CBA Monday Message 24.06.19

YOUR DECISION:

We are a fiercely independent profession. You will not be told what to do. Whether to accept or reject the government’s offer must be and will be your decision.

STUBBORN NEGOTIATION:

When this offer was finally made, after weeks of stubborn negotiation, aggressive public messaging about the state of things, the prosecution fees survey, and finally the ballot on action, we immediately made it clear to the government that whilst as a package Caroline and I would recommend its acceptance, it would have to be put to a ballot of the profession. We had and have no authority to accept it on your behalf. So we are balloting, as you would expect us to. We do not control the outcome of the ballot.

WHO WRITES THESE MESSAGES?

It has been suggested on social media that the MoJ has been given editorial control of these messages during the currency of the ballot. That made us laugh a little but it also dismays us a little more. Read again our message of last Thursday,in which we talked about our strength forcing this offer, and that if we voted to accept it we would not be ‘backing off or backing down’ but would hold the government to its commitments. If the solutions to flat brief fees, cracks and unused material fall short then we will take action. This is not from any MoJ script we have been required to sell to the profession, these are our authentic words. The proposal document which was put to the profession was a joint communication and therefore obviously included input from both sides. Since then, however, we have only agreed to provide the government with advance notification of the timing and contents of our Monday Messages, both to give them warning of what’s coming, but also as a courtesy, to begin the process of rebuilding trust, and repairing relationships that have become very strained. The whispers and distortions of Twitter seem to have it that what you are reading is in fact the work of the Lord Chancellor’s senior advisers. If it were, then good work people, can we use you again.

ALTERNATIVE VOICES:

We are not refusing to allow access to alternative voices, or trying to silence critics. Debate is healthy and necessary. Here is a link to two alternative blog pieces setting out competing arguments from Simon Csoka QC (CBA executive committee member) and Jaime Hamilton QC.

We are in this positon as a result of months of hard and relentless work. Initial intransigence was met by a series of offers that were just not good enough. We told you in previous messages that we were being told no, no, and no again. So we cranked it up and repeated our demands for a result for the whole profession. All sorts of things are now being said but to achieve what we believe we have has been anything but easy. One day, when you have a few hours to spare, perhaps we will tell you the twists and turns.

AGFS – ONLY SIGNIFICANT INVESTMENT CAN DELIVER THE CHANGES:

Now is the time to focus on the substance. The issues are pretty clear but many of the criticisms published on social media are rubbish or fantasy. The commitments on AGFS can only be delivered with significant new investment. We have made this plain over and over again. Yet it is peddled that there will be no new money but rather a rearranging of the deckchairs. If there is no new money, then of course we will walk out in November. We balloted on action to deal with flat brief fees and cracked trial fees; we have set out indicative solutions but to get this right will require time to design and consult. The MoJ, supported by the wider relevant arms of government, has now committed to address these two issues with solutions by November, but will also publish new proposals to deal with remuneration for unused material as well. If you conclude this is not (remotely) good enough you will vote accordingly. VOTE HERE.

PROSECUTION FEES TRANSFORMED:

Fees for prosecutors will be transformed by the changes to be implemented on 1st September, with many juniors calculating their fee income would have increased by 30-40% over the last 12 months if the changed definition of the start of the trial, a full fee for the second day and all the other improvements had been in place then. I have been told by a Head of Chambers that one of their juniors who only prosecutes believes his income would have almost doubled. These changes don’t just affect junior juniors who prosecute, they benefit all juniors, senior juniors as well as silks who prosecute just as much. The reworked start of trial definition, day two and consistent payment post 40 days will make a huge difference to the bigger work too; literally thousands of pounds extra per case. Some of the criticisms or skewed faint praise are profoundly misleading. The 1st September changes are only the first stage – they were hard fought for – but additionally the full review whose work will be published in late September, must, and we are very confident will, deliver significant gains to brief fees and refreshers.

Nothing has been done about prosecution fees for many, many years. Our vigorous campaigning, supported by your examples, and your votes, has applied the pressure to start to put this right. The offer represents a massive improvement in fees for all prosecution work, not just for the most junior work. We must not risk it. You unquestionably deserve it. VOTE HERE.

If you are convinced and confident that action will certainly deliver better and faster results you will vote to reject. We have been fully engaged and focused, working on your behalf, attending meeting after bloody meeting, pushing and pushing for the changes that you need. If you vote to accept it is not the end of anything. Action will be suspended for a limited period to enable us to consult the profession on the outcomes which work best for you, and to give the government time to make good on their commitments.

We must also be mindful that we are currently in a state of political uncertainty. This offer comes from the people holding the key positions today. Who will hold them tomorrow and what their positions will be, no one can know.  Let’s nail it down.

GDANSK: BUILDING A BETTER FUTURE:

We are not interested in anything but making your working lives better. We are strong. We are making tangible progress, building a better future for the profession. For years we were heading backwards, despite the talk and rhetoric nothing was happening. Now it is. Our resolution and solidarity are changing things.

The poetry will return in two weeks time.

Yours,

Chris Henley QC         Caroline Goodwin QC
CBA Chair                     Vice Chair

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