Selling out the Criminal Defendant – and you never know, in the future this could be you.

This is what is happening NOW in our sister democracy. The largest economy in the world, which proudly. Modelled it’s legal system on our own.
They introduced a Public Defender System. It is a disaster. Our own Lord Chancellor is now attempting to resuscitate our own long moribund version. It died a death because it was inefficient and cost MORE than the independent Bar. He is only doing it in a desperate attempt to frustrate our increasingly successful efforts to persuade the public that his proposed cuts are an ideological sham, designed solely to impress his political masters in the Treasury and Downing Street.
This HAS to stop.
Our grateful thanks to “Gurdena” for telling it like it really is


Following the announcement last week that the Ministry of Justice intends to expand the Public Defender Service in England and Wales, I have decided to wade into the debate.

Firstly, there is a reason it has taken me a week to get around to typing up this blog. For the past week I have been working on case preparation for the Miami Office of the Public Defender, an office which I work with on a voluntary basis and which is so snowed with cases that its elected Public Defender Carlos Martinez had to take the unprecedented step of petitioning the Florida Supreme Court to ask permission to refuse to accept some felony cases due to an excessive workload. The Florida Supreme Court said in its judgment

‘Attorneys are routinely unable to interview clients, conduct investigations, take depositions, prepare mitigation, or counsel clients about pleas offered….instead the office engages in triage…

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I Cannae Change the Laws of Physics

Yet again the selective and disingenuous use of statistics by the MoJ is exposed by our friend in the North. How much longer do we have to put up with this?

A view from the North

I imagine that this evening The Lord Chancellor is seething. Those pesky statisticians have gone and done it again. Their ad hoc releases of facts and figures now litter the Internet like Tribbles on the Starship Enterprise (that’s a reference to Star Trek in case you don’t know, which is a reference I get immediately but that may say more about me than it does you. Can we forget I ever mentioned Star Trek and get back to the MoJ?)

So, as I was saying before I interrupted myself with a sci-fi analogy, today has seen the publication of a Legal Aid update with some facts and figures about the Legal Aid budget. To give them their credit they did hold out until the final page and three paragraphs before the end of the document before the words “at £2 billion we have one of the most expensive Legal Aid…

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Here is the News

A view from the North

I bring you news of Denmark. Okay, not Denmark but I am not Shakespeare so this news comes from Nottingham. I am reliably informed that there is a two handed VHCC listed there in April. This is not the news. I am also reliably informed that both Silks and the junior for one defendant have returned the brief once the fees were unilaterally altered by the Government. Again, probably not news.

What is news is that the case has been recently listed to update the court as to representation. The court were told that, in the 72 hours preceding the mention, the LAA had been frequently contacting the solicitors to offer the services of the latest QC recruits to the PDS. One of the Silks being offered does not start his employment until February. The trial date has been vacated and refixed for September as everyone accepted that new counsel…

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Oh yes! I am the Public Defender

“As I come to think of it I cannot help but wonder if those masters of spontaneity, the MoJ statisticians, are going to publish some ad hoc figures which will compare the new salaried income of the three Silks against their previous earnings? Such figures factoring in expenses, pensions, the cost of administrative staff etc. I am sure that such things can be calculated by the clever number crunchers. And I know how keen they are in giving the public really good information to inform the debate. So inform the public. The PDS is going to cost the taxpayer more than the current system. Now MoJ statisticians have you got any impromptu figures to prove me wrong?”

A view from the North

“If I were running a business and I had the choice between a group of people on my payroll, National Insurance, pension contribution, who I had to pay come rain or shine, who I had to pay whilst on holiday and all the rest…. Or I could use a team of experienced freelancers I’d go for the experienced freelancer every time”.

This quote goes to the very heart of why the self-employed Bar represents good value to the taxpayer when it comes to the procurement of advocacy services. The taxpayer does not pay me when I am ill, does not have to find work for me when I have none, does not have to provide back office staff, does not have to pay them when they are ill, does not have to have HR concerns about me, does not have to give me free eye tests because I read cases…

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Handbags and Gladrags

The public can have confidence that ours is a campaign with no real spin to it. We have no image consultants saying “No Mulberry, only second hand clothing, dahling, and can you all look a bit more glum please, sweetie.” Ours is an argument without spin.

A view from the North

Nobody could have predicted that a barrister’s handbag would have featured on the Today programme on R4 the day after a significant and unprecedented protest by the legal profession.

There has been plenty said about a photograph of the protest which showed the handbag in question. Less was said about a photograph taken of the protest in Manchester that was also published by national news outlets and was splashed over Twitter.

That photograph showed a barrister holding a placard protesting at the fee cuts. The barrister in question was wearing a wax jacket (non-Barbour) that is over twenty years old and is secondhand. I know the provenance of the wax jacket as it used to belong to my farmer father-in-law and is now my coat of choice for dog walking. And striking. In wet and windy Northern weather.

So the fact that I was wearing a hand-me-down jacket of limited…

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Bigmouth Strikes Again

That is why this Monday 6th January barristers and solicitors up and down this nation are taking part in an unprecedented protest. This is not just about fees. The Criminal Justice System cannot withstand any more cuts. We need a Lord Chancellor who protects the courts, not one who plays politics with them. Perhaps the next time the Government want to publish some ad hoc statistics they may like to tell the public how much money they have taken OUT of the effective prosecution of cases. Maybe compare it to the amount of money they spend on things like Police and Crime Commissioners. In times of austerity the priority should be frontline services, not pointless initiatives aimed at “public confidence”, otherwise known as “trying to win votes.” Like the DPP, the Lord Chancellor should be a legal, not a political appointment.

A view from the North

I am about to quote from a document that was created on behalf of the CPS. I guarantee it is accurate. It was created for a case in Manchester and is currently pinned to the wall of the Crown Court robing room. The document reads:

The Crown asks the defence to indicate which of the exhibits they require reproducing. The Learned Court will be aware that there will be a costs implication to the public purse by the production of copies of the said exhibits and at the sentence hearing the Crown will raise the issue of this cost for each and every one of the exhibits required to be served in the light of the guilty pleas entered.

Now pause for a moment. I am not making any comment about the particular circumstances of that case as I know nothing about it. But pause and think what this is…

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Misinformation By Public Bodies

Why is it always left to the Bar to expose the downright dishonesty of those who seek to mislead the public?

What is worse, is that it is a Publicly elected Government Ministry which is seeking to deceive the electorate.

Pupillage and How to Get It

Ahead of Monday’s action (reminder: which I reluctantly support), the MoJ has published an “Ad Hoc Statistical Release”. Its purpose is clearly to prejudice readers, which will include the media, against the Bar. As such it is a disgusting piece of work – a Ministry should not seek to argue a political case against a group of private citizens at all, still less by the use of data obtained in an effort to promote ‘efficiency’. The counter-argument is that everyone is entitled to “the truth”. Alas, that argument cannot properly be deployed in this case because:

  • These figures have not previously been released. They have not been reviewed by any neutral body and have not previously been thought necessary.
  • However, the MoJ says that “These data are released to address the public interest in the area and provides [sic] improvements to previous published figures that will add to the additional…

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