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Chairman’s Update 03.01.17

Chairman’s Update: 
Francis FitzGibbon QC

A wise person once told me that just because the story appears in The [insert newspaper of your choice], it’s not automatically untrue. Before Christmas the Times picked up some unfocussed research and made a story about legal aid lawyers ‘coining it’, despite the cuts and restrictions – but ‘The Brief’ was good enough to print a comment  by me, correcting the errors. Now, the Daily Mail has taken another egregious swipe at all lawyers, reprising the familiar fat cat routine and muddling those who do legal aid work with the commercial people, whose international work in particular contributes significantly to the nation’s economy. I would not normally waste your time on this sort of thing, only with the Supreme Court’s decision on the Article 50 appeal looming, we can expect the ‘enemies of the people’ chorus to start up again, with misleading stories about lawyers and judges getting undue coverage. We should not tire of repeating to all who are willing to listen that we criminal lawyers work in the public interest, prosecuting and defending, to serve the public; we put up with lower rates of pay than most professionals; the work is difficult and demanding; we pay (if we can afford to) out of our fees for pensions and other benefits that employed people get on top of their salaries; those fees have been continually cut for years; our hours are long and unpredictable; and our careers are insecure from beginning to end. We are no enemies of the people, but we are enemies of cant and falsehoods.
Impostor Syndrome
Not a joke, but for some an invisible barrier to add to the visible ones that impede career progression. The first seminar on how to overcome it is being held at 18.00 on 12 January at the Parliament Chamber, Middle Temple. It is not just about how prepare for Silk, but career progression in general.
Served or Unused?
Costs Judge Simons has held in the case of Dinu that where the prosecution serve evidence without the formal designator of  ‘Notice of Additional Evidence’, what determines whether it should be included in the page count is its content and the use to which it is put, not its form:
… it is quite clear that the content of the disc was central to the case (as opposed to just central to the defence) as it constituted the evidential basis upon which the Crown were able to prepare and put together the telephone schedules used at trial. It wouldin my judgmentbe an unjust interpretation of the Regulations to conclude that material that had been served without a Notice of Additional Evidence must automatically be regarded as unused material and therefore excluded from the PPE count.
This is good and bad news: good for advocates and litigators in the short term, not so good for the LAA and its budget – hence, for us in the longer term. It also shows once again how the page count has become the dominant and the distorting factor in how we get paid. The sooner it’s scrapped the better.
House of Commons Justice Committee
The Justice Committee has asked me to give evidence about the likely impact of Brexit on criminal law, on 10 January. I would welcome members’ thoughts about this.

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