Skip to main content

Monday Message 10.03.14

CBA Chairman’s Update:
Nigel Lithman QC

Monday 10 March 2014


Personal Email: [email protected]

No, I haven’t got the date wrong. I am simply quoting one of my contemporaries in chambers, who said to me as we stood outside the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Injustice as it is fast becoming known: “This is my 1st march and I’m 62 years old.”
Who would have believed it? The least radical, perhaps the most conservative of professions, pushed to demonstrate their opprobrium of the actions of this government, marching together to wake people up to the fact that something sinister is happening to the justice system in this country?
The night before the protest the Minister of Justice announced in Bolton that the day would make no difference to him. I am sure that is right. I believe him. But these new measures will make a huge difference to those members of the public who face a system stripped bare of access to justice. As succinctly put by the leader in the Guardian on Saturday under the headline “The quiet death of English justice”:
“Without equal access to justice on both sides, a right that is being steadily destroyed, the scales become imbalanced and there can be no justice at all”. Read the article HERE.
From the Guardian, Telegraph, The Times, Financial Times, Independent, Mirror to the Evening Standard among others, the press are finally waking up to a proper evaluation of the crisis and what it will mean for justice in this country. The rights guaranteed by the Magna Carta will only count if you can afford them. For those who care to investigate the truth, it doesn’t take much to dispel the misleading figures and statements being repeatedly spun by the spokespersons from the Ministry of Justice.
 And so we say to the Ministry – don’t underestimate the strength of anger and resolve among the legal profession. When a former Tory MP for over 20 years, Sir Ivan Lawrence QC, publicly states he is ashamed of the way the government is behaving and supports the action we are taking; when a former Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Anthony Hooper, expresses fear at the impact of the cuts on the rights of ordinary people, they should not be ignored. They have no stake in this, “fee cuts” will not personally affect them, they have no axe to grind. Please understand we not going away.

Over a 1000 barristers, solicitors, legal executives, probation officers, victims of actual or potential miscarriages of justice, representatives from Liberty, many justice groups and members of the public gathered at Old Palace Yard opposite Parliament to show that they are not prepared to sit idly by, no matter what the personal cost, whilst the criminal justice system is ravaged by this most destructive and frankly inept of Ministries. The event was jointly organised, and with us were Nicola Hill (LCSA), Bill Waddington (CLSA) and Paul Harris (Justice Alliance) whose opening words, on a personal level, were rather irritatingly well received.
Many more in their hundreds appeared outside Crown and Magistrates Courts across the land as well as all those who chose to demonstrate their support by staying away from courts up and down the country. And like in London held meetings of Bar and solicitors.
In Manchester (at a meeting attended by Tony Cross QC and Andrew O’Byrne QC there was a unanimous vote of solicitors to refuse to sign up for the new duty contracts, a call to refuse to accept instructions from the 20th March and complete support for the No returns policy.
Many of the lawyers who supported the day across the country were from other specialist areas of practice, not criminal lawyers. They too are extremely perturbed at the damage being wreaked on the justice system.

Following the march to the MOJ and the delivery of the Magna Carta, we attended a packed meeting, solicitors & barristers together. Two main speeches made their mark:

  1. Richard Atkinson who spoke about the devastation the new cuts would mean to solicitors IF they applied for contracts.
  2. Richard Bentwood explained, to universal support from the solicitors groups, how and why No Returns would be done. Read his speechHERE.

Four wrongs do make a right.

  1. People said there was no value in another day of action and it would garner no support – they were wrong.
  2. People said wearing wigs was undignified – they were wrong.
  3. People said we would not get our message across – they were wrong.
  4. Some say a month of “No Returns” is wrong. We are confident that this too will be proved wrong.

A meeting with the Lord Chief Justice before Friday was calm, courteous and understanding. It was preceded by a circular to his judges to the same effect.
He appreciates our difficulties. I made him aware that the figures the Ministry present are meaningless. The “6% average” cut does not stand up to any real scrutiny. We are still working through them but, in translation, these cuts are a further 10 – 20% on top of everything else we’ve put up with, regardless of the 30% VHCC.
If there was good faith afoot, there would have been meetings between the Bar Council’s economist, the CBA and The Ministry so we at least understood and had faith in the figures before they were announced. That didn’t happen. Instead, the MOJ became fully committed to spin and disinformation. They cut unnecessarily, too deep, too fast and without proper regard to the impact. At the very least, the Bar’s response to the 30% VHCC cut should have told them that their impact assessment was way off. All we asked for was a freeze in the cuts to be reconsidered in the light of the Jeffrey Report when published.
Now there is to be a second inquiry to review different aspects and stages of the trial process. Both these inquiries are vital for the future of the Bar. They will both have reported by Christmas. If the legal landscape is to change as a result, with a significant impact on the legal aid budget, what could make more sense than waiting until they are published?
To be positive and constructive it is clear as to what needs to happen. Bridges need to be rebuilt. They are broken but some of the bricks still exist.
Our proposals are:

  1. VHCCs are reinstated at the old rates
  2. GFS Cuts are shelved and a pay freeze pertains until Christmas.
  3. The CBA provides input into Levenson to improve the efficiency and savingsto the system..
  4. Between now and Christmas the government and the Bar seek to reach a true understanding as to what the real costings are in the criminal justice system.
  5. Following the publication of both reports we sit down again with the MOJ and speak about the way forward
  6. Meanwhile the only way to achieve the above is the policy of No Returns coupled with further steps to be announced after the 19th March, as to what will happen for the remainder of March and  in the months of April, May, June and July.

It is remarkable that we still have the patience to want to deal with such a body:

  1. The Ministry is trying to boast that the courts were not affected by the action.  See link of courts attendance HERE
  2. Simon Hughes reveals that 99% of the changes had been made before his arrival (so much for the full consultation). He says we have to look at a scheme to attract those from poor backgrounds. Is he suggesting government will fund training and pupilage, rather than chambers? What a good idea.  Read more on that HERE

On Saturday the 8th March, one day before my birthday, the CBA held its SPRING CONFERENCE. The topic was INTERNATIONAL CRIME.
It was held in the Hall of the Inner Temple. Its sights and smells are redolent of calm.
LORD JUSTICE FULFORD in the usual erudite manner that has accompanied his brilliant career gave the keynote address.  Adrian Fulford should know he has our support in relation to the efforts that have been made to besmirch his character. He has spent his professional life in the proper pursuit of justice and this has been recognised by his elevation to the Court of Appeal.
We welcomed Sir David Baragwanath QC, Presiding Judge at the special Tribunal for Lebanon Trial at The Hague.
I likened myself, unconvincingly, to the Colossus of Rhodes, with legs astride atop of different plinths, one on the dispute, the other on the highest of standards we maintain in our education programme. Maybe I’m just beginning to realize that the CBA is a hell of an organization.
I doubt anything said by those that run the International Court at the Hague would make any difference to Mr. Grayling. He did not attend.

The press on the 8th March carried some marvelous photos. Mike Turner haranguing Maxine Peake on “fearing no one and doing the right thing” and the little child wearing her parent’s wig. Best of all I discovered our secret weapon. For those that know her, Juliet Donovan’s impression of an extra in the movie Braveheart, must have terrified the government.
Good on you Juliet and good on all of you who have stood up to be counted in this campaign.
CBA News:


BBC news
Financial Times
Daily Fail

A View from the other side
Grayling responds saying strike wont make any difference
Simon Hughes MP confirms he is a sell-out

The Blogs
Jerry Hayes on whether Grayling is a Sociopath
Jenny McCartney in telegraph on Grayling being inextricably linked with legal aid disaster
Conversation with a taxi driver
‘No Returns’

And three analysis of court sitting time after MoJ said 71% courts sat
The long:
The Short:
The succinct (from twitter)
Mukul Chawla QC @MChawlaQC 
Met a London Crown Judge Judge today who told me that his court “sat” yesterday at 10. Nobody turned up and he rose at 1005! Part of 71%…
Other News
Firm to withdraw from tagging contract after problems with MoJ

Monitoring the ‘No Returns’ Policy:

From Today, the ‘No Returns’ policy will be in effect. To help us monitor its efficacy, we would ask all CBA members who are obliged to return a case, to keep an eye on its progress where possible and email us the following information:


Case Name:

Court Centre:

Due to be heard on:

Purpose of hearing: 

Did another counsel/HCA attend in your stead:



By way of example, your email might look like this:

Case Name: R v Smith

Court Centre: Snaresbrook CC

Due to be heard on: March 11th

Purpose of hearing: Sentence

Did another counsel/HCA attend in your stead: No

Outcome: Hearing adjourned


We appreciate this may involve a little work on your part, but proper monitoring will allow us gauge how effective the policy is.


Emails should be sent to [email protected]

View more news