CBA Monday Message 14.05.18

Chair’s Update:
Angela Rafferty QC

Action

Following the debate in parliament last week the AGFS scheme will remain law. However it is clear that across all political parties there is a growing acceptance that the system is broken. Some principled politicians, including the Chair of the Justice Select committee have said publicly that more investment is required.

We at the CBA have had a central role in campaigning to raise this issue and we will continue to do so.  At the end of this message is a round up of media coverage. This is a good time to remember our history and to look back to 2013 and 2015. We cannot keep applying sticking plaster. We need a permanent solution. This is a collective effort and the strength of feeling is unprecedented.

We have recommended that a no returns policy be operated from 25th May.  Here is the announcement we sent out last week. There is still time for the government to resolve this dispute. We urge it to do so.

Aims

All our efforts will now be focused on righting the inequities of the scheme. There must be ‘future proofing’ to stop year on year decline and the time has now come to pay for the consideration of unused material. The wider Criminal Justice system cannot be sustained without investment. The solution is not found in moving money around a meagre and inadequate budget – there can be no more robbing Peter to pay Paul.

We will continue to strongly represent and communicate your views to the MoJ. We will seek your backing for what we can achieve. We will do this through Heads of Chambers and if necessary by direct ballot.  Please know that we are working extremely hard to resolve this and we are resolute and focused.

Judicial Guidance

This is Bar action and we have shown remarkable unity and strength of purpose in it.  The Senior Presiding Judge has published guidance to the judiciary about how to deal with the consequences in court. It emphasises the need to be neutral and independent.

Solicitors

The action places heavy burdens on our solicitor colleagues, some of whom have been subjected to pressure and to very difficult situations. They are the ones who are dealing with the judiciary in cases where no counsel can be found. The judiciary will know that solicitors face their own existential threats and a judicial review of their fee scheme in the Summer. Their recruitment crisis is dire and they face the exact same daily turmoil and problems that we do working within a system that is so fundamentally degraded. Their goodwill is not infinite and is no doubt rapidly running out too.

The difficulties faced by the criminal courts by unrepresented defendants is known to the MOJ and was reported this week. Therefore it would be really unfortunate for our solicitor colleagues to be treated with anything but courtesy and understanding in the weeks ahead as they wrestle with issues not of their own making. To blame or bully them would be both counterproductive and extremely unjust.

Reports have been coming in from Wales that a solicitors’ firm has been treated badly. In another case it appears that a very junior employee was given rights of audience in a case; we are investigating this. In the first case a judge reportedly described a Chartered Legal Executive who had been sent at short notice as ‘cannon fodder’ and proceeded to lambast her firm. We are seeking a transcript of this hearing and working closely with our solicitor colleagues how to deal with this.

All members of the Bar should be ready and willing to represent pro bono solicitors and their employees who find themselves in situations like this.  None of us should stand by and allow anyone to be treated unfairly. We have worked to keep the tone of this dispute civilized and as reasonable as we possibly can. We ask the same in return. Most judges are dealing with the disruption of the action and the difficulties it causes with patience and fairness.  No doubt most experience first hand the chaos in the system. We know it is their duty to keep the court running smoothly if at all possible. However, tirades to solicitors’ representatives who may be both very junior and inexperienced covers no one in glory and only serves to heighten the tension at an already difficult time.

Media Round – up

Each week, we will publish CBA Media Attention.  Please help by keeping us informed of any local or national coverage, simply by emailing a link to [email protected]

Other Updates:

Website

Aaron Dolan, a person we could not do without for a minute, has worked tirelessly to get the new CBA website up and running. You can see it here and it is a thing of beauty, just like Aaron. Aaron does everything so efficiently and with such good humour that it is often easy to overlook how much effort he puts in on our behalf. Our immense thanks goes to him.

Youth Justice

Another person we could not do without for a minute, is our own Jo Cecil, who received the Youth Justice Summit award “Rising Star Youth Justice Champion Award”. Richly deserved. Jo is one of the most dedicated barristers we know and the CBA could not do without her.

View more news