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Monday Message 14.04.14

CBA Chairman’s Update:
Nigel Lithman QC

Monday 14 April 2014


Personal Email: [email protected]

I never thought I’d look to John Prescott for a quote and we must keep firmly in mind that it is John Prescott’s quote and in the Sunday Mirror.
“..there’s one group of campaigners who forced the government into a U – turn quicker than Jeremy Clarkson doing a doughnut -Barristers. “
It was not easy,  it was not quick, ultimately was far from universally approved and far from ends the problems within the Criminal Justice System.
But the word both within and without the Palace of Westminster does commend the Criminal Bar for standing firm over the sections of legal aid cuts over which it went into battle and bearing in mind the might of the opposition, came out with a number of achievements: 

  1. We have shown we are both reasonable and powerful.

  2. We have both shown and received respect from the judiciary.

  3. The only application for a wasted costs order was dismissed before the Norwich Crown Court this week and may we thank Simon Spence QC for having this dismissed (pro bono of course).

  4. The “July cuts” are shelved for not less than 17 months from now and we believe will not reemerge.

  5. The Public Defence Service ( or Pathetic Defence Service as I dubbed it ) will not be expanded beyond the recruitment round recently held. 

That said, 1/3rd of the Ballot felt obvious misgivings about how the bar would be impacted upon by cuts being visited to solicitors. The only way forward is thus to be seen to be taking steps to achieve unity within the Bar and the hope to reengage with solicitors and hold constructive talks.

Tony and I will be hoping to speak with Bill Waddington and Nicola Hill from the CLSA and the LCCSA within the very near future.
On Thursday I was asked to come on Newsnight to discuss the coincidence as some saw it between the acquittals of Nigel Evans , Ken Barlow , Kevin from the  Corrie Garage and Dave Lee – Travis.
We had an important executive meeting and after the most stressful couple of weeks of my tenure (yes, I’m actually not made of stone) decided to honour a supper arrangement instead.

But it was a missed opportunity to repeat what we have said for months, that with increasing legal aid cuts the pool of talented barristers will seep away and with them the quality of decisions that will be made, as to who should be prosecuted and how well both sides of the adversarial system will be represented in court.

Hence despite each case bringing with it a series of different issues, flawed decisions will be made as to whether prosecutions should be brought and ever less able advocates appearing in trials will lead to both convictions and acquittals of the wrong people.

We recognize however that hindsight is a wonderful thing and the decisions that are made both inside and outside of court often rest on a knife edge.

The overwhelming message is that cuts to legal aid and the resulting effect on criminal barristers and solicitors are set to damage permanently the quality of legal representation for those without large incomes or significant private funds.

Added to which there is in addition the insupportable principles of making defendants pay for the privilege for being found not guilty.

The irony of Mr. Evans bemoaning the fact that:

  1. He did not feel he could rely on a legally aided barrister to defend him adequately.

  2. That having expended over £100,000 that he cannot recover due to the elimination of successful Defendants being able to recover costs by the legislation of this government, 

Is a reflection of the mess we are in and must battle our way out of.
In fact had Mr. Evans chosen to be represented on legal aid his contributions would have been returned to him.
All such issues are meat and drink to the CBA. The aim of course is to enable the public to continue to find advocates of excellence on legal aid.

We anticipate being an important part of the three inquiries into Criminal advocacy in courts and being called upon to assist in the development of all relevant issues.
As you will probably know the BSB has launched a small consultation entitled ‘returning instructions’ – We have a working group responding but should anyone have any views on this, please email one of those working on the CBA response.
Sally Anne Hales QC <[email protected]>
Valerie Charbit <[email protected]>
Jonathan Carroll <[email protected]>
The important suggested amendment is that which would enable VHCC remuneration rates to be changed mid stream!
We fought against this principle as part of the protest over VHCC cases and no doubt will repeat the protest in response to the BSB.
The deadline for submission is 25th April 2014.
You are very welcome to contribute your own offering in response rather than coming through ours.
The Consultation is HERE with the four questions they are asking towards the end of the paper.
Many of the Bar have contributed to the fund established to raise the cost of legal fees in a Judicial Review action launched by solicitors against the cuts and reduction of contracts. You too may wish to do so. Please find the link herewith through which one can donate.

Despite what you might be told by gainsayers I truly believe that the moment has arrived for the criminal bar to take renewed pride in itself. Our currency has never ridden higher.
The government have declared its belief in the continued existence of the criminal bar and now we have achieved what Canute could not, namely stopping the advancing tide from overcoming us, we must work on the steps that maintain us as an indispensable part of the provision of first class advocacy services.
Let’s pause and celebrate that fact. I’m sorry it is expensive but the CBA Annual Dinner is on 16th May. Let us all try and get together, enjoy each others company and what we stand for. Perhaps a night off from what has overwhelmed us for so long.
Meanwhile we continue to do what we have always done. Our Easter breaks will suffer as we think of the trials we have to come back to. We’ll worry about having to pay for excess baggage due to the three ring binders at the bottom of the case.
I have heard from so many of you during the last couple of weeks and many have approached me in court to say that their lives will be different if the July cuts are not being heaped on them.
I wish a happy holiday to my new best friends, who by now are actually my old best friends. Tony Cross QC, Emma Nash, Richard Bentwood, Thomas Payne have been united in their resolve not to see the CBA descend into chaos. I doubt any 4 people coming from more disparate backgrounds could have worked harder and longer in pursuit of that in which they had unwavering belief. It is of course as ever combined with the support of Aaron Dolan.

One other thank you is owed to Judge Andrew Patience QC , the retired Judge that oversaw the ballot vote of last week.
If there is no news let’s have a break next Monday and I’ll see you in a fortnight.
Nigel Lithman QC

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