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Monday Message 28.07.14

CBA Chairman’s Update:
Nigel Lithman QC

Monday 28 July 2014


Personal Email: [email protected]

Time and Tide  

So long, farewell, auf wiedersein, adieu
There are few periods in our lives when we count the time, day by day, week by week, month by month. But my last year has been a little like this and by no means all in a bad way. It has been a great experience and I would not have missed it for the world.
As we move into August, many of you who have assiduously read the Monday Message (and I’m reliably informed you range from the Lord Chancellor through to the newest of pupils) will be taking your summer holidays and hence if there is a time to bid you farewell and say my thank yous, it is now.
It is right that I am weary but neither beaten nor bowed. The state that the Criminal Bar finds itself in has changed radically over the past year. Whether I leave it a better place than I found it will be for others to decide. Of course I hope so. If along the way I have upset any of you I apologise.
I had limited ambitions. I restricted it to those I believed could be achieved and made no secret of this. I resolved that none of us would work for a penny more cuts and you agreed and so we have not. I was one of a number that universally said we would not do VHCC work under the regime of the cuts introduced by the statutory instrument and we have not.
Alongside the threatened cuts, QASA was another potential hammer blow to the Criminal Bar.  Having been advised it was unlawful, you agreed that we would continue to fight to oppose it. We have. And then came the PDS: we determined to see no further expansion beyond the last recruitment round and we have not.
How did we manage to do it? We did it by being men and women of our word. When we said we would not do something we stuck to it, just as when we said that we would do something, we fulfilled our professional obligations to do so.
What did we learn? That we have the right to be heard.That we have the right to say no. When we work as a united team, we are at our most effective. But as important as any of these things, if we are sitting down with government and explaining why these things are unacceptable, we can head off any dispute at the pass.
I hope we have done it in a civilized manner, there is rarely if ever an excuse for rudeness.
At what cost? At the cost of pain felt by many. Among them, those who e-mailed me through the year to say that they were unable to sustain a proper living, even with a freeze on further fee cuts and were being forced out of the profession.
It is those communications that were the most upsetting, knowing that we could not save all those who had invested so much in the profession. But I was heartened to know that we have made a difference to many, the individuals who continue to write and come up to me to say, “you don’t know me, I recognise you, but I’d like to say thank you” and “by the way a bit of a diet might help.”
Of course the internecine battle, after the government gave us what we had asked for on AGFs, had a deep effect on me but I was always aware that leadership brings difficult decisions and rarely leaves everyone happy.
From that darkness we have come into the light. There are many challenges ahead but we are moving forward with a sense of direction and purpose. Anyone looking at the CBA now will note that having earned a seat at the High Table we are fully committed to it. Some examples of that this week: we met with the MOJ/LAA to consider the Jeffrey recommendations as part of our program of meetings that move towards understanding the department’s statistics, the future of AGFS and VHCC replacement and the Leveson inquiry.
We met with Fulford LJ to discuss pre trial case management and a group spent a day with Geoffrey Rivlin as he moves his inquiry on. There is the buzz of industry and the smell of progress.
Government and those involved from the judiciary know they have a choice. They can take our ancient and honourable profession on a journey into the present, or they can leave behind a resentful group that now knows it has rights it can demand. The easy way is always better than the more difficult.
Let me say my deeply personal thank you’s. The small group of Tony Cross, Thomas Payne, Richard Bentwood, Emma nee Nash and Aaron Dolan has stuck together as if with superglue. We have forged indissoluble bonds and I can never repay their constant efforts, support and affection.
Outside of them I have had a small team of advisers and confidantes; they know who they are, how much I have relied on them and how much I have appreciated their help.
We are all indebted to Nick Lavender for his superb leadership and his ongoing commitment to secure and protect a fairer deal for the Criminal Bar and to the team of Circuit Leaders who have worked closely with the CBA to try and secure our futures. On behalf of us all, I thank them.
I won’t single out those from our executive, but may I give special mention and thanks to Chris Henley, Valerie Charbit and Mark Trafford for their enormous help and total commitment to the CBA; and to Dermot Keating for all his hard work and support in the early months of my chairmanship.
All our clerks have played an important part in supporting our campaign, may I thank publicly John Grimmer and the team at 2 Bedford Row.
I have really enjoyed the close communications with the press and correspondents who undoubtedly have understood our various positions and as I’ve said before, our relations with our Lord Chief and D.P.P. are exactly where they should be.
So there it is. I will leave you undisturbed to your Summer breaks. If there is anything I can do to help, I hope you will continue to ask me.
You have one thing to do now if you haven’t already done so. Cast your vote for your next Vice Chairman – HERE is the link to their manifestos and HERE to their podcasts. The deadline 4pm, 30 July is almost upon us so please vote.
Then go to sleep and when you awake it will all have been a dream. It will be September and you will be under the watchful and caring eye of Tony Cross.
Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu.

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