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Monday Message 16.09.13

CBA Chairman’s Update:
Nigel Lithman QC

Monday Message 16th September 2013


Personal Email: [email protected]

One of Her Majesty’s Judges has suggested that, based on his experience and no doubt the publicity that a number of highly sensitive cases have attracted, barristers wishing to defend sexual offence cases should be accredited to do so, hence bringing them into line with proposed Prosecution and Judicial accreditation.
The executive will discuss this on Tuesday.
This is the sort of matter that should occupy the Criminal Bar Association’s time, instead of having to update you on how our regulators and the government are taking sledgehammers to demolish our profession from both sides. What junior to use the Lord Chancellor’s words with “a mortgage to pay”, is going to be able to afford to do criminal legal aid work with a reduction of 17.5%.
The VHCC proposals will particularly hit the junior bar already remunerated at scandalous rates. A scheme which uses a non lawyer to assess how long it will take to read a page of A4 type and come up with the answer 15 seconds or 30 seconds is an undignified and fatuous scheme. Are Doctors being asked to diagnose patients in 2 minutes? If we are going to have our VHCC payment cut by a third and assuming today’s rates have been thought appropriate up until now, shall we now have to read that piece of paper in 5 seconds? How about Olympic speed-reading contests? Would that be a summer or winter sport? We forget that our paymasters have no interest in whether we will understand what we have read. All part of the Mini car, rather than the Rolls Royce Service you will recall the Lord Chancellor wishes us to provide.
There will be little to report whilst we await the Court’s decision on “leave” and the substantive hearing that our lawyers inevitably believe will follow.
One important matter rather says it all. As you are aware, the CBA has indemnified the action and our lawyers that command the highest fees are acting pro bono. Of the two interested parties namely the SRA and the BSB, it is only our regulators that have so far not indicated that they will agree to waive costs should they arise.   
Not to do so shows a fundamental meanness of spirit, a singularly unattractive trait.
Perhaps they are banking on the fact that to continue to hearing might bankrupt the CBA? The CBA has some limited funds put by for a rainy day. It’s pouring.
Allowing practitioners only six weeks to respond to the latest proposals, reveals the true level of interest the government has in our response.
The CBA is grateful to the team who worked on our first response for their willingness to repeat the task: Max Hill QC, Mark Fennhals, Ed Vickers, Gilly Jones and Valerie Charbit.
Whilst I have agreed that we will put in our own response, there will be an exchange of data and ideas with the Circuits who will also put in their own responses.
But there are three factors that throw a damp flannel on all of this:
a.       The questions that ask for a response from the paper, do NOT include the 30% cut to VHCC cases.
b.      The government is setting up a review on criminal advocacy. Surely the proposed cuts should await its outcome?
c.       My offer to provide “the brightest and the best”  to give the LC the £27million costs that he needs to save without cutting our fees, seemed to fall on deaf ears.
Nevertheless we will put in our response and in order to feed in any material you would like considered we have set up a specific web site for the purpose at:
a.       Monday no attendances at the gym. (Nor indeed remainder of the week).
b.      Tuesday our officers meeting – Aaron Dolan our administrator to be taken out of Bar Council employment, with a saving of several thousand pounds.
c.       Wednesday. Met with a representative of the CBA, Brisbane, Australia. The system he described was one of payment provided separately for preparation and a daily rate. We would say yes to the rates I was shown here and now. He found the idea of attending prisons, conferences, doing paper work free  and the brief fee to include days one and two, laughable. The £46 mention could not happen in Australia.
d.      Wednesday mid afternoon. Meeting with Paul Harris of London Criminal Solicitors for a catch up.
e.       Thursday – The CBA hosted a meeting with the Heads of Circuits. We agreed meetings with the Lord Chancellor to include joint meetings between the Minister the Circuits and the CBA. We expect to move forward on this matter together,
i.                   You know I do not propose to suggest we accept working for “a penny more.” (Cuts).
ii.                   We have been inundated with examples of how the 17.5% cuts will make it unsustainable to continue to practice.
iii.                 Both juniors and silks have asked what the policy will be for returning VHCC contracts that will be sought to be unilaterally varied mid way through them . Our proposed response with timetable will be issued shortly.
iv.                 The Lord Chancellor volunteered that the proposed cuts will be very unpopular and that we may indeed demonstrate against them. I have made it clear that I do not approve of rudeness to the Lord Chancellor. Hence it might be thought impolite to disappoint him.
v.                   Correct behaviour also dictates that we maintain a dialogue with our Judges at all levels, so that they know what is going on and no doubt will see how they can help.
This strategy will not be jumped at. But will emerge clearly over the next couple of weeks.
I have received many messages of support and your good wishes, which mean a good deal to me.
I would like to thank so far, a number of people. The “team” of Officers , Tony Cross, Dermot Keating, Tom Payne ,Toyin Salako, Aaron Dolan.
I’d also like to thank Mike and Max, who help show that the Chairmanship is a continuum.
The communications team that helped Mike with the Monday Message are proving invaluable to me.
THE CBA and the press
1.      The Times – NHS Doctors paid £150K overtime
2.      The Guardian – Vulnerable people are being denied redress under our CJS
Twitter Activity:

The CBA (@TheCriminalBar)
15/09/2013 12:15
CBA is examining REAL Quality Control to protect the public, not the “Adequate Advocacy” fig leaf proposed by @barstandards


The CBA (@TheCriminalBar)
15/09/2013 12:18
Criminal Bar always ready to engage if it means genuine improvements for public, but #NoMoreFeeCuts which will destroy our Justice System


The CBA (@TheCriminalBar)
15/09/2013 14:21
“Increasing numbers of vulnerable people are being denied redress under our criminal justice system”


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