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CBA Monday Message 29.01.18

Chair’s Update:
Angela Rafferty QC

Disclosure debacles and reviews are once again top of the news agenda. This time we have mothers giving birth in prison whilst awaiting trial – only for no evidence to be offered. This was not a rape case. The failings in disclosure apply to all criminal cases not just rape allegations. This must not be forgotten.

We were like canaries in the mine for years warning about the problems with disclosure. We find ourselves in exactly the same position when we warn about the catastrophic effects of chronic underinvestment in Justice over the last decade. Although we are probably more like Cassandra – our true prophecies destined never to be believed until it is too late.

Here are links to documents about CPS fundingand CPS Annual Report.  It has nosedived, as have the levels of staff. It is the same with the police.

In all the promise of reviews from the CPS this week the role played by cut finances is completely understated. I really don’t understand this.

Perhaps the investigation of the Justice select committee will remedy this.

There are other reasons for the failings but lack of money in the police and CPS must have contributed. We intend to contribute to the evidence presented to the select committee. We are also in discussion with the CLSA and LCCSA to plan a unified approach to evidence gathering and action on disclosure failings.

The recent cuts to the litigator fee are being judicially reviewed by our sister profession.

Joe Egan, the Law Society president, said the “justification for this cut is that electronic and social media evidence is not always relevant to the complexity of the case. However, it was exactly this social media evidence that defence lawyers had to examine in order to secure the exoneration of Liam Allen.’ 

We see prisons in chaos, the probation and parole board under fire and the fabric of the court estate crumbling. Criminal Justice is on its way to a dystopian disaster and yet the government is trying to sell it as a national asset in the time of Brexit. We repeat it is not just disclosure that is failing – the entire system is in crisis.

We have been repeatedly told there is no more money for Justice. The Chair of the Bar Andrew Walker QC commented this week on the cuts we have suffered. He said “No one else has been asked to swallow anything like this. Yet it was taken for granted that the Bar could keep going in the face of it all, leading to the criminal Bar being pushed to the very limit.”

We are at that limit. When the response to the AGFS consultation is published we must examine it closely and we must see what we think of it. We will do this together. We say the time has come for us to be properly remunerated for the work we do.

It was the independent bar that prevented these miscarriages of justice taking place. We don’t get paid for considering unused material – both prosecution and defence. Those members who sat up all night reading the material that ended the most recent cases will have to plead for ‘special preparation’.  The CBA will help them to do so. There is no guarantee that they will receive a penny for the critical work they have done.

Justice is a vital pillar of any civilised democracy. If you cut a system to the bare bones failure, not efficiency, is inevitable. This is a warning. Lets hope it is heeded.

The CBA and SEC RASSO refresher course took place on Saturday. Over 300 delegates attended.

This was a training requirement placed upon us last year. We organised it, presented it, attended and paid for it ourselves on a Saturday morning.

Many thanks to the all those who worked so hard to get it ready (especially Sophie Shotton and Charlotte Newell) and all the speakers for giving up their time for free.

Judy Khan QC and Ben Aina QC spoke inspirationally at the Old Bailey at an event for young people about the dangers of knife crime. They were part of a programme including a paramedic, the Ben Kinsella Trust, youth workers and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick.

This is the second of these events and no doubt there will be more.

Section 41 – More on this next week, in the meantime please see this article.

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