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CBA Monday Message 09.04.18

Chair’s Update:
Angela Rafferty QC

This week many Chambers announced that the action the CBA has recommended will be taken. The eloquence and sincerity of the things that have been said about the criminal bar and its future have been very affecting.  This statement from 5KBW is essential reading.

It concludes with this;

“We cannot ignore the future to come.  We judge it more important that, if we do not take a stand now, we become complicit in permitting our justice system to collapse. We are not prepared to allow it because it is our legacy”.

We could not say it any better. This is what it is all about.

We must have strength and work together to get through the next months and to hold firm. We need the Lord Chancellor and his ministers to put justice in her rightful place at the centre of this democracy. Next year will see the country leave the European Union. The importance of the rule of law and civil society could not be higher at this unprecedented time.

Very recently The Lord Chancellor said he wants to “fix the shattered justice system”.

The dismal state of Criminal Justice can be improved immensely by relatively modest amounts of investment. The swingeing cuts to the department for the last decades are entirely unjustified and have brought the system to its knees. That is what this action is about. It isn’t good enough to say there is no more money for justice. Money can be found for things the government considers important. The importance of a properly functioning criminal justice system must be clear to those who rule us.

We are in the process of setting up circuit sub committees for participating members. We know this action will cause hardship and requires endurance. We are considering how we can help those most vulnerable in this – and we know that Chambers are too. We intend to hold another Heads of Chambers meeting to consider both the progress of the action and the possibility of escalation.

We are grateful to our solicitor colleagues who support us and for the valiant efforts they have made this week when their cases were listed, and they did not have counsel. They too are completely undervalued, mistreated and underfunded. You can read our colleagues’ announcements here.

The Law Society has issued guidance to solicitors to be found here. We are meeting with solicitor groups in the very near future to decide how we can support each other.

The first day of action is being planned. We know you will understand that we intend to notify you of this by members release and not in this message. The Executive committee is considering the issues around this and we will update you as soon as we can.

This Tuesday the RSA is hosting an event “Why Criminal Justice Matters” chaired by Joshua Rozenberg and featuring the Secret Barrister (secretly) and your Chair as well as Jonathan Black, Penelope Gibbs and Nazir Afzal. Please find the details here.

The Justice Alliance are holding a vigil for justice on 18th April. See the details here.

We are also consulting the Northern Ireland Criminal Bar Association who had a dispute over legal aid fees in 2015/16, which lasted 9 months and was resolved by mediation. We are in touch with their representatives.  We repeat to the government that it can resolve this dispute much more quickly should it wish to.

We are consulting with all other court user groups and agencies from across the criminal justice system in order to plan a way forward for justice together.

We are grateful to our friends and colleagues across the Bar and the specialist bar associations for their support including The Personal Injuries Bar Association, The Family Law Bar Association and The Chancery Bar Association.

Thanks to an incredible amount of support we reached our first target of £10k in three days.  We can now send every MP a copy of the Secret Barrister: ‘Stories of the Law and How it is Broken’ and ‘Young Legal Aid Lawyers: Social Mobility in a Time of Austerity’ Report. Nobody can then say they weren’t warned about the crisis in the criminal justice system.

In further good news, the Secret Barrister has pledged royalties from this campaign to the Bar Pro Bono Unit and the publisher, Pan MacMillan has pledged to match the donation to be split between Law Works (the solicitor’s pro bono charity) and Legal Action Group (LAG, the Access to Justice charity).

An event and dissemination is in the process of being organised and further details will be provided in due course.

The EDM in relation to the SI implementing the AGFS scheme (EDM 1111 on Criminal Legal Aid Remuneration)  now has 91 signatories.  We are delighted to see that many of you have already began lobbying your MPs.  We encourage you all to do so.

Jeremy Hutchison
The memorial is at 11.00 on 10th April at St James’s Piccadilly; all members of the CBA welcome.

Robert Davies
We heard with sadness of the death of Robert. He will be much missed and fondly remembered. He was a member of Guildhall Chambers, Bristol, from 1990 – 2009, and thereafter was a Principal Crown Advocate for the Organised Crime division of the CPS. Following a private cremation, there will be a Memorial Service on Saturday 14th April at 15.00 at the Great Hall, Bristol Grammar School.

Divert presentation at Wood Green
“A police custody program designed to divert 18 – 25-year olds away from crime into employment, development and education”
A presentation by HHJ Lucas QC will take place at 12.25pm on Friday 13th April in Court 4, Wood Green Crown Court.
All advocates are encouraged to attend.
Read a copy of the briefing note here.

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