It interesting that the motto which became the battle cry of the Bar and has been so eschewed by Tony Cross QC, during his leadership, has been finally dusted off in an effort to support his campaign for a No vote.
The rationale ( appearing from the latest of an increasingly sporadic Monday message ) appears to be three fold;
1) Despite the fact that the Bar voted to return to No Returns by 96 % of those voting, against the implementation of Dual Contracts, solicitors have not taken any action over this issue
The innuendo is that solicitors in fact want to play Russian Roulette and take their chances in reducing current contract numbers to 527. If not the case, they are asked, why do you not withdraw from their bids ?
The only reason that Tony can put forward such an argument is that he has spent so little time wanting or trying to understand how solicitors are .contracted. Solicitors collectively employ thousands more employees than the Bar. Equally the Bar is not contracted to the State at all. Can solicitors really jeopardise those contracts, which would guarantee the destruction of their entire firm, by not bidding in the first instance? The answer is obvious. Can the solicitors breach their current contract by refusing all work over a proposed re-organised bidding process ? The answer to that should be a no brainer.
Can solicitors refuse a uni-lateral variation of their contract by way of pay rate ? Oh yes they can. And in so doing, avoid sequestration of assets in the process. If you were in their position what would you choose?
Does any of this mean that the solicitors profession is not doing what it can? Of course there are those solicitors who are seeking to profit from the expected demise of others. That is the nature of our current society.
The real question is what is going to happen to our justice system ?
2) If we go on No Returns we will breach the “ Deal”.
Well read the “ Deal “. It ran until this Summer with a promise that Government would:
Undertake to review the framework of the AGFS with the professions by
Summer 2015 taking into account, in particular:
• Sir Bill Jeffrey’s recommendations following his independent review of
• Sir Brian Leveson’s review to identify ways to reduce to the minimum the
number of pre-trial hearings that necessitate advocates attending court and to
identify ways to streamline and reduce the length of criminal proceedings;
• criminal justice reforms, such as digitisation, which will increase efficiency and
affect how advocates work;
• any impacts on legal aid spend from falling crime rates; and
• a comprehensive analysis of income and earnings of criminal advocates,
including effects from changes in recent years.
I was not in favour of this “ Deal” although many portrayed at the time I was. But the question you might like to ask is, has it come to pass? The summer is here and as I understand it all proposals are shelved until September.
There is a magic about a September date because by then all solicitors will have been signed up. 75% of firms will be gone, and the Government can do what it likes to the Bar.
3) Why go to action when we are still at the negotiating table?
None of the supposed achievements claimed by Tony are enshrined in stone and he knows it. The only recent negotiations that I have been aware of is that the CBA have been asked to back off any industrial action until September when the Government will consider looking at its ideas.
The Bar might wish to ask itself how it is that the Bar has arrived at, in Tony’s words “It’s last stand”. We have always caved in for fear of something worse.
What I care about is that cases are properly prosecuted and defended and thus the justice system is served for both victim and defendant.
I will be voting YES because we all know that if these proposals come in that will not be the case. Tony has not suggested how that aim might be achieved even if his negotiations with the MOJ succeed (whatever they are because he has not told us).
Tony Cross QC was right to suggest that I might object to my motto for the Bar being hijacked. He has put forward not a single proposal as to how the junior Bar might be protected if the Dual Contracting comes in.
“Do Right” (means doing right by Society as a whole, not the individual ) “Fearing No One” (means not ignoring the opprobrium of your members for not responding to their ballot but not fearing those who stop you achieving you primary objective.)
I will be Voting YES