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Monday Message 24.02.14

CBA Chairman’s Update:
Nigel Lithman QC

Monday 24 February 2014


Personal Email: [email protected]

As I approach the halfway stage (for those Grand National Aficionados Beecher’s Brook second time around) and reach the end of 6 months in office, this is the moment to look both backwards and forwards. What have we achieved, what can we achieve and what will be the future of the Criminal Bar?
I have dug out my first Monday Message. It began:
“I am now privileged to Chair the largest specialist bar association of England and Wales. My loyalty and ambitions begin and end with the Criminal Bar. I am not political with a large P (though at my age I am afraid I do need quite regularly a large P). I do not propose to lose my sense of humour”.
Whilst I usually cannot see a good gag on the side of the road and cross to the other side, I seem to have lost my sense of humour. Following six months of ceaseless blows by government, which I and the CBA have been trying to parry on all our behalves, one realises that the might of the Ministry of Justice is a steam roller that has no concern as to who is squashed in its wake.
The Monday Message of 1st September continued:
“It is frankly undesirable that those who do not exclusively represent the criminal bar, i.e. the Bar Chairman and the Circuit leaders, have met with Mr. Grayling whilst the representatives of the CBA have not. I wish this to change and hope Mr. Grayling will agree to meet with me”
I was sure that he could be persuaded to listen, would show a keen interest to engage actively with our profession and a willingness to participate in a true consultation process.
He did meet with me. I have not won him over. On each of the occasions I have met him he has not paused to listen. When offered the brightest and best to make savings, he has said “no thank you” and when presented with an analysis of statistics that query the integrity of his Ministry’s figures, he continues to ignore them.
So what have we achieved?
We have shown that when we said we would not undertake VHCCs at rates cut by 30%, we meant it
We have shown that the profession will not go quietly into the night
We have demonstrated our resolve and unity of purpose
We underlined the strength of our response by choosing not to work for a half day in January, the first ever in the history of our profession
We have stood shoulder to shoulder in support of our fellow solicitors
We have highlighted the false economy of the proposed cuts
Our message has been heard far and wide
We have continued to try and show the value of what we can bring to the process. While working in Birmingham, I met and was hugely impressed by “a prodigy” and brought him into the heart of the CBA. Chris Henley of Carmelite has both deconstructed and offered to reconstruct the government figures. He has shown the cuts to be unnecessary. Had I been the Justice Secretary I’d have bitten his hand off to recruit him. Of course they’re not interested. Even now Chris continues to bring illumination to the topic HERE
In September I went on (and on):
“I propose to continue to beat the same drum as over the years, except this time louder. We cannot accept any more cuts. I am not a trade union leader. I am Chair of an ancient and honourable profession”
So who and what is the CBA? First and foremost it is not a trade union, it is the parliament and voice of the Criminal Bar. It has always been democratically elected for that purpose. It has over 70 members on its executive. It has 18 appointed members selected by the Circuit Leaders, who are thus substantially represented.
Every criminal set of chambers chose its delegate last year. Some are the Heads of Chambers themselves. Hence any decision made by the executive is wholly democratic and made by a sizeable slice of the criminal bar. But just as important it will be fed by what we hear from you as individuals or the correspondence you send.
Over the last 6 months the Criminal Bar has looked to us for leadership. I hope they think they have received it. There is invariably more than one answer as to what to do and what ultimately we hope to do is up to you.  My experience has been that whilst many may have disagreed, none have come up with better ideas and those most critical invariably have come up with no ideas.
We have to do the best we can. There is no quick fix. It is the executive that has led the steps taken forward by you as individuals. Such steps continue to be taken to try and persuade the Ministry to listen, pause and change its course.
What can we achieve?
As we await the response to the Second Consultation on Legal Aid, it remains to be seen if anything has been achieved. But our resolve to stand up to protect our profession and the role it plays in our criminal justice system will remain undiminished. We will continue to show we will not accept work without a proper fee and the false economy of the Government’s strategy.
Where to next?

Watch for news in your area as to the shape the day will take. Involvement is entirely a matter for you.

The LCCSA have today issued the following release to its members:


Are You a True Professional? – Then join us on Friday 7th March.
After the failure of Price Competitive Tendering, we allknow that Government ‘Plan B’ is just as bad.
This plan is to make outright legal aid cuts ranging from17.5% up to 68%, and also to hugely limit the number of firms eligible for duty solicitor contracts. In one stroke, this destroys two key strengths of our industry – our diversity and our professionalism.  The effect will be to drive most high street firms out of business, not to mention bankrupting hundreds of barristers trying to persevere with criminal law.
Never forget these examples under current proposals from September 2013:
1) Police Station – Fixed Fees of £160 with no escape clause.   
2) Magistrates’ Court trial – £258 standard fee for the ENTIRE defence case.
3) A series of financial punishments if your client dares to plead ‘not guilty’ in the Crown Court 
What was our response, as professionals? – 
– 808 firms, and 53 barristers chambers signed up to this website,  all stating that professional conduct would be impossible,
– Another 2,000 consultation responses have been filed, added to the original 16,000 last Summer.
– Discontent with The Law Society’s handling of these reforms led to a vote of ‘No Confidence’ in its leadership,
– An independent report from Oxford Economics  estimated £89m of savings will happen without any government reform.
– On 6th January 2014, the first ever co-ordinated action between the Bar and solicitors, estimated at 75% support across England and Wales.
Despite all of this, the government show little sign of listening. They still falsely present these cuts as necessary government savings. They still refuse to acknowledge these cuts are deliberately targeted towards those pleading ‘not guilty’.  
So we have tried engagement. We have tried argument. And we have provided expert evidence. But they are not listening, and time is running out.
So – what alternative remains open to us, as professionals?
True professionals do not stand aside and watch the destruction of their criminal justice system. True professionals do not shrug their shoulders and say “Well it’s austerity, I suppose”. True professionals are not prepared to act as a veneer of legitimacy in a system brought to its knees by ideologically-driven cuts. True professionals did not spend years learning and protecting the principles of fairness, diligence and duty, only to surrender it all without a whimper, without a fight.
On Friday 7th March 2014, each lawyer will make their own decision. But all true professionals will stand together and take action by not attending Court.
A rally is taking place in Central London, followed by a Training Event from 1 to 4pm at The Library, Central Hall Westminster, Storey’s Gate, Westminster, London SW1H 9NH. All true professionals are welcome, and details of the format and speakers at the event will follow.
This need not be a case of ‘Some of us tried to stop this’. It can be ‘All of us stood up, and all of us stopped this’.
 On Friday 7th March 2014, each lawyer will make their own decision. But all true professionals will stand together and take action by not attending Court.

A rally is to take place Outside Parliament at 10am, organised in conjunction with and supported by CBA , CLSA and Justice Alliance, speakers so far confirmed include, Maxine Peake, Shami Chakrabati, Paddy Hill and Ian Lawrence.
This will be followed by a march onto the MOJ before assembling for a Training Event from 1 to 4pm at The Library, Central Hall Westminster, Storey’s Gate, Westminster, London SW1H 9NH. All true professionals are welcome, and details of the format and speakers at the event will follow.

Click here to book for the Training.

Those who wish will refuse to do anything other than their own work for a maximum of one month from 7th March. This strategy if widely supported will make its mark in days, not weeks. The CBA will monitor it closely and report on its progress week by week.
We know that anyone that returns work does so reluctantly. It is not in our blood, but the overall impact greatly increased where we stand united and strong.
Be assured of one thing, when fighting to save the future of our profession, we do this for the juniors and the CBA has that at the forefront of its collective mind.
Details of the respective protocols and FAQ’s can be found HERE.


  1. I do not wish this dispute to define my tenure. We need to continue to look to improve our system and be open to doing so by looking both here and abroad.

  2. On Wednesday I addressed a student body about these challenges. I wish to try and ensure the survival of a Bar within which it is worth spending one’s professional life.  After I spoke at the Network of Students I gave THIS interview

  3. I also spoke to a number of new silks this week, including the two from 2 Bedford Row whom I may be forgiven for mentioning. The CBA send its congratulations to all in the list. I have to single out Mark Fenhalls QC who has been amongst the most steady and industrious of CBA supporters. The excitement they experienced and the thrill of their accomplishment, is of course being jeopardised by all that is happening. Those of us who became silks in a different era are aware how much more fortunate we were, it is that which spurs us to fight for the future of this profession.

  4. Of course when I see myself pilloried in the national press, words twisted round to maximise headlines, or read of my income and wonder what that has to do with the price of eggs, I wonder whether it is mere chance that these items seem to appear shortly before another government announcement?

  5. Talking of reflections, thanks to all my stress eating I may now need a very large mirror to see the whole thing, but the person I see still has his principles and promises intact and I aim to leave office with them in the same condition.


Nigel Lithman QC

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