced it was acknowledged to be a system of “swings and roundabouts”. There were some things that were improvements, there were some things that were diminished. One of the antidotes to reduced fees was the fact that a simple system predicated on certain known factors meant speed of payment. Ten days was the target.

Fees were processed locally at the court centre where the case had been heard. If there was a problem with a bill then one of the court staff…

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Partners… not in my book.

Yet another example from someone who knows, of how money is being wasted by so called “savings.”

The Custody Record

How do the police get a prisoner to court? There are two ways.

  • Bail them
  • Remand them

In the first scenario the person is released from custody. They are given a date and time to appear before the court and must do so. They are on their own recognizance and failure to appear will often lead to a warrant for their arrest. In the second case the we have decided that the offence is too serious to release the person. We may also be concerned that the person may commit further offences, fail to attend court and in some cases it may be necessary for their own safety. A remanded person is held in police cells until the next court sitting. They are then transported to the local court. The court may, in some cases, be linked to the police station and prisoners can be passed from police to court…

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Mark George Q.C.’s speech in support of the consolidated resolution at the CBA rally at Lincoln’s Inn, Saturday 16th November 2013

We are delighted to be able to publish Mark George QC’s speech to the Lincoln’s Inn rally on Saturday, and are very grateful to him for providing us with the full version from his notes.

A well deserved standing ovation followed….

There will be some amongst the younger of you who will wonder how it ever came to this? That we are here on the one day of the week when we normally expect of bit of free time suggests that it must be something very important.
We are here now because we should have done this a long time ago. In the past when we got close to taking action we were sold out by our leaders who then took the Queen’s shilling and some of them are now on the High Court bench. They should be ashamed of themselves.
We tried talking to the Secretary of State but he wouldn’t even speak to Michael Turner throughout his time as Chair of the CBA. Then we wrote to him and in 16,000 consultation responses we completely demolished every argument he had put up in support of the cuts he proposed.
What was the response of the MoJ? We were give two options. The first proposal would cut trial fees by 20%. The alternative proposal would cut fees by 20%. It was like offering a man the choice of how he would be killed. He could choose to be shot or electrocuted but the result would be the same, he would be dead.
We have an awesome responsibility. Whether they are victims of crime or those accused of crime we are the ones who ensure cases are properly prosecuted and properly defended. We ensure that the rule of law applies and that those accused of crime get what they are entitled to namely due process of law, a fair trial.
You should remember that the Guildford 4 would still be in prison today of it hadn’t been for all the hard work done by a solicitor on legal aid who eventually found the hidden alibi notice that lead to them being proved innocent.
So what do we do? It seems to me that we have two choices. There is what I will call the Des Hudson option. I have heard Des Hudson speak several times and it is never a happy experience. His option is to do nothing and accept defeat.
Or we take action and show that we are serious about defending legal aid and show them that they cannot run the courts without us.
Let me take first the Des Hudson option. I have here a report written in January 1995 as a result of a visit to Texas by two members of the bar on behalf of the BHRC, namely Philip Sapsford Q.C. and David Marshall. They were shocked at what they found. In a series of cases they found that the lawyers in capital cases were paid just a few dollars an hour. And what do you think was the consequence of that? The consequence was that the good lawyers want nothing to do with capital cases and capital defendants are left to be represented by those who cannot get any other work. So they are represented by those who have previously been struck off by the State Bar association, those who have a drug addiction or are alcoholics, those who are fresh out of Bar school and have never done a criminal trial much less a capital one and even by lawyers who could not stay awake during their client’s trial.
I have spent my entire career in legal aid work and I am not prepared to see that system destroyed and I will not let that happen without at least having a damn good fight.
The resolution on which you are asked to vote proposes that we withdraw our labour. I call it a strike but I understand that others of a more delicate disposition may not want to call it that. We can call it the teddy bears’ picnic for all I care but we must do it.
My preference is for a day of action on a day each week for several weeks or for a series of days. We should start on a Tuesday so the courts can begin the trials and then we don’t work on the Tuesday or the Wednesday or the Thursday and if there is a plea list worth doing we can go back to work on the Friday.
We will give them notice, not much but enough so that they can ensure that jurors and vulnerable witnesses need not turn up and are not inconvenienced but there will be no applications to vacate. We are not asking for the judges’ permission to strike we are simply informing them that we intend to.
It doesn’t have to be unanimous but it does need a critical core. If 10 people take action they will be disciplined but if 500 take action they cannot all be disciplined. We saw that in the Manchester action organised by Tony Cross. Tony had no idea how many people would turn up but in the end about 400 did and not a single one was disciplined although one or two judges got a bit twitchy in the end they backed off.
Action should be linked to mass meetings so that no one feels isolated on their own at home not knowing what everyone else is doing. If possible we should combine action with the Probation Service. Their fight is our fight. If the court staff take action we should support them because unity is strength.
We should have delegations on each circuit to the resident judges to explain what we are doing and to demand that they support us. They have their own fight with the government and they should support us or at least not get in our way. They need us because we keep the courts running smoothly. We should also make it clear that we will not tolerate any repercussions against any barrister who takes action. No barrister will be disciplined and we don’t expect any judge to try to do so. If they do that will lead to an escalation of the action and the BSB ought to take note.
I appreciate that for some of you this may sound radical. It is radical. We are in a radical situation and it calls for radical measures.
We may be backed up against the wall and we may be running out of ammunition but it’s time to fix bayonets because we are not going to go down without a fight.
If you don’t agree with this then you need to come up with a pretty good alternative because we must fight and we must do it now. I commend the resolution to you.

Ninth Letter to the Lord Chancellor


Ninth letter to the Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice,

Mr Chris Grayling,

19th November 2013,

Dear Lord Chancellor,

Thank you for your letter, or should I say cri de coeur? Who knew being Lord Chancellor would be so difficult? I think you are correct when you state that Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice are totally incompatible posts. I see the key problem you identify: (1) the Secretary of State for Justice is a political role that requires a hard hatchet approach to reduce the spending of the MOJ (on behalf of the Treasury), whilst (2) The Lord Chancellor is a quasi-judicial post that requires the upholding of justice and judicial impartiality and the defence of the rule of law. The choice of the first is to cut legal aid whereas the duty of the second is to defend it from cuts. I also see…

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The Morning after the CBA rally

We listened to Shailesh Vara on Channel 4 News with resigned disgust. We have been desperately trying to engage with the MoJ over the vast savings to be made through the elimination of #MoJWaste. They promised to engage with us, but have failed to do so. The silence from Petty France on the subject has been deafening.

They are just plain lazy. They do not want to do the work that we have offered to do for them. They prefer to throw away the seed corn by slashing fees beyond economic possibility, let alone reality, because tracking down and stopping waste would be too much like hard work even though it would save many millions more than they would, cutting our fees.

We’ll just have to take it up with Danny Alexander I guess

Still, Mr. Vara continues to peddle the same disingenuous tosh about our fees, against a background of ministers complaining that they have been accused of lying.

Start telling the truth, and engaging with the Criminal Bar.

In the meantime, have a good laugh at yourselves for once.

We can! (And yes, we know you read this)


News of the CBA rally reaches the ears of the Lord Chancellor…

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16/11 The Day the Worm Turned

Another perceptive and incisive masterpiece from Jaime. The rest of us owe a lot to him and our colleagues in the North, and North East.
We hope to publish as many of the speeches from the rally as we can.

A view from the North

These are my notes for my speech to the CBA Rally today

“There cannot be a member of the cabinet whose job title so mismatches their ideology. One imagines that the Health Secretary would wish to promote good health, the
Business secretary wishes to promote business but in our Justice Secretary we have a politician seemingly bent on denying access to justice, unless you are a wealthy oligarch seeking to sue another wealthy oligarch.

He pretends that lawyers are the cause of judicial review when in fact he knows that judicial review is often the only means that an individual citizen can stand up to the state. He seeks to limit the recourse to justice in borderline cases because he knows that it is often only by issuing proceedings will public bodies listen to the complaints of the man in the street.

He demonises those who most often need the…

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