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Monday Message 21.07.14

CBA Chairman’s Update:
Nigel Lithman QC

Monday 21 July 2014


Personal Email: [email protected]

Some people have asked whether this job has aged me. Well I suspect the answer is partially contained in the fact that I now love gardens and the rich variety of all those on show such as the Chelsea Flower Show, the Inner Temple Gardens and the wonderful botanical gardens at Kew. In fact I love everything to do with gardens, everything that is apart from gardening. But that might just be a time and lazy thing.
I have heard it said (sometimes by those for whom I have the greatest respect) that they would not recommend that youngsters come to the Criminal Bar. A year ago I would probably have agreed. There were more weeds than flowers and we were endangered from being strangled by Knotweed. But that is changing. Seen as a garden (& I’m beginning to sound like Peter Sellers’ character “Chauncey Gardiner” in “Being There”), the Criminal Bar is beginning to show new green shoots.
Thanks largely to the courage of the members of the Criminal Bar, the further cuts that were sapping our energy have been stopped as has the malaise that had set in to our unique profession. This has been helped by the full stop added to the words Public Defender Service. I hope Mark Trafford, a junior in our appeal against the lawfulness of QASA, will forgive my quoting him:
“I sense a profession that was on its knees 18 months ago now has, if not a spring in its step, a renewed sense of purpose and self worth”.
Of course, things are far from perfect. We are all aware that making a living at the Criminal Bar remains difficult, especially for those at the junior end, something that has impacted already on so many of our colleagues. This we must continue to address, to ensure that the profession is able to attract those from every background and offer them a way of sustaining their livelihoods. We have on board the concerns expressed by so many of you regarding sources of work for the independent referral Bar, the lack of remuneration for preliminary hearings and the need for a longer term formula to increase fee rates.
At the moment I am in a case with my predecessor Mike Turner QC. It is ironically a vicious “cut throat“, but we have both noticed that the back row has been full to brimming with mini pupils who clearly do consider coming to the Criminal Bar. There is nothing more important to the life blood of our profession and should be encouraged.
The first part of my week delivered the same message.
The Inn brought together Imran Khan (solicitor rather than cricketer as he unfailingly points out), Ian Bugg QC to speak on family and civil legal aid cuts and myself to speak on the future of the publicly funded Bar.
Imran was as impressive and moving as ever. He spoke of the realities and challenges that he faces: to earn sufficiently to pay his staff in order to continue his renowned pro bono work, how that places a real strain on his practice and he wondered how he would approach the Stephen Lawrence case if it landed on his desk today.
Ian also alerted the audience to the prevalence, by dint of necessity, of those now representing themselves in so many areas and the difficulties they face.
The whole picture emphasised how much work is still to be done in the struggle for proper recognition that public access to law, alongside health and education, is vital to the democratic state. But there to hear it, and take up the challenge, were a hall full of budding barristers.
QASA (The third spinning plate)
The appeal hearing finished at 16.45 on Friday, before the Master of the Rolls, Fulford LJ and Sharp LJ.
The arguments could not have been put across more forcefully and persuasively, than by the mesmeric Dinah and Tom instructed by Baker & McKenzie.
Our team cannot be thanked enough; I omitted Charlotte Kilroy last week and so I make good this week.
It is worth remembering that this legal challenge was first considered by Mike Turner, I was able merely to water the seeds.
Judgement is reserved until next term. The scheme meanwhile is stayed.
My “NO TO QASA” badges remain for the time being in the boot of my car.
DOWN AT THE MOJ on the 15th July
The teams are now working effectively. Our team is comprised of Nick Lavender, myself and one of the Circuit Leaders (this week Sarah). The agreed headings for the upcoming meetings:
Jeffrey (our next meeting on the 24th July); VHCCs; Leveson and AGFs;
Research and Data (to be undertaken by a more specialist team).
The aim remains that in future, be it fees, structure or process, we are able to bring the issues to the table.
Our own reshuffle process is under way. The election for Vice Chairman ends on 30th July and the result will be announced immediately after.
HERE is the link enabling you to choose either Mark Fenhalls QC or Paul Keleher QC.
As in all elections the most important thing is to vote.
Tony, get your gardening gloves on. There are beds to be weeded and shoots to be tended. We must begin to look forward to a time when things are a good deal rosier than they have been.

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