Monday Message 02.09.19

Chair’s Update:
Caroline Goodwin QC

 

 

 

NO CHANGE AT THE TOP:

This is the first message that I am writing to members of the Criminal Bar in my capacity as Chair. For those of you who harbour concerns as to where this next year will take us, be under no illusion that we will do nothing other than continue our dogged and determined fight to ensure that our voice is heard.

We have a reinvigorated bar, not afraid of itself and not afraid to let those in command of the courts know that we mean business. The criminal bar is an articulate force, speaking as one voice. The fearful and timid steps previously taken are no more. By being brave and resolute we have achieved much in the last year. We truly are one bar, one voice.

FRUITS OF OUR LABOUR – PROSECUTION AND DEFENCE FEES:

Today, marks a real turn in terms of improvements to our very low pay. GFS Scheme D has gone live. Cast your mind back to where we were a year ago. No-one had ever bothered with criminal prosecution fees and we were in the ludicrous position of working for rates which had been set many years ago and had indeed been reduced. It has been said before and is worth saying again, exactly how did that happen? Fortunately, now we are in a different position. We set out a series of ‘asks’ and what we pressed for, is now slowly becoming a reality. Those who prosecute will start to see an improvement in their fees, but this is very much a preliminary step. That being said, the Crown responded. We are still working on the overall picture and indeed over the summer as you know we have been engaging with both the CPS and MOJ.

ADDITIONAL CPS MEETINGS:

Please ensure you attend and engage in the additional meetings being held across the country. This is the list of meetings, please contact your circuit administrator to reserve a seat:

Date Circuit Proposed circuit location Proposed location
Tuesday 3rd September Western Winchester
17.30
3PB
Tuesday 3rd September Wales & Chester Cardiff
18.00
9 Park Place with video link to Swansea and Chester
Tuesday 3rd September Midland Nottingham
18.00
1 High Pavement
TBC Northern Manchester
18.00
Deans Court
Thursday 5th  September South Eastern London
18.00
23 Essex Street
Thursday, 5th September North Eastern Newcastle
18.00
Trinity Chambers

In summary, the following will be discussed:

  • Update on interim changes – scheme D
  • Update on the Paralegal Review
  • Update on Case File Review
  • Wider Fees Review – GFS and other fee schemes
  • 6 Questions for practitioners – GFS structure x 2, written material, unused material, priorities and annual review

Your circuit will have a powerpoint presentation pack.

MOJ REQUEST:

The MOJ has made a request and we willingly publish it so that we can maximise our input:

As part of the Criminal Legal Aid Review, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is holding a series of focus groups over the summer targeting criminal defence lawyers across England and Wales. The MoJ wants to hear your perspectives and experiences, understand your views on how well legal aid fees cover work done, the sustainability of the payment metrics/proxies currently used, as well as general views and comments on criminal legal aid as a front-line practitioner.

If you are willing to share your views, please express your interest via this link.

Alternatively, send your expression of interest via email to MoJ researcher, Irina Pehkonen; [email protected]. Please also contact Irina directly if you have any additional queries about these focus groups.

Invitation to Weds focus group:

The Ministry of Justice is running a focus group to discuss the criminal legal aid fee schemes. The focus group will be held on Wednesday 4th September 17.00 – 19.00 at The Ministry of Justice headquarters at 102 Petty France, SW1H 9AJ.

The discussion will contribute to the evidence base for the Criminal Legal Aid Review and is an opportunity to give feedback and comments on the current fee schemes.

There are a few spots available so if you would be interested in attending, please email [email protected] as soon as possible. Feel free to also forward this invitation to your colleagues who may be interested in attending.

CONTINUITY OF PERSONEL AND WORKING TOGETHER:

This last year we have had an effective team dealing with fees and I am pleased to report that the team is staying in- tact. Chris, to whom we owe a great deal is staying involved and for this we are all extremely grateful.

At this juncture I would like to thank the entirety of both the CPS and MOJ teams. I was going to name check a few but it’s the team ethos that is helping us drive this forward, so thank you.

We know that there are difficult discussions to be had and that we will not always agree but it is vital to stay engaged and keep listening and talking. The discussions are fast paced and challenging but challenges can turn into opportunities.

COMMITMENT:

Whilst the politicians continue to wrangle, we on the other hand know what we have to do.

This year we are looking forward to working as part of a dynamic collaborative team to ensure that the challenges we face not only as to fees are met, but that other, equally as important issues are addressed. We have a world class criminal justice system and there must be proper access to justice, with proper funding so as to ensure that the rule of law is upheld. It is not just justice for the few, justice is there to protect everyone. We need to be vigilant and be aware of the needs of victims, witnesses and those others who make up the wider audience affected by what is happening in the justice system.

The need for access on an equal footing has never been more acute. The MOJ, CPS, Legal Aid Agency and HMCTS are all part of the picture. At times we can be forgiven for thinking that their individual strategies create, quite simply huge problems in a system that is creaking at nearly every level. We need a joined- up approach to what is happening to criminal justice, not piece meal cuts, knee jerk policy thought up last minute to save a few pennies and then spend millions redressing the balance, which, if anyone with an iota of sense had would say that such an approach is detrimental and not sustainable. Just how big is this sticking plaster going to have to be?

We at the CBA are here to help, we need a modern strategy for a modern justice system, we are here to play our part in ensuring that the development of policy is realistic, with a realistic long-term strategy.

THE CASSANDRA PROPHECIES:

I am not the first and I will not be the last when I say that the continual devastation of the justice budget will wreak havoc. I am afraid that we are now experiencing the backlash.

There is an increase in knife crime, a triple stabbing in London over the weekend. Attacks up and down the country sadly leading to fatal consequences. It will take a lot more than rhetoric for would be criminals to “feel the terror” as the Home Secretary promised only one month ago to “win the war” against crime. Deterrence comes from investment …

HOW IS THIS JUSTIFIED?

Public safety is at the heart of every criminal justice system. Exactly how is such a concept being catered for by an attitude on high that is still driven to reduce the amount of money in total that is spent on our system? Parsimonious policies will only further undermine ill thought out political agendas.

Courts are sitting empty, and there is an increased use of community resolution orders in what appear to be inappropriate cases and this leads me on to that profoundly flawed concept of “Released under Investigation”

There are real concerns about this. Offenders released when they ought to be charged, no bail conditions as they don’t apply, the innocent having their lives put on hold whilst relatively simple decisions are being made.

We would like you to do three things:

Firstly, email into us the name of your court centre indicating how many courts are actually sitting.

Secondly, email in the prospective listing dates of the types of trials you are dealing with, some rape trials are having to be listed well into next year.

Thirdly, where possible indicate if your client was released under investigation, how long it was before charge and then appearance at the crown court. If your client was acquitted again, please add that detail.

This is a really important area with huge questions surrounding its implementation and effectiveness. Jonathon Dunne is we know collating as well and we welcome any input from him on this contentious subject or indeed anything we can do to help.

Email us here

FUTURE AGENDA:

I have hinted previously at the enormous breadth of work that the CBA is engaged in and this will continue. As ever there is much to do and we want you to be more involved than ever. The CBA executive will be calling on all of its members to engage. James Mulholland QC our new Vice, is working with Aaron on that now. Welcome James!

Over the next few weeks I shall be setting out the agenda for continued circuit visits and exactly how you can become involved in what is going on. We would like to coincide meetings on circuit when there is mess being held, if that is not possible then we will simply continue the circuit visits in the ordinary way. We want your views, please be involved. Hull, you owe me!

FILM OF THE WEEK:

PSYCHO- read into that what you will!

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS

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