CBA Monday Message 21.05.18

Chair’s Update:
Angela Rafferty QC

Update on Action

From Friday 25th May we have recommended that our members consider operating the ‘no returns’ policy. This escalation is something we approach with frustration but the current situation is untenable and unsustainable. We cannot have this cycle of discontent every few years.

The campaign we have been engaged in to improve our lot continues. We must do all we can to ensure we have a viable future. We are meeting with the MoJ, our aims are to find a way forward.

We will inform you of any developments and nothing will be decided without consultation with the membership.  We continue to be grateful to our solicitor colleagues who bear an administrative burden. They are facing further difficult questions. One is whether there is in fact any power to compel a solicitor without rights of audience to attend court. Another is what should be done about court appointed advocates for the purposes of cross examination under section 36.

We are working on guidance on both these issues and will publish it and share it with our colleagues soon.

 

Important Notice on Uploading Documents to the DCS

The Bar Council’s Ethics Committee has identified a potentially significant legal problem with barristers uploading some types of document onto the DCS, if they have not already been filed or served (or uploaded) by solicitors or the CPS.

The problem is identified in guidance that was published in March 2018. You may be surprised and alarmed. Indictments, applications, expert reports and character statements are all on the list.

The reason appears to be that uploading such documents for the first time may constitute ‘conducting litigation’, which most of us will not be authorized to do. The guidance suggests a possible solution in judges giving limited license but we are far from sure that this really does address the issue. This ties directly into us being forced continuously by lack of resources to perform functions outside our role.

We are consulting with the Bar Council and the Judiciary to see what can be done about this. The Chair of the Bar has told me he is as concerned as we are about the implications.

 

The rest of this message is about the future.

You will hear from two young lawyers, a pupil and a trainee solicitor.

Their concerns are our concerns.

Next weeks message will be on Tuesday.

 

Stephen Davies; Criminal Defence Paralegal

It is clear that becoming a criminal defence solicitor is now borderline impossible.  Last month, The Law Society released its heat map showing the average age of duty solicitors is now 47 or higher. We now have a recruitment, succession and retention crisis.

I am 26 years old and originally from South Shields. I come from a working-class background and attended state school, before moving on to a local sixth form and university thereafter. I have always wanted to be a criminal lawyer.
 I have spent a 6 year period at university studying, costing approximately £60,000. I have also worked and volunteered in a mixture of part-time and full-time throughout my education to support myself and gain legal experience. I joined my first law firm in 2014, however because of cuts to the justice system I have experienced several redundancies to date. I have ultimately been forced to leave my hometown region. In my view, pursuing criminal law comes at a cost; the real cost has been the drain on my social life, relationships and mental wellbeing. Criminal legal aid jobs are few are far between. I moved to central London 5 weeks ago with my eyes wide open to take up one of those rare jobs. Each month I live on a few hundred pounds once my rent, bills, travel and student debt are taken from my wage.
The fact is, there has been no fee increase since 1998 and in real terms we now work for less than we did 20 years ago.  It is surviving, not living. I want to provide access to justice for the public, irrespective of financial means.  The truth is, it will break my heart if I am forced to reconsider a career away from criminal law. Who will do this crucial work in future?

 

Danielle Manson; Pupil Barrister

When I was ten my mum (a qualified teacher and woman of good character) was charged with a serious criminal offence she did not commit. She was a single parent. After a lengthy trial, my mum was acquitted and has spent the last 20 years trying to piece her life back together. I became a criminal barrister for her. My Pupil Supervisor once told me, ‘it is a privilege to be a criminal barrister’. To be entrusted with the administration of justice and an individual’s liberty, is one of the greatest honours and responsibilities imaginable. And it’s true. Being a barrister is definitely one of the best jobs in the world. However, the reality of life at the Criminal Bar is something that unfortunately places the profession out of reach for most.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the cost of training at the Bar is inexplicably high, with fees for the BPTC now just short of £20,000 and pupillage awards in crime as little as £12,000. It is easy to see why those without financial means (and with difficult backgrounds) don’t consider a career as a criminal barrister feasible. This is compounded by the daily travel costs and the irregular and delayed nature of payments, which lead to those at the very junior end questioning whether they can survive. Inability to pay my rent, telling my clerks I can’t afford a train ticket and using my Boots Advantage Card points to buy lunch, are all examples of what life at the junior end of the Criminal Bar can be like. I love the profession but the future looks bleak and I often find myself questioning whether the privilege of becoming a criminal barrister will soon, only be afforded to the privileged.

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