Monday Message – 13.04.15
CBA Chairman’s Message:
Tony Cross QC
Monday 13 April 2015
E: [email protected]
T: 07860 692693
Time for action
Thursday’s edition of the Guardian carried an article, which you will find HERE. The ‘Letter Issues Pack’ with which the article was concerned set out, as you will see, the issues which it would appear to the Conservative decision makers that concern the electorate. Nowhere is there to be seen any reference to the Justice debate. This is a sad state of affairs.
It is less than a month to the general election. Each of us can choose to help to save the criminal justice system. Each of us can ensure that ‘Justice’ becomes an issue in this election. Never before has the opportunity presented itself for members of the CBA, their families and their friends to have a potentially decisive influence on MoJ policy post-election. You do not need me to remind you of how precarious the future appears for our profession. We believe that we have established in the minds of Government and officials of the need for the survival of the independent bar. We must now use our skills as advocates to do all we can to ensure that our instructing solicitors survive. We can all do something positive to assist them.
I have asked the leaders of the Solicitors’ profession to set out clearly how we can assist them. Their view was expressed by Jon Black of the LCCSA:
“Short of action that will put firms at risk of LAA contract notices which risks job losses for their staff the solicitors profession is committed to continuing efforts to fight against government proposals to restrict access to justice. Negotiation has never been an option as the government is hell bent on using bullying tactics to push through these proposals despite warnings from the profession and judiciary.
Many ask why should the Bar take action when solicitors are not willing to do so? However, it needs to be understood that “No returns” was undertaken jointly. The vast majority of firms across England and Wales supported “No Returns” by making sure that their Solicitor Advocates and in house Counsel not impinge on the action. The energy spent appeasing clients and courts as cases were not covered is not to be underestimated. We appreciate that the criminal bar made financial sacrifices but it should not be forgotten that firms and freelance advocates did too as there were direct cash flow consequences in an environment when many are struggling to keep afloat.
If there was a return to “No Returns” the solicitors’ professional bodies will stress that the action deserves the same level of support. We can only do this as an effective joint campaign. We believe that a return to “No returns” may be the most effective way to ensure that access to justice and the plight of the criminal justice system are live election issues.
In addition the LCCSA and CLSA are launching a concerted Vote4Justice campaign based on an election justice pledge, targeting key marginals and arranging a court walk out for 65 minutes on 23rd April. There is to be a mass election based rally at Westminster hall on 23rd April.
We hope and expect that our colleagues at the Bar support the campaign in the key marginal and seek leave from the court to attend these shows of unity against the government and its attack on the justice system.”
This then is the view of the Leadership of the Solicitors’ profession. There are obviously differing views as to these matters and many of you will already formed views as to what action solicitors themselves should be taking to further their cause however now is not the time to reopen that debate for one thing is clear we must act now and urgently to put the Justice debate to the fore.
At last week’s Officers meeting we formulated a plan which will be put to the Executive at our meeting of Wednesday this week.
What are your views? It is crucial that the CBA executive has the clearest picture of the views of our membership. Please make them known to your chambers’ or circuit CBA representative or write to me directly using the following email address: [email protected]. Quite plainly the issues raised by Jon Black involve revisiting many of the arguments dealt with at the time of the “deal” last year. You will form your own views as to these matters. You may think that the time to consider what direct action, if any, may need to be taken, will be after the election. Whether you agree or not, do let us know your views.
From each of you I now ask to you do something for yourselves and for your solicitor colleagues. Write, lobby, press your MP and candidates on these various issues. You would be letting yourself and your colleagues down if you do not use this opportunity. You will find HERE a list of 50 key marginals. Those of you who live in these areas must press our case and case. Whatever the party your local MP or candidate belongs to, his or her commitment to the justice system is crucial. Please send to me written responses received from the relevant candidates so that we may record their responses and monitor their conduct in the future.
Put Justice on the agenda.
The CSLA/ LCCSA Vote for Justice Rally will take place on 23rd April at Central Hall, Westminster.
It is a ticket only event (£12) and you will no doubt want to attend if you can. Registration begins at 1330 hours. The meeting starts at 1400 hours and is expected to finish at 1730 hours.
You can buy your ticket through the website of the CLSA or the LCCSA.
If the importance of such an event has so far escaped you, can I suggest you spend a few minutes following this link HERE and reading the further links on that page.