Monday Message 24.03.14
CBA Chairman’s Update:
Nigel Lithman QC
Monday 24 March 2014
Personal Email: [email protected]
“TWO FAT LADIES – 84”
Yes I know. Of course I know. I was brought up in Essex, where I also spent a lot of time as a junior. Southend is my preferred choice of court to sit as a Recorder, where I feel close to the sea and Rossi ice cream and the Kursaal Amusement Park.
So of course I am proficient in “Bingo calling” and whilst I may not be endowed with “Legs 11”, I am aware that two fat ladies bless them are 88. Or sadly now only one.
But it is not me that has difficulties with my numbers, it is the government. It is they who have been exposed for their incorrect use of statistics and the claim that an average earning barrister receives income of “£84,000” a year, HERE is the report from the UK Statistical Authority.
Meanwhile, the Budget delivers more insults to the Criminal Bar. In these “times of austerity”, money can be found for bingo, beer and mending potholes, but not for the Criminal Justice System – as eloquently argued by Richard Bentwood HERE.
I cannot leave Two Fat Ladies without of course noting the passing of Clarissa Dixon Wright. You will know she was at the Bar before becoming a TV Cook, a towering and formidable figure. All I need say is that she would not have put up with what’s going on either.
I suppose the one thing I should have learned from this job is that I can’t please everybody. But I knew that. Someone referred to me this week as “The Emperor”. He was being ironic, which is a shame as I went out this morning and bought my new clothes.
There are those that have asked for widespread consultation of “the 5,000”. There are also many that say “just jump in.”
We have to steer a course through all of these waters, producing firm but logical policies to try and ensure we reach our destination.
Over the last six months, the No to VHCCs at cut rates followed by the half day and then the whole days of action and, more recently, the “No Returns” policy have all been proportionate, progressive steps in response to the Government’s announcements.
We have now put in place an urgent consultation so that you all have the opportunity of influencing “the next steps”.
HEADS OF CHAMBERS AND CBA REPS:
PLEASE CONSULT WITH YOUR MEMBERS. IT IS THEIR VIEWS WE WISH TO KNOW AS WELL AS YOUR OWN. WHICH OF THE POLICIES OF OPPOSITION DO THEY SUPPORT (if any) AND WHICH DO THEY WISH TO SEE CONTINUED AND/OR INCREASED?
PLEASE RETURN THE FORMS TO US BY THIS FRIDAY.
THE SOLICITORS’ DAYS OF ACTION
The solicitors have our support of course in this battle. It is our battle. They know this has not always meant doing the identical things at the same time. At this moment, the Bar has in place two concurrent “actions”: the resolution not to undertake VHCCs at cut rates and the effective “no returns policy”, both directed at demonstrating the need for a strong, independent legal profession in delivering an effective and quality criminal justice system.
We have committed to consulting your views – and anticipate there will be other days of action to follow and of increasing lengths over the coming months. I would not pretend that there is not a strong voice for also walking out on these two days next week. As a very minimum, I have no doubt that the Criminal Bar will not be prepared to take up any work on the 31st March/1st April in place of our solicitor colleagues.
This landscape changes every day and as is often said in disclosure issues, mine is the duty of constant review. I am doing it on a daily basis.
“2 & 8 – IN A STATE”
Fortunately, the Sunday Mail was brought to my attention and was able to restore my humour. Bob Neill MP, Tory Vice Chairman, accuses The BBC of bias because the excellent TV drama “Silk” accurately observed that soon the Criminal Justice System would not be able to find juniors of ability to support silks where required.
I doubt very much that Bob chose the headline “BBC in bias row as Silk stars back the fat cat barristers”, as he of course was known when at the Council of London as “Three Jobs Bob “, for the tireless efforts he made in three lucrative areas.
Bob was on the Parliamentary Bill Committee the other day that heard evidence from me. Had I known that what really interested him was what’s on tele, I’d have directed my answers to that. But it is comforting to know that the prescribed reading for those from the Tory party that speak on the Criminal Justice System is the Radio Times.
“Number 3 – CUP OF TEA”
There will soon be three ongoing, important and separate inquiries into aspects of the Criminal Justice system (“Jeffrey”, “Leveson” and “Rivlin” Reviews). The CBA will be contributing to each in a major way. Meanwhile, whether every step is or isn’t your “cup of tea”, I continue to ask that you support the CBA in the efforts it is making to win this battle on your behalf.
When the Government Caller down at Mecca Bingo announces that all the cuts are adjourned until the landscape has been properly surveyed, I will be the first to shout “HOUSE”.
We will then do what is necessary to help reconstruct the CJS.