Monday Message 22.07.13
Personal Email: [email protected]
1. Do Right Fear No One; Chairman’s Comment.
2. What the Corporate Philosophy does to our system of justice and for the rest of our services.
3. The Commons Human Right Committee investigates these proposals.
4. The Commons Public Administration Committee criticises the proposals.
5. Latest news from the Justice Select Committee.
6. Karl Turner MP secures Westminster Hall Debate.
7. Responses to our FOI requests, what a joke.
8. Stobart’s set’s up as a solicitors firm, along with Direct Line.
9. Helping the Law Commission to help all.
10. Even the DPP doesn’t like the look of these proposals.
11. The Low Commission.
12. Margaret Hodge to get her teeth into Government Contracting.
13. Clive Stafford-Smith on hunger strike for justice.
14. MOJ Accounts in Readable Form.
15. Amanda Pinto QC steps down as chair of CBA International Law.
16. Justice Alliance: Rally for Legal Aid.
17. The CBA AGM.
18. In investigative journalist mode “Somewhere on the Western Circuit” unearths Mr Grayling’s
1. Do Right Fear No One: Chairman’s Comment
I continue to remain in optimistic mood for the sixth week in a row and I am not on anti-depressants. There is a real hue and cry in regard to the scandal of government procurement with the private sector. Given Direct Line’s entry into the legal market I wonder whether the Government have considered taking out insurance to protect the public from their procurement exercises. Given the Government’s track record, no doubt the premium would be out of this world. There is a dawning realisation that you cannot move forward until you fix what is broken and as we all know the Legal Aid charabanc with its CPS trailer need a very serious make over. It is time for the MOJ to sit down with the democratically elected leaders of the profession and fix this system for good. Whether Mr Grayling will be astute enough to take that option we will have to wait and see.
Do Right, Fear No One
2. What the Corporate Philosophy does to our system of justice.
We really must be vigilant or we will lose our democracy for good. How near are we to a situation where a defendant is convicted of murder because they could not afford to see the forensic evidence against them? Alternatively, a murderer walks free because the Court stops a case as an abuse of process where a defendant cannot examine the forensic evidence against them.
Nearer than you think. As Owen Bowcott’s piece in Wednesday’s Guardian brought to our attention HERE.
When this Government disbanded the Forensic Science Service (FSS) all the most experienced forensic scientists, who had been trained and gained their experience at the tax payers expense were left on the scrap heap by the new private forensic suppliers. They were unconcerned with quality, cheap and not so cheerful delivery of forensic services was their goal. This approach has already had its effect on the quality of evidence available to the victims of some of the most atrocious crimes.
Now these suppliers are seeking to charge either the defence or the legal aid fund before releasing their work for which they have already been paid. It is yet another example of why public services are not safe in the private sector. A startlingly frank report by the Institute of Government, out yesterday highlighted the many and various problems with private sector supply of public services. Read that report HERE.
It examined private sector supply in a number of settings, The Work Programme, Care of the Elderly, and Secondary Education. It discovered that in every one of these sectors private were suppliers were “Gaming”.
Gaming occurs “when a provider takes actions that improve performance indicators but do not contribute to the achievement of the goal which the performance indicator is attempting to measure. The provider is knowingly taking action that “hits the target but misses the point”
In the education sector this consisted of:
Occuring: “When a service provider chooses the easiest-to-provide-for users to boost their performance indicators.”
Occuring: “when a service provider chooses not to provide a service to a particular user. In schools this can take the form of excluding low performing pupils from school.”
“Crowding towards the target”
In schools this manifest itself “by dedicating disproportionate resources to pushing students over the C/D borderline.”
Opting for Easier Qualifications
A practice of opting for easier qualifications as a route to achieving a supposed equivalent to five A –C Grades.
This is the attitude the private sector takes towards our children. It is mirrored in the work programme and the care for the elderly.
It is time that all politicians realise that public services are not safe in public hands. Not only does the service suffer immeasurably but very often the supplier avoids paying tax.
If Government is determined to go down this road contracts must contain penalty clauses, clauses which require a supplier not to issue either instructions or a contract term which conflicts with the delivery of the service and finally a clause which requires the supplier not to enter a tax avoidance arrangement. If this approach were adopted Government would find that the private supplier will not be keen to bid.
This is what the press have to say:
The Independent – Revealed: The great outsourcing scandal as firms ‘cut corners’ to cream profits off public
Despite the fact that Mr Grayling has had to call in the SFO to investigate G4S and their employees have been found to have killed Mr Mubenga unlawfully, as we reported last week G4S are now in the business of children’s homes
3. The Commons Human Right Committee investigates these proposals
The Human Rights Committee will be investigating these proposals and taking evidence. We will of course be submitting in writing and we hope orally. You can have your input over and above ours and we would encourage you to do so. Click here to find out how.
4. The Commons Public Administration Committee criticises the proposals
There is not a soul who thinks these proposals are useful or workable. Time with respect for Mr Grayling to start listening to the professions. Read more HERE
5. Latest news from the Justice Select Committee
The Justice Select Committee have published the evidence from their sessions so far HERE
And ever vigilant they have required Mr Grayling to come back and explain the second consultation when it happens HERE.
No doubt Mr Grayling will be in sprint training as we speak.
6. Karl Turner MP secures Westminster Hall Debate
Karl Turner MP (no relation) has secured a Westminster Hall debate on Legal Aid for Wednesday 4rd of September.at 9.30 am. Further information HERE.
7. Responses to our FOI requests, what a joke.
Tom Wainwright is your FOI man and this is the reply he received to our requests on your behalf. You might think this reply makes Kaffka look like a comic book writer. We have no doubt that the attitude demonstrated in this response is replicated across all Government Departments. Maybe our first suggestion to the Law Commissioners will be to amend the legislation to ensure Freedom of Information does not translate in reality to obviation.
Legal Aid Policy
4th Floor, 102 Petty France
E: [email protected]
E: 020 3334 5230
|Mr Tom Wainwright
|Our Reference: 82912
|17 July 2013
Freedom of Information Request
Dear Mr Wainwright
Thank you for your online information requests of 20 May 2013, in which you asked for the following sets of information from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ):
A. “Please provide details of all assessments of the risk of an increased number of miscarriages of justice, which may be caused by the proposals set out in the consultation paper ‘Transforming Legal Aid’. Please provide copies of such assessments, including any calculations and actuarial assessments on the increased cost caused by wrongful imprisonment and appeals.”
B. “In an interview published in the Law Gazette on 20th May 2013, Mr Grayling is quoted as saying ‘We’ve had plenty of conversations with people who intend to bid for the contracts and who are thinking about how to re-engineer their businesses.’ Please provide details of: 1. All meetings that the Ministry of Justice have held with companies during which the Price Competitive Tendering proposals have been discussed, whether these were public or private. 2. The names of those present at these meetings.”
Your request has been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FoIA).
Firstly, my sincere apologies for the delay in providing you with a response. Your request was received at an exceptionally busy time. I understand that the delay must be frustrating and I would be happy to discuss the handling of your request, should you find that useful, either by e-mail or telephone.
You questions (A and B) are both about the transforming legal aid agenda, however, as they are about different topics, I have treated them separately.
I can confirm that in respect of (A), the Department holds the information you have asked for. However, it is exempt under sections 21 and 35 of the FoIA.
The impact assessments published alongside the Transforming Legal Aid consultation include information relevant to your request. However, section 21 of the FoIA exempts information which is already readily accessible to the person requesting it. The impact assessments can be found here:
You can also find out more about section 21 of the Act by reading the guidance at the end of this letter.
Other information matching the description provided under (A) above is exempt in accordance with section 35 of the FoIA, which exempts information which relates to the formulation of government policy. In this case, the information requested relates to proposals to transform legal aid.
In line with the terms of this exemption, we have also considered whether it would be in the public interest for us to provide you with the information, despite the exemption being applicable. We took into account the following factors:
Public interest considerations favouring disclosure
- Participation will be made more meaningful through access to relevant recorded information about how policy decisions are reached, what options are being considered and why some are excluded and others preferred.
- Legitimate interest in supporting information behind a set of high profile Government policy proposals, such as those on transforming legal aid.
Public interest considerations favouring withholding the information
- Disclosure would inhibit civil servants from exploring policy options in a free and frank manner, and would result in them being less able to generate effective and varied policy options. We want to ensure that all potential options for the transforming legal aid proposals have been explored.
- Disclosure may also result in civil servants being less inclined to consult with expert advisors on the risks and implications of policy options. As a consequence, their ability to assess risks and implications for these proposals would be diminished.
- Final decisions around government policy on transforming legal aid have not yet been taken, and this is the very time at which the public interest in preserving the safe space for policy making is at its highest. Disclosure would leave civil servants at MoJ in the position of having to defend everything that has been raised during deliberation, and this would hinder their development of actual and effective policy proposals.
We reached the view that, on balance, the public interest is better served by withholding this information under Section 35 (1)(a) of the Act at this time.
You can find out more about Section 35 by reading the extract from the Act and some guidance points we consider when applying this exemption, attached at the end of this letter.
I have also considered the description of information provided at (B), above. I can confirm that the Ministry of Justice holds information matching the description but to provide it would exceed the cost limit of £600, as provided for under section 12(1) of the FoIA.
Some of the information requested could be provided without exceeding the limit but not the totality. In particular, I estimate that in respect of the many meetings held between representatives of the Ministry of Justice and ‘companies’ that to produce a list of those attending and to confirm whether price competitive tendering was discussed would exceed the cost limit. As you have asked for meetings with any officials across the MoJ (of which there are over 65,000), I have estimated that it would be likely to breach the cost limit to obtain the complete information in scope of your request.
You can find out more about section 12 of the FOIA by reading the guidance at the end of this letter.
If you were to narrow down the description of information and submit a new request, I would be happy to consider it. You may wish, for example, to narrow the time frame or to ask about a particular group of people working within the Ministry of Justice, or a particular company you are interested in. Please be aware that I cannot guarantee that a refined request would fall within the cost limit as set out under FOIA.
Outside the scope of the Act, I have provided a link below to information similar to that you have requested. This was provided in response to a parliamentary question by Keith Vaz MP, as follows:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what meetings were held as part of his Department’s consultation on legal aid reforms since 1 October 2012 with (a) the Chair of the Bar Council, (b) the President of the Law Society,(c) members of the senior judiciary, (d) circuit leaders, (e) solicitors representing Law Society Members and (f)other individuals or organisations; and what the (i) date and (ii) length was of each such meeting.”
The answer can be found here:
This list does not include meetings held by junior officials and external parties. The content of the meetings is not limited to discussion of price competitive tendering, but may have included other issues relating to legal aid or the business of the department more generally.
In order to arrive at the conclusions set out in this letter I have consulted the officials responsible for the information matching the description provided.
I am sorry that on this occasion I have not been able to answer your request in full. You have the right to appeal our decision if you think it is incorrect. Details can be found in the ‘How to Appeal’ section attached at the end of this letter.
You can also view information that the Ministry of Justice has disclosed in response to previous Freedom of Information requests. Responses are anonymised and published on our on-line disclosure log which can be found on the MoJ website:
How to Appeal
If you are not satisfied with this response, you have the right to an internal review. The handling of your request will be looked at by someone who was not responsible for the original case, and they will make a decision as to whether we answered your request correctly.
If you would like to request a review, please write or send an email to the Data Access and Compliance Unit within two months of the date of this letter, at the
Data Access and Compliance Unit (10.34),
Information & Communications Directorate,
Ministry of Justice,
102 Petty France,
E-mail: [email protected]
Information Commissioner’s Office
If you remain dissatisfied after an internal review decision, you have the right to apply to the Information Commissioner’s Office. The Commissioner is an independent regulator who has the power to direct us to respond to your request differently, if he considers that we have handled it incorrectly.
You can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office at the following address:
Information Commissioner’s Office,
Internet address: https://www.ico.gov.uk/Global/contact_us.aspx
8. Stobart’s set’s up as a solicitors firm, along with Direct Line
One does wonder what the point of our regulators is. Certainly they appear to have no interest in preserving the integrity of the profession and protecting the public. This time it is the SRA who have covered themselves in something very smelly by granting the redoubtable Trevor Howarth ABS status HERE, and now Direct Line HERE, let’s hope they stick to personal injury at least.
9. Helping the Law Commission to help all
The Law Commission has invited the CBA, on a regular basis to input ideas to the Commission for investigation and possible reform. This is a wonderful opportunity to assist a body that has justifiably earned our respect over the years. We have set up a committee headed up by myself and James Mulholland QC, to co-ordinate and input ideas to the Commission. If you have an interest in serving on this committee or you have any ideas for change please get in contact.
10. Even the DPP doesn’t like the look of these proposals
Kier Stammer QC, still our DPP until September, has remembered that he was once a human rights lawyer and a damn good one at that. He speaks out against this nonsense HERE.
11. The Low Commission
Whilst this is not directly related to crime many of you are interested and concerned about social welfare law issues and so I thought the Low Commission might be of interest. since its launch in December 2012 the Low Commission has been gathering evidence about the future of advice and legal support on social welfare law issues in England and Wales. In addition to encouraging written evidence submissions, the Commission has arranged larger meetings to discuss issues such as advice and IT, innovation in the advice sector and pro bono. The Commission has also visited advice agencies in England and Wales and held a series of one to one meetings with those working in the sector, government officials and interested parliamentarians.
The Commission will publish its emerging recommendations and draft report in September and is keen to hear as many views on its proposals as possible. As part of this process, they have organised a series of consultation meetings:
• Cardiff (4 September)
• London (5 September)
• Manchester (19 September).
The APG on Legal Aid will also hold a meeting in September to discuss the recommendations. The draft report will be sent to those attending the consultation meetings in advance of the event.
If any of you would like to attend one of the consultation events, please send an email to [email protected] and further details will be sent out.
12. Margaret Hodge to get her teeth into Government Contracting.
I have been in regular contact with the Public Accounts Committee and they will now be investigating the full breadth and depth of Government procurement in the Autumn. We await to see what they find but one suspects they will need full protective gear. If there is any Committee that can route out the truth it is this one
13. Clive Stafford-Smith on hunger strike for justice
Shaker Aamer has been held in Guantánamo Bay since 2002. He is a legal permanent resident of the UK, married to a British national, with four British children living in London.
Shaker has long been cleared for release by the United States. He has never been charged by the United States with a crime and has never received a trial. However, he has been repeatedly abused and subjected to extended isolation in Guantánamo Bay.
Our friend and a great friend to justice, Clive has been on hunger strike for the past eight days seeking to highlight his client’s illegal incarceration in Guantanamo Bay.
If anyone epitomises our motto Do Right Fear No One it is Clive.
To offer him support and help Reprieve follow the links below:
PO Box 72054
London EC3P 3BZ
Tel â€¨020 7553 8140
Faxâ€¨020 7353 4641
14. MOJ Accounts in Readable Form
On the 8th July I sought to publish the 2012-2013 MOJ accounts. The link I provided was from the MOJ and therefore unreadable. My team of de-coders have been on the job 24/7 and this I hope will get you through to where you want to go.
MOJ Accounts in Readable Form
15. Amanda Pinto QC steps down as Director of CBA International Law.
Amanda has given sterling service to the CBA over the years. Most recently she has served as Director of the International Law Committee to great effect for 5 years. We give her a huge vote of thanks for her contribution and commitment to this important area. She will be missed. Her place will be taken by Michael Duck QC.
16. Justice Alliance: Rally for Legal Aid
I hope as many of you that can will turn up to support this Rally.
17. The CBA AGM
The CBA AGM was held last Tuesday. We received approval for terminating our service contract with the Bar Council (which relates to the provision of administrative support). Over the past year your treasurer Tom Payne has worked tirelessly to try and ensure that in all we do we provide value for money and keep subscriptions at the level they have been for the last 10 years. To that end we have secured our meeting rooms with the BPP School of Law for free. We have realised that the service provided by the Bar Council can be provided at a considerable cost saving if we administer our administration ourselves. We our grateful for the support of the Bar Council over the years but as our practicing certificate fees continue on a steady spiral upwards we feel duty bound to do everything in our power to save you money.
You can assist by making sure you get your CPD points from the CBA website. The Education Committee headed up by James Mulholland QC have organised a fantastic programme this year which will commence with the Kalisher Lecture in October given by Lord Justice Pitchford.
18. In investigative journalist mode “Somewhere on the Western Circuit” unearths Mr Grayling’s
ROYAL GRAMMAR SCHOOL
0494 524 955
END OF TERM REPORT 1974
Pupil’s name: Christopher Grayling
Class: First Year
|Young Christopher is still finding it difficult to understand the difference between ascending and descending figures. He really shouldn’t guess or, worse still, just make them up. If he doesn’t know the answer he should be brave enough to say; he might be able to salvage some credibility. More importantly, I’ve never had a pupil before who has re-written Newton’s First Law so it’s now ‘what is going down is actually going up’. If Christopher is right then he has just overturned a fundamental law of the universe. He is either a genius or has some very dangerous ideas. Only time will tell. He will go far but I’m not sure where, save it will be a long way from my class. Numbers are not his thing. Such a pity.
|Rather disappointing really. Christopher should try to avoid dismal terms such as ‘sustainability’ and ‘rolled out’ which are desperately dull and anathema to those who love English. Sadly he also doesn’t seem to know the meaning of certain words such as ‘spiralling’, ‘quality’ and ‘credible’. I cannot understand how in his recent paper he got all 36 questions so badly wrong. Question 17 was his nadir albeit how he could have got all four parts of the multiple choice question 18 wrong is mind-boggling. Presumably one of the four options was the correct one? Maybe not. Anyway perhaps a change of subject would help Christopher achieve an acceptable level of work.
|Excellent. Can’t speak highly enough of Chris’s abilities. Soars into the stratosphere of creativity. Able to make bold and incredibly sweeping statements which have absolutely no foundation in fact whatsoever. He is quite incredible. His imagination is unlimited. I sometimes feel you just couldn’t make up some of the things he makes up. I predict a career in journalism or politics, or maybe both, where Chris’s talents will be best suited. He’s willingly grasped all I’ve taught him. He’s welcome anytime in my classes subject to my availability; I may have to teach via television link for a while in the months to come.
|Sadly Christopher never turned up on time for language classes and sometimes not at all. Would give lame excuses such as ‘I thought my lesson was in Northampton not Nottingham’. Some days we’d be learning Mandarin and he’d come with his Vietnamese phrase book. I’m afraid it was nothing short of shambolic. Didn’t come to his teachers for help. Just thought he could do it all by himself.
As for his Welsh it’s non-existent. It came as a complete surprise to him that it exists as a language at all.
I suggest he takes a crash course in Gaelic. It might come in handy soon.
Arrivederci Christopher. He is persona non grata at my lessons now sadly.
|I’m afraid Christopher has struggled with even basic geography this year. The Isle of Wight, as its name suggests, is an island and really quite difficult to get to in the middle of the night to visit someone put in detention unless you’re an extremely strong swimmer. Equally Christopher seemed unaware that Wales is rather a big place with not many TGV trains or motorways to help you get from top to bottom quickly. I just wonder whether he might consider dropping this subject in favour of one that doesn’t require knowledge of any facts.
|This seems to be one of Christopher’s many blind spots. When I tested him on the significance of 1215 he asked me “was that lunchtime?” Presumably a joke but you never know; I’ve long since stopped taking seriously anything Christopher says. He should learn that history is not about dead people but about the present and the future. It is so important to learn from the potential mistakes of our predecessors. By seeing where they narrowly avoided going wrong we can prevent our own pitfalls. Reading between the lines he might be better advised to fall on his sword now and drop a subject which is in his case bunk.
|In his Young Entrepreneur Theoretical Business Plan Christopher didn’t seem to grasp the basics of economic reality. How could he think that marketing a product called ‘Turkeys: A December Euthanasia Self-Help Guide’ was ever going to attract enough takers to make the whole project viable let alone at the prices he suggested? He invested so much time in it. Risked his whole strategy on one reckless gamble. Didn’t do his homework. His business model fell apart within days but he pressed on regardless. His presentations to the school were frankly embarrassing. Happily he was only frittering away virtual millions. I hope young Christopher never gets into a position where he has the opportunity to squander real money. It’s been interesting but I suggest Christopher now drops anything to do with business (particularly small ones) and commerce.
|Uses far too broad a brush in everything he does. And I’d like to see Christopher move away from his obsession with surrealism. It seems to infect everything he does such that his life is now imitating his art. When I’ve been on playground duty I’ve even noticed him playing tag with imaginary children or those who left the school long ago; which is a little disturbing. Why not be more conventional and play with ones who are pupils here now or, at the very least, still alive? Painting is also a bit of a weakness for him. I’ve long suspected he’s been getting someone to do his painting for him but I’ve got no hard evidence, yet. Art for art’s sake but please give this up for God’s sake.
|Unfortunately Christopher has not been able to play any of the right notes let alone in anything approaching the right order. But to his credit he did sing a heartfelt version of ‘Why Does it Always Rain on Me?’ at morning assembly when each pupil had a little bit of fun choosing the song which meant most to him. He does seem very interested in the fiddle, though, and maybe he should concentrate on that in future. Who knows? He may end up as a virtuoso. At present, though, I’d say if music is his first love then it should not be his last.
|I remain very disappointed that Christopher has again refused to take part in our debating team this year despite numerous invitations. I’m sure Christopher would have done a very good job at least until he opened his mouth. I am prepared to give him one last chance; I really can help him if he’d only listen to me. But he must learn very early on in life that if your arguments are right you have absolutely no one to fear. If he doesn’t attend next time I’ll have to inform the Head and Christopher will have to sit on the benches at the back of the debating chamber and watch the other boys in action. I really don’t think he’d like that. He’s very ambitious after all.
|I have no idea why Christopher was chosen for this option. Nor do any of my colleagues I’ve spoken to including my successor as head of Law. I really think he should drop this subject and concentrate on the things he is good at, whatever they are.
|Christopher is a keen cricketer but most of his deliveries are so wide of the mark they’re dangerous. When batting I’ve never come across a player so frequently stumped. And I’m afraid I’m not impressed by a batsman who, when so obviously caught out, refuses to admit it immediately and do the decent thing. I suggest he might benefit from a spell in the Third XI.
|I’m very disappointed by this report Christopher. There is only one subject in which you excel. I just wonder whether you might be better off in a different class. Or maybe in a different school altogether? I had high hopes for you when you joined us last September. You now seem completely lost. But I think I may be able to help you find your way to the right place for you. I’ll give it some thought over the summer holidays. D.C.
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Do Right, Fear No One
Michael (Bloody) Turner