‘Monday’ Message 12.11.19
Caroline Goodwin QC
LAW AND ORDER – SO THEY SAY:
We are throwing the gauntlet down to all political parties to actually place in writing as part of an engaged political manifesto, a commitment to the criminal justice system and indeed the justice system as a whole.
Where in any of the existing party-political manifestos is there such a commitment? They are silent. We hear about law and order, we hear about increased police presence, but how in reality is this actually going to be done? There is only one answer and that is invest before it is too late.
How many senior Judges do there need to be pointing out the grim realities of a failure by successive governments to invest in the criminal justice system?
How many pressure groups need to point out the grim realities of failing to invest in the broader justice system?
How many government select committee reports do there need to be advising as to the calamitous failings by dint of lack of investment in the criminal justice system?
Unless there is a commitment to recognize and act upon the advice, then all that is being said at the moment by any of the parties is simply hollow and without meaning. There needs to be positive action.
Do we really want to see headlines where rape victims are dropping out of cases even after a suspect has been identified because the process is taking too long, which is directly linked to a lack of investment?
Do we really want to see young legal aid lawyers leaving a profession which they have fought hard to enter, taking on enormous debt the like of which will ensure that they are crippled for many years, only to leave because there has been a failing to invest and they are left feeling undervalued and cannot pay the most basic of bills?
We must act now, and the CBA has been acting and promoting these areas of social concern. The question is will those with the political power do the same? The ball is firmly in their court.
MEETING WITH LORD CHANCELLOR:
All of the above neatly leads me to report back to you the meeting that Chris, James and I had on Tuesday 5th November with the Lord Chancellor and where we are going in the period in the run up to the election.
Purdah has consequences none of which can be avoided and thus the delay between now and the forthcoming election will mean that no fresh policy decisions can be made. However, we were gratified to hear that in so far as the accelerated asks were concerned, that in principle those areas of concern were noted and agreed and what was now envisaged was a period of engagement and discussion with the parties, with the aim to be able to make a firm decision by Christmas or at the earliest in the New Year.
The Lord Chancellor repeated that whilst the pre-election period was complicated, he wanted a set of proposals to be ready and the ground prepared so that he could make, should he be back in power, decisions at pace. He indicated that he very much wanted something positive for the criminal bar before April 2020. We reiterated that we needed to continue to work together to deal with any outstanding issues so that this would be ready for the Lord Chancellor to make a decision upon either taking up or resuming his or her post.
In the course of this meeting the MOJ agreed to continue working with the Bar. The Lord Chancellor agreed that the process should continue and he repeated that he wanted to be ready to announce proposals on the three key issues at the latest in the New Year. He was fully aware of the time frame as regards statutory instruments and he would do his upmost to ensure the process took no longer than 8 weeks as opposed to 12. He made it plain that there was a very clear determination on his part to make positive changes before the end of the financial year subject of course to the obvious caveats presented by an election.
We know that we are at the present in the middle of an election and we can hope and indeed we urge any subsequent Lord Chancellor to honour the above sentiments as expressed by the present Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC MP.
We hope that the cautious optimism we felt when we left the meeting will not be crushed, dashed or withered by some unfortunate and unnecessary intervention. Again, the ball is firmly in the court of the individual possessed of that position.
We certainly on the part of the Bar will push for continued engagement and improvement and we will keep you updated.
COURT SITTING DAYS:
A continued disaster with over a 5th of courts not sitting. Recorders not sitting, cases not being reached, cases being taken out at the last minute, court rooms sat empty. I am planning a bumper edition on this particular point and welcome all examples of where the system has failed us. Do not stop sending in examples of the most ridiculous of cases. I have a meeting with Susan Acland – Hood who is CEO of HMCTS and will report back. It would be a refreshing change to see if our highlighting of the problem is going to bring an increase in court sitting days. We know she is committed to the modernization of the court and would wish to see a change. There is only so much that can be done.
Please keep sending in your case examples. We are looking at cases which experience inordinate delay and where children cross over the threshold from being a child to becoming an adult.
FEE DISPARITY :
I am extremely grateful to those of you who take the time to . Please keep doing this as we need all the information possible in simple terms help us to help you. We can only challenge this if we have the evidence to show.
On a separate note may I thank those who have together with others looked after the CBA and therefore the Bar’s interest at the meetings we had with the CPS. They include Lou Oakley, Jaime Hamilton QC and Nick Worsley. There will be more meetings and this is all time given up freely, so a big thank you.
VALEDICTORY FOR THE RECORDER OF LONDON:
May I just take this opportunity to remind you all that there will be a valedictory for the Recorder of London at 9:15am on Thursday 14th November 2019 at the CCC. As a former chair of the CBA, a full turn out would be very much appreciated.
CBA ELECTION RESULT:
We are delighted to welcome Alejandra Tascon of Pump Court Chambers and Rachel Law of Goldsmith Chambers to the CBA executive Committee from January 2020.
LEGAL AID CUTS ON THE WORK OF THE CCRC:
Criminal Barristers have been invited to take part in an ESRC-funded research study into the impact of legal aid cuts on the work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). The main aim of the research study is to examine the impact of legal aid cuts in criminal defence work, with a particular focus on applications made to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). They are interested in finding out if the cuts have had an impact on the number, nature and quality of applications being made.
CBA EQUALITY & DIVERSITY:
We want equality, diversity and social mobility not merely to be ‘buzzwords,’ or indeed tick boxes, but to be standard practice in every set of chambers, so that our generation and the next at the Criminal Bar can progress in a meritocratic environment.
Going forward the Monday Message is now including a “Thought for the week” on Equality and Diversity. This is a chance for us all to make a difference and question whether we as individuals and as chambers are doing all we can. We would also encourage members to write in with suggestions in terms of proactive things that Chambers and individual barristers can do.
FILM OF THE WEEK:
Now Voyager – a true classic. Just repeat the last line “Oh Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars”
Onwards and upwards