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Monday Message 07.10.13 - The Criminal Bar Association

Monday Message 07.10.13

CBA Chairman’s Update:
Nigel Lithman QC


Monday Message 7th October 2013
 


 

Personal Email: nlqc@aol.com

“NOT A PENNY MORE” 
 Numbers and Letters
 
Probably the first lesson any Chair of the C.B.A. has to learn is numbers and letters.
The letters are of course all the mnemonics for the different representative bodies:
On our side are the C.B.A., the Y.B.A., the HOC’s, the C.L’s.
Our solicitor allies the LCCSA, CLSA, the HCC and the many solicitors’ offices up and down the country who feel let down by TLS
Not on our side appear to be the LSB, the BSB, TLS and in pride of place the MOJ.
It sometimes feels that as we undertake action we’d be better off at Bletchley Park.
 
As for the numbers:
a)      The number of barristers need to shrink
b)      The more relevant numbers are 4,1,7. Keep those numbers in mind for reasons I’ll explain later.
 
 
UPDATES
 
1.      Q.A.S.A  - The issues currently before the court as part of the JR are the seeking of a protective costs order and an expedited hearing. We are handsomely represented by the top specialists and are following their advice.
 
2.      My letter to the Heads of Chambers. Thank you to the large number of you who have responded so far on behalf of your members. I hope the exercise will be completed by next week. The support is universal. Of the very many replies that we have had, those members seeking “direct action”, which includes the refusal to work at cut rates in either VHCC cases or AGF’s is running far in excess of 90%. This response is from a wide range of chambers from mega sets down to sets in which criminal work is fashionably described as niche.
 
a.      HEADS OF CHAMBERS WHO HAVE NOT YET REPLIED – PLEASE DO SO WITHIN THE NEXT FEW DAYS, WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
 
b.       THOSE WITH VHCC CONTRACTS LET US KNOW , EMAIL: savelegalaid@criminalbar.com  
 
3.      Not a single person to whom I have spoken would contemplate remaining in a VHCC case in which the contract terms will be unilaterally varied.
 
4.      In response to the overwhelming view that we will not accept the cutsthe CBA Action Group met again last week and I have brought forward the next executive meeting by a week to this Wednesday. The step by step strategy that will emerge will be lawful, proportionate, clear and soon. Legality is being advised on by silks instructed both by the CBA and the Remuneration Committee of the Bar Council. For this move thanks to Alexandra Healey QC.
 
5.      TIMING. The period of consultation has been extended by two weeks. The only relevance of that is it comes about as a result of the MOJ feeding incorrect figuresin their document. This is an important admission as we say the cuts are based on false statistical analysis and the submission of both the Circuit Leaders and the CBA will illustrate these cuts are unnecessary.
 
 
UNITY
 
One of the most pleasing aspects of the fight this week, has been my conversations with:
 
a.      THE CIRCUIT LEADERS.
 
They have engaged more extensive PR than us and are giving us access to this. All aspects of the campaign are being interchanged and there is a healthy accord.
 
MoJ's misleading evidence on the cost of the legal system – Circuit Leaders’ Letter Published in The Guardian HERE
 
b.      SOLICITORS.
 
There is a strong, groundswell of support for the campaign from a large number of solicitors’ firms and representative organizations who are not in step with the views expressed by the Chief Exec of the Law Society (see below). We have a meeting on Thursday evening with our friends.
 
 
MY WEEK
 
MONDAY:
Law Society Opening of the Legal Year dinner. For the first time in many years not attended by the Lord Chancellor, who was at the Tory party conference instead. Was he listening to his Leader’s conference speech? Such fine words: “Our dreams are about aspiration, opportunity”, “in a land of opportunity there’s another thing people need…the most important thing of all…more money in their pockets” and “the land of hope is Tory”. Obviously “people” does not include criminal barristers!
 
TUESDAY:
The Justice for Sale meeting followed a predictable course. The speakers, maintaining their resolve to fight the cuts, were Greg Powell, Bill Waddington and li’ll ole me. On the other hand, Des Hudson, Chief Exec of the Law Society, tried to explain why he had chosen to sell out his membership and renege on an agreement he had struck with the Bar.
 
He explained that his rationale in the ‘U”turn and breaking his promise was:
 
a.      This was the least bad option. (17.5% cuts?)
 
b.      The views of the Big Firms Group (Does he not also represent the small firms group?)
 
c.       The Government has always had its way, as it can (and always will until they are shown they can’t?)
 
CBA Chairman’s Speech HERE
 
WEDNESDAY:
Action Group Meeting.
 
FRIDAY: 
Meeting to update Frances Gibb of The Times.
 
SATURDAY:
Young Bar Association Conference. Keynote speaker – Alistair Macdonald QC., Bar Council and Circuit Leader.
 
A really enthusiastic group, determined to fight for the maintenance of their rights to professional respect and a reasonable fee for the work they do
Of importance were the observations of two non crime practitioners who said they would like to be involved in our fight.
 
CBA Chairman’s Speech to the YBC HERE
 
SATURDAY NIGHT:
Two senior members of the profession, I believed to be friends of mine, e mail me to say they are resigning from the list of BSB prosecutors. One of them spoils it by beginning his message: “Watcha fat boy”.  He won’t be winning any spelling bee contests this year although they both have our collective thanks.
 
WOULD ANY CIVIL / COMMERCIAL / EMPLOYED / NON CRIMINAL PRACTITIONERS WHO WOULD LIKE TO SUPPORT OUR CAMPAIGN), PLEASE CONTACT EMAIL US:
savelegalaid@criminalbar.com
 
 
DR. DAVID THOMAS QC.
 
We mourn the passing of Dr. David Thomas. It is rare that an individual becomes the unassailable leading light in a particular area of law. The Court of Appeal were often much relieved to have before them the person that could give them the definitive answer to a sentencing problem. The legal landscape is the poorer for his loss.
 
 
GUEST COLUMN:
 
Bill Waddington from the Criminal Law Solicitors Association
 
Just 17.5% ? … more like 35+% !
 
Just a brief word about the reduction in police station fees to a national figure of £160.45 (ex VAT).  The MOJ calls this "national averaging".  The consultation talks about fees being reduced by 17.5%.
 
How true is this ?  As you see below, not true at all - in fact completely misleading. 
 
Round 1 of the proposed cuts would be  Spring 2014.  The current fees for police station and Magistrates Courts will be reduced by 8.75%.  Round 2 would be  Spring 2015 when all police station fees are then reduced to the national average figure of £160.45 … with no escape clause, meaning that on a long and serious investigation  at a  police station the figure remains at £160.45.
 
Taking the current average police station fee for each of the following areas the reduction in each case  is, as you can see, far greater than 17.5%
 
·         Heathrow - a reduction of approx 47%
·         Kent - a reduction of 31%
·         Surrey - 29%
·         Essex - 30%
·         Hertfordshire - 35%
·         London - 34.4%
·         Stanstead - 43%
·         Crawley - 35.8%
 
National averaging? More like a National scandal
 
No to cuts: we gave already: not a penny more
 
 
Greg Powell from the London Criminal Courts solicitors Association:
 
Successive Governments have reiterated that the rule of law , access to
Justice and an independent legal profession are fundamental to a
democratic society .The latest wave of proposed cuts to the scope of
legal aid and to rates of payment will make empty shells of those
principles .
We have reached that point when the defence of the right to equality of
arms ,a fair trial and the capacity to challenge the decisions of the
State demands that we , a united legal profession , take all means
necessary to bring this ongoing assault to an end .
The LCCSA and CBA will take forward the fight together as only a united
profession standing up for justice can prevent a roll back of rights
which is without precedent .It is not about austerity , it is about Justice .
 
 
IN THE NEWS:
 
Legal aid protests held by UK Uncut
 
Barristers threaten action over reduced fees
 
 
ON TWITTER:
@TheCriminalBar: Some excellent blogging over the weekend. Here's one from @SCynic1 Read the responses. http://t.co/p4s2n4azfM

@TheCriminalBar: And a blog from @c0unse1 to stiffen the sinews http://t.co/UteCseFTQh

@TheCriminalBar: Legal aid cuts trigger 47 per cent drop in family mediation. Cuts COST money, they don't SAVE it @MoJGovUK  http://t.co/bfeaTwCHJ0
 
@TheCriminalBar: Time for the Direct Option? http://t.co/W4JxN8LH6W

@TheCriminalBar: Note @MoJGovUK spokesperson has changed from"one of the most expensive" to "best" #legalaid systems #winning http://t.co/9VHpTb7UHp

@TheCriminalBar: Resident Judge castigates CPS for delays. As we keep saying, the more you cut, the more it costs in long run http://t.co/0tPgw7lNaC

@TheCriminalBar: Three cheers for support from CLSA They won't sign up for #QASA either @barstandards #WereAllInThisTogether http://t.co/4JEfLkcTfV

@TheCriminalBar: .@westcrct Lifts the wool from the public's eyes with this calm but devastating demolition of @MoJGovUK spin http://t.co/nr7Fh5GOdT

@TheCriminalBar: This is precisely the kind of challenge to Govt wrongdoing that @MoJGovUK is trying to stifle HT Bhatia Best http://t.co/PWPREqDQyD

@TheCriminalBar: The Robing Room Table http://t.co/VM7nYq5ro7

@TheCriminalBar: Carol Storer LAPG "if the cuts come in there is no future.” @MoJGovUK  http://t.co/87pYGu0H7u
 
 
CONCLUSION
 
Oh yes the numbers.
a.      I am constantly hearing, including from the A.G. that the Bar is too large and needs to shrink. What possible relevance does the price paid per piece of work have to how many people there are to do it .The number of barristers undertaking the pool of cases has no impact whatever on the legal aid budget.
I have already told the Lord Chancellor that to shrink the bar by starving it out is relatively unattractive. !
 
b.      The numbers 4,1,7. What is their significance ?
 
I wake every morning at 4.17 a.m. worrying what’s going on.
 
“Not A Penny More”
Nigel Lithman QC

Date added: Monday 7th October 2013
Latest updated: Monday 25th September 2017

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