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Monday Message 10.02.14

CBA Chairman’s Update:
Nigel Lithman QC

Monday 10 February 2014

Personal Email: [email protected]

I’m not sure I can do better this Monday then to reproduce the speech that I made to the “One Bar One Voice” Rally this weekend.
It came at the end of an interesting week, in which I met the Lord Chief Justice, the DPP, attended the National Justice Alliance Committee, the Welsh Circuit dinner for the Chief and finally the One Bar One Voice Rally. I haven’t spent as much time with important people since I got Henry Cooper’s autograph in 1965. Henry could have sorted out the problems of the Criminal Bar with literally one blow from “Enry’s  ‘Ammer”, his remarkable left hook; we have been trying to do the same with a series of jabs, now it is time to move to the punch.
My speech went something like this:
 “On Thursday I had agreed to attend the Global Law summit at the Mansion House. The invitation asked me to:
“A Reception to mark one year to go to the Global Law Summit to be held in London in 2015. The Summit will be a world-class international event showcasing the UK’s unrivalled legal expertise based on a heritage of freedom and justice, and coincides with the year-long commemorations of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta.”
Of course as a schoolboy I never forgot the day Magna Carta was signed. Every schoolboy loved the joke. Magna Carta was signed at 12.15 and by 1 o’clock they were having cigarettes behind the bike sheds.
I’m afraid I could not bring myself to attend the event.
I did think of going and making some sort of dramatic protest. I thought about streaking. But frankly Mr. Grayling probably spends enough time thinking about me, without subjecting him to thinking about me with no clothes on.
The rank hypocrisy in showing the world our unrivalled legal expertise based on a heritage of freedom and justice in 2015, having destroyed the Criminal Bar in 2014, is just insufferable.
It smacks of Putin showing off Russia in the winter Olympics, whilst behind the scenes setting back gay/lesbian rights by generations or (with apologies for being melodramatic) a bit like the Red Cross being invited in to Teresenstadt to see what great camps the Germans truly ran.
By 2015 the Minister of Justice may have succeeded in putting back the heritage of freedom and justice by generations. This Ministry has been a disaster. A Lord Chancellor is there to protect the Bar. He has singularly failed to do so. He has completely lost sight that he is Lord Chancellor. What Lord Chancellor would refer to the BBC as tending toward a left leaning metropolitan group? None in my life time.
If the roles of Minister of Justice and Lord Chancellor were separate we would have someone to protect us, as this Minister feels no constraint whatever to do.
Many of you will know of the now great tradition of the CBA Monday Message. It has reached the stage that I would not be surprised if it featured on “Have I got News for you” as the guest publication. It has a circulation the size of
 “Numismatics Weekly”. It allows me to put together a stream of consciousness every weekend and has allowed me to invite you into my life. Having told you about my father in law’s demise, I’m going to tell you a little about my father.
When I used to tell my father what I wanted, anything from a Scaleextrics to an E Type Jag, instead of saying “well you can’t have it”, he would simply say “of course you do”. I want a new bike: “Of course you do”. I still didn’t get it.
Mr. Grayling is like my Dad. The difference is that Mr. Grayling is very tall and my Dad was actually trained and understood the profession in which he was preeminent.Mr. Grayling does not understand this profession. If he did he would value us.
I say to Mr. Grayling I want you to halt the cuts and he says “of course you do”. 
But you may have noticed I am no longer a child. I may have  been in the wrong place at the wrong time when I was stupid enough to put myself forward for election for this post, but having become Chairman of the CBA, the organisation representing the national Criminal Bar of England and Wales, I propose to use the authority I have to do everything we can to win this fight.
Without the Criminal Bar who will prosecute the most serious offenders? What’s the point of talking big about sending criminals to prison for 100 years when you can’t get them convicted?
The government has shown such contempt for the independent Criminal Bar that they are prepared to set up a group of employed barristers to replace them. Suddenly the government has found money to pay them. So desperate to bust what they see as a strike they are prepared to pay up to £125,000 a year (plus all the employee benefits & pensions) for barristers to do the work instead. According to our sources, to do the work of 5000 they have found 35 people; out of 100’s of top silks to prosecute and defend the most serious cases they have found 3 prepared to betray the principles that took them to the Independent Bar.
I said last Monday that within 10 days I hoped to announce the next step the CBA propose to take – and that I still propose to do. The cornerstone of the CBA step by step process I announced in September was as follows:

  1. The refusal to work for a Penny More Cuts
  2. The holding of a rally outside of court time
  3. The refusal, taken on an individual basis, to do VHCC cuts was the next step announced
  4. The half day of action on the 6th January.
  5. The refusal to do graduated fee cases at reduced rates.

We will ramp up the action. We will announce it this week.
I will not tell him today what that step is, so please try and resist asking.
I have spoken this week with the Lord Chief Justice and the DPP. They understand our plight. Their manner is friendly and I thank them. But the only people that can win this fights is us and that requires selflessness. 
I propose to use all of the powers a criminal advocate has and those of you here who are not criminal advocates will not know what we keep in our advocacy armory. Expressions like “Oh please”, “oh go on Judge” and when all else fails “but it’s not fair”.
What is happening is not logical, not rational, not justifiable and not fair. Following on from Coronation Street moving away from Weatherfield and being filmed in the Crown Courts where most of the cast appear, I was on radio dealing with the question of the anonymity of Defendants in sex cases. I took the opportunity to say that in 5 years time there will be no one of ability coming to the Criminal Bar who will be able to prosecute Ken Barlow, never mind defend him. He was prosecuted and defended by primarily legal aid lawyers.
I am so grateful to all of those not of the Criminal Bar who understand the ferocity of the attack on us and are here to show solidarity. You recognise what criminal justice brings to this country even if Mr. Grayling does not.
There is a new solidarity within the professions. Paul Harris represents our National Justice Committee of Solicitors and Bar. We are joined at the heart if not at the hip, but must and shall move forward together.
I want to thank Nick Lavender whose assurance has been given that he will support our aim to defeat these cuts.”
Having set out my speech the first thing I need to do is to make it official. On Monday afternoon I propose to announce that Nick Lavender QC is my New Best Friend. Not only is he totally behind the Criminal Bar and understands why we will accept no more cuts, but he proved his astuteness by agreeing with me that the Bar Council would pick up the bill for a cab from Cardiff to London after the train was cancelled. He then promptly accepted a free lift, leaving me and two of the Circuit Leaders to pick up the cab fare.
You have to get up early in the morning to catch me out like that and to be fair it was 6a.m. But the Lord Chancellor need not think he can leave the Criminal Bar to pick up the bill, based on his false promises.

OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS at the Rally from the Leaders of the Specialist Bar Associations and from Paul Harris of the National Justice Alliance Committee were magnificent.  Paul’s can be read HERE.
Of particular note were those of the leader of the Chancery Bar TIM FANCOURT QC HERE and the wonderful contribution by HANNAH EVANS, a pupil in criminal law chambers HERE.
Sarah Forshaw QC, Leader of the S.E. Circuit, read a letter from a disenchanted student unable to come to the Bar due to the cuts; he received a response signed by the Minister saying “the cuts are 6%”. Sarah pointed out this is just untrue and raises incredulity at the recklessness with which all of these figures are announced. Like the rest of us, she is clearly sick of it. She announced that she will invite the Bar Council to disassociate itself from the Global Law Summit event.
SIR IVAN LAWRENCE QCs contribution said as follows: “The reason we are not given the same respect as in other spheres is that government has never had anything to fear from the Bar and has never had to worry about us bringing the system to a standstill. Give them a list of dates when you will bring it to a standstill”. His contribution received rapturous applause.
A.N.OTHER SILK, at a private party on Sunday, proposed:”Let’s just stop work for a fortnight”. The MOJ can be in no doubt about the mood and level of anger among the profession.
The Minister of Justice has asked the other NLQC, my NBF, to attend a meeting without me or any other Bar Leader on Tuesday. Is this an attempt to isolate the CBA from an on-going dialogue over our futures? The CBA, like the Bar, is a venerable organisation and represents the interests of the whole of the membership of the Criminal Bar. We speak with one voice.
Word has reached me via leaked information that there is a view within the Ministry that I will personally thwart any efforts to settle this dispute. I find that assertion remarkable. Our step by step approach in response to the cuts and the threat to our profession has been restrained; at each stage we have signalled  our intentions and asked the Ministry to stop and re-consider the cuts. We have made it clear throughout that we are willing to work with the MOJ in finding savings within the system; even at our very first meeting in September I offered the Minister “the brightest and the best” from the Bar to assist and we continue to do so.
The responses so far from the Ministry have been a savage three pronged attack on the Criminal Bar: the imposition of 30% cuts in VHCC cases; dissemination of misleadingly high earnings figures in the national press and more recently a deliberate expansion of the PDS – and the threat of more cuts to come. We continue to merely ask that he adjourn cuts whilst the Jeffrey Review proceeds and while we continue to engage on the way forward. If the Minister is indeed serious about engaging with us, such action as is planned would cease on the receipt of such assurances.
Nigel Lithman QC

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