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Monday Message 03.02.14

CBA Chairman’s Update:
Nigel Lithman QC

Monday 3 February 2014


Personal Email: [email protected]

Some of you will know the reason for the unusual silence from camp Lithman this week.
I have been in Dublin as my father in law, Mr. Maurice “Mossy” Abrahamson, passed away. A true gent with an amazing intellect, he felt passionately about justice and believed in the independence of the advocate. He was one himself, having returned to the Bar at the grand age of 65 following a successful career in the City. His way was one of quiet diplomacy but he had moral courage in spades and always spoke out for what he believed was right. He followed every step of our campaign and viewed with dismay the cavalier undermining of the value of the independent UK Criminal Bar and its pivotal role in a fair and just society.
But it was my mother in law, Joyce, now in her 80s, who hit the nail on the head and has inspired this week’s Monday Message.
“You had the half day of action. If it wasn’t enough, what’s next?”
I would do many things in life, but disappointing my mother in law is not one of them. I have already determined in my mind what I believe rightfully comes next: now for its implementation. But first things first. It needs to be discussed with the Circuit Leaders. It needs to be communicated to the new alliance in which the whole profession comes together in determined unity to ensure that we are listened to.
The CBA executive has given a green light in principle to action and though the penultimate word is with them ultimately success will depend on all of us.
I hope to announce the same within the next ten days.
I will not be a leader assigned to history as a procrastinator and to me doing nothing is not an option. However when told to jump I will not ask “how high?”, but will measure the fence and gauge the run up. I may look before I leap. But I will leap. I am determined to do it right.
8th February Meeting
I feel rather sorry for Nick Lavender. Once again he came within a whisker of being this week’s New Best Friend
(NBF), but as he looks like the sort of guy that would stand up on the tube for my mother in law, I have no doubt he will gladly give way to her on this front as well.
Nick has organised the next step. It is to let the government hear the united voice of the Bar saying “no” to the changes to legal aid. This voice is now coming from the very top. He has kindly asked me, Sarah Forshaw and others to speak and I would ask as many as possible of you to attend.
Nick has made a great start in defending us. He clearly recognizes that we are his largest body of constituents and he must see right done by us
See the link below
Our solicitor colleagues including Nicola Hill
(former NBF) know of the rally. Whilst we are now joined at the heart, we are not necessarily joined at the hip. Hence while our activities will complement each other, some will be Bar centric and others Solicitor centric. There is no place for schism.
However this rally does not replace further more serious action, it augments it.
You know I tend to leave most of the twitter work to others, but I saw a number of things that deserved attention:

  1. The fact that one week the MOJ was castigating a Circuit leader for earning too much money, bless Greg Bull’s little silk socks and then the next employing him for substantially more money and at a vastly increased cost to the taxpayer.


  1. By comparison the tweet from Oliver Cook shows the reality of legal aid life at the Criminal Bar: “5 o’clock start, 6 o’clock train, £70 out of pocket for the day.”


  1. I loved the simplicity of this statistical analysis from Tim Thomas: “If a taxpayer in the UK pays £10k in tax, £2k goes to the NHS, £3k goes to welfare and £29 on legal aid of which £3 odd is on criminal advocacy.” Can anyone truly believe that the independent criminal bar does not offer the taxpayer excellent value for the service we provide?  And where do any of the statistics acknowledge the millions invested in the UK by those attracted by our reputation for having the finest legal system in the world? If that reputation becomes tarnished, what will it cost this country? Certainly more than the £4m needed to reverse the cuts to prisoners’ access to legal aid, see the excellent debate in the House of Lords this week – HERE and HERE or the £35m the MOJ says is needed to save the future of the independent Bar. Just another aspect of the “false economy” of the legal aid cuts. For more on this topic, see the excellent interview with Nick Lavender reported in the Guardian this week HERE.


  1. A suggestion that I might either be prevaricating, procrastinating or simply too silk centric in my campaign. Those that write in such vein have gained no understanding of me over the last 5 months. I will not fail the juniors or the criminal justice system through inertia. Have faith. There are many things happening behind the scenes contemporaneously, not all which can be shared on a public forum. But believe me when I say that so far there has not been a quiet day in office.

I am meeting with the Lord Chief Justice and the DPP. As for the former I will try and update him as to where we are. As for the latter I have asked that any issues to be explored with the DPP should be sent to Aaron Dolan at [email protected] 
Having succeeded in levering open the door to the MOJ’s economic team with a crow bar, the Bar Council, CBA and Circuit Leaders will attend on them for stage 2 on Wednesday. We still hope to fundamentally influence and change policy.
On Friday night the Wales and Chester Circuit has invited me to a dinner for the Chief.  So I will do my best to become acquainted with the mood down there. I suspect by then they will be in Six Nations mode and hence at their fiery best.  May I thank Paul Lewis QC, leader of the Circuit, in advance.
I leave Dublin with the words of my mother in law ringing in my ears and the determination of taking this battle to the next level.

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