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CBA Monday Message 27.11.17

Chair’s Update:
Angela Rafferty QC

Legal aid
Spending plans for the Ministry of Justice show a £600 million decrease over the next two years. The budget for the department is to fall from £6.6 billion in this financial year, to £6.2 billion in 2018-19 and will be £6 billion in 2019-20 according to treasury spending forecasts echoing spring statement figures. What this will mean for criminal legal aid remains to be seen.

Last week we commented that the poor and vulnerable in society are being denied access to justice. The LASPO review must address this. Whilst the official budget statement is silent about justice, a vital pillar of state, we can see from this spending forecast further reduction to an already meagre and inadequate budget. The legal aid system is desperate and it cannot endure any more cuts. We will raise these figures with the LAA alongside the reform of AGFS about which there has still been no news.

Free work and goodwill
We ask you to consider, as you go about your work, all the things you do through goodwill and all the work you do for free. It may be that you have become so used to having no lunch break that you think this is normal. You may be very used to complying with ever more onerous orders of the court to provide written documents never envisaged as part of a brief fee. You could be enduring listing conditions incompatible with family life. You are definitely not being paid at all for the second day of any trial you do. If you cover anyone’s return for preliminary hearing you rely on your Chambers systems to get paid at all. If you are very junior you will be at the hard end of all of these issues. Please keep a note of them for us. We will be asking for your feedback in the near future.

Conduct and wellbeing
We should all treat each other fairly and courteously and are entitled to expect fairness and courtesy from the bench. High standards of professional conduct have always defined our profession. We deal with such high octane situations and life changing consequences that we can sometimes feel the pressure. Polite and considerate treatment of each other is the bare minimum we should aim for and expect even at the most difficult moments in our day.

Flexible” operating hours
Next February to August the pilots are proposed to take place. We remain completely opposed for the reasons we repeat constantly. Responses to the prospectus questions (19) by HMCTS on this are required by 1st December and should be sent to [email protected].

The CBA working group will publish our response next week.

This week there are two MOJ ‘roadshows’ about the scheme to which all lawyers are invited.  Tonight (27th November) at Newcastle Civic Centre, 5.30pm and Wednesday 29th at Manchester CJC at 5pm. It appears these events may require registration. Susan Acland-Hood, HMCTS CEO is expected to attend.

Section 28
There is real concern about the process of disclosing pre written cross examination questions to the prosecution. The CBA working group has prepared a submission about this and will be taking it to all implementation judges. We see absolutely no reason to depart from the normal vulnerable witness practice that the Judge, in appropriate cases, sees the written questions and deals with them with the assistance of the intermediary. There is no reason for the Prosecution to be disclosed the questions in advance. We will publish our paper in due course.

Do read this New Law Journal article by Chair of the Bar Andrew Langdon QC about the effects of case management on advocacy.

We are still monitoring listing issues. HMCTS CEO has said that
We passionately need now, more than ever, a justice system that leads & inspires the world’. She has also said that  “we have reached the limit of asking people to work harder – we need to change the way we work”.

We publish a notice from a Crown Court robing room used as a means of communicating with advocates who are often dealing with multiple cases listed at the same time in a building with limited facilities.

Is this the sort of notice an inspiring and world leading system needs?

Is this a notice that recognises people are reaching the limit in how hard they can work?

Is this notice reasonable and courteous or unaccommodating, petty and disobliging?

Is it something one might expect to see in a school as a method of controlling unruly children?

Is it right that if a professional person misses a tannoy (whatever the reason) they, their client and members of the public attending a case will be forced to be there until the list ends or the end of the day?

I leave it to you to decide.

Finally, a reminder to all CBA Young Bar members.  We are holding a half day training event specifically designed to assist those in early practice.  A drinks reception will follow the morning conference, further information is available here or via Aaron.

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