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Monday Message 27.01.14

CBA Chairman’s Update:
Nigel Lithman QC

Monday 27 January 2014


Personal Email: [email protected]

Yesterday was a big day for me. I was making a presentation in the morning unrelated to the CBA, before being due to attend and meet with the BSB, Vanessa Davies and Baroness Deech.
Thereafter came one of the pleasures of this job. I had been invited to make an after dinner speech to a seminar of pupils attending an Inner Temple Advocacy Course at a  (sorry I meant “an”) hotel in Surrey.
But between all of that came the small matter of “Big Bucks.”
“Big Bucks” as many of you will know is a racehorse. He is one of the all time great hurdlers and was looking for his 19th victory in 5 years yesterday at Cheltenham.
The Ministry of Justice I’m sure would have collectively lost a lot of money on “Big Bucks “.  After all they have shown themselves willing to back Big Bucks to beat the Criminal Bar.
The advertisement for the PDS, or Pitiful Defence Scheme, as it should be known, has shown the Government will pay big bucks for a poor service, but poor bucks for a better service.
Let us say here and now that if the Government assured ALL of the Junior Bar that they would earn the equivalent of the £46,000 MINIMUM salary they advertise, i.e. about £80,000 plus on self employed figures, allowing for sick pay, pension, holidays, expenses, then this dispute would disappear.
Equally if they assured ALL silks £125,000 MINIMUM salary i.e. £200,000 plus on self employed figures, that too would satisfy us.
They have shown what they think the Bar should earn. They just don’t want to pay us. To continue the racing metaphor they would rather back the also rans. Let them pay us those figures.
If they won’t this dispute will continue and intensify.
As for the Pitiful Defence Scheme, I guess we should wish the Government luck.  After all, those thinking of applying will remember they tried it before and it didn’t work then.
On Monday the judgment was received, analysed and both the litigants in person plus their indemnifiers met with our solicitors and counsel.
Whilst the result was disappointing, the shortcomings the court found with the scheme shows the BSB has plenty of work to do.
Meanwhile the shortcomings our lawyers found in the Judgment shows there is still plenty of work for us and our lawyers to do.
But one thing we do expect of our regulators, if the words of Baroness Deech in support of the Criminal Bar are to mean anything, is the recognition that the Criminal Bar cannot deal with what I have referred to as the crushing pincer movement of the Government and regulators at the same time.
They both have to take their feet off of our necks.
We call on the regulators to regain some credence, without prejudice to anything else, and push back the start dates of this scheme an appreciable, not nominal period.
This will help allow the appropriate debate on this scheme to play out.
As of Monday 10a.m. their announcement that the first registrations have been put back to May provides the first signs of some understanding of this situation. Read the BSB’s announcement HERE
Meanwhile following on from the Judgment, a CBA Briefing note prepared by our lawyers can be read HERE
The first small step of what we have been asking for was taken by the Government on Friday morning. They put up their figures team of about 7 people to meet with reps of the CBA  (we took Chris Henley and Mark Fenhalls), the Bar Council (who brought Professor Chalkley and the Circuit Leaders.
They gave a presentation, which seems to leave two gaping holes

  1. We don’t understand why they start with the figure of £220 million to be saved, when this figure appears to now be irrelevant.  
  2. They don’t seem to know what figure they wish to achieve in these cuts.

In other words, no matter what the figures say, they are bent on making cuts, which makes no economic sense. Whilst this continues, the Government must just be seeing us as soft political targets.
One of their reps used the expression “ IF the Minister introduces these cuts…” I asked her: “Don’t you mean WHEN? “ She said she was choosing her words carefully.
It was left that they will get back to us quickly with Further and Better Particulars.
The second meeting of the professions was held at Kingsley Napley (last week’s new best friend Nicola Hill sadly has now been replaced – see below).
It has produced a press release that shows the fight is now with the combined forces of both professions.
It is quite clear that both the solicitors and Bar are keen that the impetus of the 6th January is not allowed to dwindle. They are looking for action. Of course we will not leave them high and dry.
A number of different steps are being suggested.
Irrespective of our next steps, Nick Lavender QC, Chairman of the Bar, is spearheading a Legal Aid Rally in mid February. We are delighted with the initiative and we will all want to support it.
I emphasise, this will not be instead of the action you want, but in addition to it.
Gave me a wonderful opportunity to encourage pupils to try and stay the course. I wonder if anyone from the Ministry of Justice would look them in the eye and try to justify their plans.

The pupils who sat either side of me full of fun and determination – thank you Tariq and Reyan.

“ Big Bucks” the horse the Government has backed has started odds on favourite in each of its last 18 races. Yesterday it was beaten by the 66/1 outsider. We too maybe outsiders, but I have no doubt we will overcome this crisis.

Nigel Lithman QC

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