Monday Message 16.09.19

Chair’s Update:
Caroline Goodwin QC

 

 

 

IS ANYONE GOING TO JOIN THE DOTS?

Consider this list:

  • A reduction in police funding
  • A reduction in CPS staff
  • A reduction in CPS budget
  • A decrease in Legal Aid budget
  • An increase in recorded crime
  • An increase in the number of rapes reported
  • A decrease in the number of suspects charged
  • A reduction in sitting days at the Crown Court
  • Courtrooms sat empty
  • A reduction in individuals sent to the Crown Court for trial
  • A delay in listing time for serious criminal trials
  • An increase in the use of community resolutions for serious violent offences which ought to be at court
  • An increase in the use of “Released under Investigation” rather than being bailed
  • No judicial control over suspects “Released under investigation”
  • Suspects left in limbo
  • Victims left in Limbo
  • Forensic Science Service disbanded and privatised
  • Delay in Forensic analysis
  • Errors in analysis irrespective of any cyber attack
  • Probation Service disbanded
  • An increase in serious crimes whilst being monitored in the community
  • Probation stretched and at breaking point
  • Morale among prison officers at an all-time low because of low pay, understaffing and soaring violence

I have not even touched on youth justice

Does this sound familiar?

Just who is going to tackle and put right frankly what is an absolute travesty?  Beleaguered, under attack and on its knees. The integrity and fabric of our justice system is at stake. We are all being let down.

The criminal justice system cannot protect the public if it is continually under attack. We are reaping what has been sown by others. Any desperately and much needed future investment needs co-ordinating. Not just here and there. An investment in the police force is not enough. We need investment from the grass roots up.  Too little too late.

That is why the Criminal Bar must stand its ground and literally stand up for the Justice.
We will not be the last ones putting out the lights.

MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION?

Which brings me to this. You know because you are part of it, that the Criminal Bar is now speaking with one voice, one profession. Prosecutors and defenders are as one.

That momentum has led us to an increased dialogue with both CPS and MOJ over fees.

May I remind you of the following Stages that we have:

Stage One went live on 1st September.  Mailshots were issued to 3000 members on the advocates panel and their clerks.

The changes in summary are:

  1. Fixed fees increased to the level of the AGFS
  2. Refreshers paid from the second day of trial
  3. Refresher fees not reduced in long running trials beyond 40 days
  4. Trial fees from the first day the trial is listed, with an updated definition
  5. Earlier payment after a trial, when sentence is adjourned for 4 weeks

The new Manual of Guidance and supporting documents for Scheme D have been published on the CPSwebsite.
A Fees Bulletin has also been published.

Stage Two concludes on 30th September. Discussions are ongoing but it is our aim to see an increase in prosecution fees across the board.

We have managed an enormous amount in a very short time. Putting more money into GFS is the first step, but it may not be enough.

The CPS have therefore committed to with Stage Three: a further review in 2020, whereby we will continue to monitor GFS to receive your feedback, so that we can establish whether it is fit to for purpose. We will also be able to deal with any issues which have not been covered in Stages 1 or 2.

In order to achieve this, we have had meetings with both MOJ and CPS and it is important that I report back to you at this stage.

FEE MEETINGS:

On Monday 9th September, the senior leaders group met with the MOJ. Fiona Rutherford, Director, Access to Justice Policy chaired the meeting. John Heavens who has been heavily involved in the process was also present. In so far as the review is concerned as regards unused and page count it is very much in full swing. There is a process to go through and that is being done. I cannot stress enough that your continued engagement in this is needed. Those of you who attend meetings are providing really useful material.  Keep engaging please. We will keep you notified of developments. Please remember that the MOJ time frame is longer than that for the CPS. What I would say is that as a result of the flat brief fee, the MOJ must be enjoying considerable savings as a result of the loss of page count and that this needs urgently redressing.

On Tuesday 10th September, a full team met with Rebecca Lawrence, the new chief executive of CPS. I can report she is direct, business like and certainly wants to take the discussion forward. The data collection is now complete and credit where credit is due, this has been a mammoth piece of work, requiring the full-time efforts of at least 24 CPS staff members and many more senior members of the CPS team. This is the first time in over 20 years that such data has been available. The investment of time by members of the cps in collating this material and indeed yourselves in filling has proved invaluable. That data is being crunched through and the Criminal Bar is incredibly lucky to have Professor Chalkley looking at the figures. He has an incisive mind, is utterly objective about the case figures. All of that ongoing work is very much appreciated by the Bar and ultimately will deliver a better criminal justice system if funded properly.

I have said it before and will probably say it again how we have found ourselves in this situation beggars’ belief.

COMMITMENT TO ANNUAL REVIEW:

The mood of the meeting was incredibly positive and I am delighted to report to you that the CPS have committed to an annual review of fees. We have never had anything like this or approaching this before. It is very much to the credit of all around the table that this has been achieved, particularly when we look at the parlous state that the government is in. Many thanks to the CPS team who included Michael Hoare, Jo Crossley, Keith Milburn, Mark Gray and Chris Sharp, Director of Finance who was lucky enough to sit next to myself.  So, that is a firm commitment to review.

BRIEF FEES etc:

That leads me to what we all want to talk about and want to know about. Where are we with brief fees and extra money?

The data sets are currently being reviewed by Professor Chalkley, and together with a working group from the CPS and the Bar which will include Bar Council, Young Bar, Circuiteers, Professor Chalkley and of course the CBA, there will be a symposium, of significant importance to work through that data and draw positive conclusions as to where we are and where we want to be. This will be detailed, thought provoking and certainly from the CBA perspective will seek to redress the balance. How refreshing to go to court knowing you can afford the fare.

I am setting this out in this way because there has been a significant amount of work underpinning this. There is a real feeling that the CPS do want to do right by the Bar. Indeed, this is central to all that the CBA has been seeking to achieve on behalf of its members, fair pay. You cannot say fairer than that.

Right at the beginning of this message I set out a depressing list of failures, many of which we have shouldered. The tax paying public deserve the best. Let us hope that the negotiations we are in are heralding a new chapter. There are high expectations from the Bar who will want to see this delivered. Let us hope that all of this hard work is rewarded. We do not want to find ourselves in a situation where we are having to take action.

OTHER BUSINESS – WARNED LISTS :

We are engaging with Harrow, Isleworth and Woolwich Crown Courts and will deliver an update next week.

UPDATES:

We will update the you on the CLAR in a few weeks’ time, as you can see, we are focusing our efforts on prosecution fees in the run up to the 30 September, but we are also continuing to engage with the MOJ on the Criminal Legal Aid Review.

In the meantime, please make sure that you continue to attend MOJ focus groups. Your input is so very valuable. Details below:

As part of the Criminal Legal Aid Review, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is running a series of focus groups for criminal defence lawyers across England and Wales, see dates below:

  • 18th September, 5-7pm – No5 Chambers, 23 Essex Street, Manchester;
  • 26th September, 5-7pm – Albion Chambers, Broad Street, Bristol; 
  • 27th September, 5-7pm – No.5 Chambers, Steelhouse Lane, Birmingham;
  • 2nd October, 4:30-6:30pm – Winchester Combined Court, Winchester;
  • 2nd October, 4:30-6:30pm – Cardiff Crown Court, Cathays Park, Cardiff;

NB: They have already held a focus group for barristers in London, and are running another set for solicitors and solicitor advocates.

The discussions will contribute to the evidence base for the Criminal Legal Aid Review and is an opportunity to give feedback and comments on the current fee schemes, how fairly they reflect work done, the sustainability of the proxies used, as well as general views and comments on criminal legal aid as a front line practitioner.

If you’d like to attend any of the groups above, or would like more information, please email [email protected].

FILM OF THE WEEK:

“Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf”. Edward Albee’s play turned into a simply brilliant film starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Beware Martha in a row! It is a must.

Onwards and upwards

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