CBA Monday Message – 11.09.17
Angela Rafferty QC
This week two important reports have been published.
The Lammy Review:
The findings in this report on the treatment of and outcomes for BAME people in the Criminal Justice system makes for sobering reading. It also offers some imaginative and innovative reform and research suggestions to address the problems we have in this area.
The report is 108 pages long, makes 35 recommendations and is essential reading for all barristers. Of particular significance are Chapters 3 and 4 relating to plea decisions and courts. All the information about sentencing is critically important too. The entire report is relevant to much of our daily work.
At the heart of all the issues dealt with is lack of trust in the criminal justice system by BAME people;
Trust is low not just among defendants and offenders, but among the BAME population as a whole. …….. much more needs to be done to demystify the way decisions are made at every point in the system. Decisions must be fair, but must also be seen to be fair, if we are to build respect for the rule of law.
The report spotlights youth justice as the one of the biggest concerns. 41% of youth prisoners are BAME in 2016 (a rise from 25% in 2006). As you know the CBA is focusing on this area as one of our campaigns for reform and training this year.
Recommendation 8 has caused comment and concern. It suggests redacting witness statements in appropriate cases in order to make “race blind’ decisions. There will be cases where redacting will be impractical, most obviously where identification is a core issue. But this proposal highlights a critical concern – how best to ensure that charging decisions are not influenced by anything other than the strength of the evidence and the public interest.
Recommendation 9 includes a suggestion that the Home Office, the MOJ and the LAA should work with the law Society and Bar council to experiment with different approaches to explaining legal rights and options to defendants. Earlier access to advice from barristers is part of this recommendation.
Every day we offer impartial and independent advice to the most vulnerable in society. We will be a vital resource in addressing the concerns of the Lammy review and resources will have to be found to implement its proposals. The report was commissioned by government and its findings cannot be ignored.
We at the CBA will continue our work to ensure diversity and equality in the profession at every level.
The report is HERE. Please do read.
The Lord Chief Justices’s 2017 Review:
Lord Thomas has published his 2017 review. It can be read HERE.
The need for an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession is recognised and the report says that;
‘the judiciary will take a more structured approach to engagement with the representative and regulatory bodies in future to make sure the constitutional position of the legal profession is properly understood and weighted accordingly as decisions are taken’.
The importance of the legal profession outside London is also emphasised and the report states that the senior judiciary is committed to supporting the legal profession outside London.
There are remarks about judicial welfare and morale in Chapter 3. It is said that the judiciary has suffered a ‘serious loss of morale’ due to working conditions, volume of work and pay and pensions. We recognise and understand these concerns as our members suffer in exactly the same way. We of course do not have a salary review board nor have we received a single fee increase in 10 years. We continue to press for fair pay and investment in the Criminal Justice system.
Andrew Langdon QC, Chair of the Bar Council, has written a significant and thought provoking article about modern, judge led reform and its constitutional and practical implications. You can find it HERE.
Public Sector Pay Cap:
Back to the issue of pay. There have been many reports that the cap on public sector workers may be under review. Investment in vital workers and services is overdue. The same applies to the CJS – we have faced in real terms nearly 40 per cent cut to our fees since 2007. The system cannot remain effective with chronic underfunding. We are desperate for investment and rejuvenation. A fit for purpose CJS seems like an obvious positive in a Post Brexit world.
Nominations must be received by 16.00. on Friday 22nd September 2017. Please step up this is an important time for the CBA.