CBA Monday Message 16.04.18
Angela Rafferty QC
There are now over 80 Chambers from England and Wales who have publicly declared their support for the action recommended by the CBA. The resolute approach of so many of our members and the desire to see change is the strongest it has ever been. We still hope to find a solution before this action escalates. We want a fair settlement for all.
It is clear we have reached a watershed moment. The cohesion makes us strong. Solicitors are playing an invaluable part in this and are showing tremendous courage in their dealings with the courts and their clients. We receive daily reports from across the country. Can we thank all of you for your efforts this week.
We are not on strike. We cannot strike given our self -employment. All we can do is to refuse work – this is harmful to all of us but especially our most vulnerable members and our Chambers. Yet we think it is necessary. The action we are taking is to save our future and the future of the Criminal Justice system. We are considering how we can protect our most junior and vulnerable members.
We know that if we do not act now then the degradation and humiliation of the system will continue unabated. More cuts to the Justice budget are planned. Innocent people will be imprisoned and the guilty will go free. Witnesses and victims will face even worse delays and conditions. Very soon the faith that underpins our system of justice will be lost. The Lord Chancellor knows the criminal justice system is ‘shattered’. What is to be done about it?
We want to be very clear. This is far wider than any scheme relating to fees. The new AGFS was the final straw that exposed the chronic impoverishment of a once great system. The structure of the scheme is rational and sets right iniquities we should never have suffered. With sufficient investment and amendment in light of the Bar’s concerns the scheme could work. This will not of course fix the wider systemic problems. This is an issue of principle as well as survival.
There has been no indication that the Ministry of Justice will invest in criminal justice and promote it in a principled way. We repeat the sums involved are small compared to other budgets. So much public money is wasted on projects far less important than criminal justice. A list of these failed projects would take up the majority of this message and cause your eyes to water at the sums involved. The politicians who can resolve this dispute must be aware of the growing clamour to do something about justice. The rhetoric towards us must change. The only message we hear is one of cut, cut, cut. We have been hearing it for years. We have had enough.
Parliament is back this week. We hope that it will read about the terrible damage done in the Secret Barrister’s book and debate the issue as part of the EDM.
We also meet with solicitor groups tonight. Can we urge as many of you as possible to attend the Vigil for Justice this week. We are not alone in this struggle.
The date of the first day of action will be notified soon. The Executive committee will meet again on the 24th. We are intending to join with our colleagues across the system in protesting about what is happening.
The RSA event “Why Criminal Justice Matters” took place on Tuesday chaired by Joshua Rozenberg and featuring the secret barrister, your Chair, Jonathan Black, Penelope Gibbs and Nazir Afzal. You can watch it here.
Chris Henley, the Vice Chair successfully represented a CBA member pro bono in a costs appeal with wide implications on Friday.
The issue was the failure by the LAA to pay refreshers on two non-consecutive listed trial days when illness prevented the trial continuing with the jury. Instead stand out fees (TNP) were paid. We are hearing complaints that this practice is on the increase.
The CBA’s view is that this is contrary to the regulations. If counsel attends on a part heard trial day expecting the trial to continue but juror or counsel or judicial illness etc frustrates progress then a refresher is payable. The LAA conceded this appeal the day before having seen the written submissions. In discussions with the costs master he made it clear that he agreed with the CBA submissions and would have found in our favour.
If other members experience the same problem please let us know.
With effect from Monday 16th April, the way the CPS share ABE interviews with you will change. A new system called Egress will be used which will allow the CPS to share and present ABE interviews digitally, and without the need for discs. Further information and access to training videos here.
CPS Prosecution College
The Crown Prosecution Service has recently refreshed the CPS Prosecution College website. The Prosecution College is an online learning facility available to CPS in-house lawyers and paralegal staff. In 2015, a separate website was launched to members of the Advocate Panel with e-learning courses on discrete aspects of criminal law, including Custody Time Limits and Speaking to Witnesses at Court. This facility has now been refreshed and made available to agents who periodically work for the CPS and prosecutors in the Caribbean Overseas Territories. The facility has also been updated with new courses, including training on the Victims’ Code, Victim Personal Statements, and Domestic Abuse.
Further details about how to access learning accounts have been sent to users directly. If you have not received this information and are eligible for the CPS Prosecution College, please contact [email protected].
Access to Justice
Legal Aid and the Future of Free Access to Justice: An event by the Greater Manchester Law Centre on Friday 20th April at the University of Law, Manchester. All are welcome to attend. Further information and ticket information here.