Some time over the next week or so, Chris Grayling is likely to publish his preferred course following the consultation to ‘transform legal aid’. In all likelihood his transforming will be similar to how a tsunami transforms a beach or the financial crisis transforms an economy. There can be few indeed who do not believe that his ‘transformation’ will do other than savagely restrict and cut legal aid whilst at the same time driving hundreds of firms of solicitors out of business. During the last year there has been a plethora of comments, articles, press pieces and blogs as to the effects of the cuts, if introduced. There have been meetings, rallies and a half day of action at which speakers have warned of the dangers of the reforms and it seems, all to no avail.
The question we may need to urgently face is “What next”. Is there a form of action which should be undertaken at this 11th hour to stop the reforms being implemented? Can simple engagement succeed now in the face of an obdurate careerist politician, where hitherto it has failed? Is there some form of protest which may yet head these reforms off at the pass?
The CBA is an organisation ran by criminal barristers on behalf of its membership, the criminal bar. It is not a dictatorship but a democracy where its elected representatives do their best to give effect to the wishes of its membership. At around 5000 members, all highly skilled in advocacy and persuasion, with bright minds and clear thinkers it has a wealth of talent at its disposal. Notwithstanding this, there is a danger that some of those viewpoints are not being heard.
The CBA has thus far adopted and implemented a step by step strategy to defeat these cuts. It is a proportionate strategy based on logic, grounded in principle. Notwithstanding this, every day in robing rooms, I hear that the action proposed thus far is either too timid and by others, too militant. That the action will not work, cannot work and some other alternative course should be pursued. In 12 months time it is likely that we will face a changed legal landscape. It would be a travesty if we reached that point without your viewpoint having been heard.
Should any member of the criminal bar wish to make their viewpoint known, not as to whether or not cuts should be introduced but as to the best strategic manner to defeat them, then they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “What Next”. Each email will be read, considered and the viewpoints put forward to the executive. If you do not mind them being published, state within the email and they can be printed in this blog. The email can be long, or short, as you wish.
The question is “What next?” You have this opportunity to be heard. I implore you to use it.