Mr Whippy

“Whilst courtrooms sit empty the list of unheard cases piles ever higher. Want to fix a sex case of more than four days? That will be next year. A custody time limit case? Squeezed in to a single potential date irrespective of availability. Happen to be charged with an offence not involving a vulnerable witness and you are on bail? Well just take a seat and we will get to you eventually.”
Just how this catalogue of waste and incompetence by MoJ escapes the attention of the mainstream press, I do NOT understand.

A view from the North

Amidst the frenzy of the “Deal or No Deal” dilemma for the Criminal Bar I confess I lost sight of just how much of a mess the criminal justice system is in. Issues concerning remuneration are undoubtedly having a massive impact. Standards are plummeting in the advocacy skills on display in the Crown Court. Virtually every advocate you speak to has a plan B, an escape route. The uncertain future, where the only certainty is insufficient remuneration, is decreasing the numbers applying for pupillage to undertake criminal work. I see many advocates undertaking cases beyond their experience (a vital ally to latent ability) due to commercial pressures. That should not be read as a criticism of solicitor advocates, I detect similar problems at the Bar as well.

However the mess I speak of is not to do with fees, advocacy skills or talent drain. The whole system is in meltdown…

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The Decline and Fall of the Criminal Justice System

It’s not like this kind of thing happens only once in a blue moon. Ministers and Civil Servants are fully aware of it. Time and again, victims, defendants, and witnesses, including the vulnerable,,are told at the very last minute, that their trials cannot go ahead. No judge, or no court, because the Government did not provide one., This includes complainants in Rape, as well as child sexual assault trials.
Just think how shattering it must be for them, having had to psyche themselves up for months, to be told they have to wait many more months.

Utterbarrister

Readers of this and other better blogs know all too well that the CJS has been crumbling around our ears for years now. Successive cuts to the infrastructure, fees, interpreters, Prison Service, general outsourcing have all contributed through successive governments to a system that is held together by the joint professions dwindling goodwill, sticking plaster, a hope and a prayer.

We all have horror stories of the inefficiencies racking up cost and expense, both in stark monetary terms and also in terms of time and consequential “indirect costs”. Be it the ludicrous prisoner transport costs – the “contract time” to get prisoners from one particular prison to Winchester CC was – wait for it – 15.30. Yes, you read that right – so long as G4S or Serco or whichever got the poor lag to court by 15:30, they were within contract and no penalties accrued. Bradford – murder trial…

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Sixteenth Letter to the Lord Chancellor

“The most important thing here is not justice, not fairness, not the credibility of the FCA, not the taxpayer, nor anything else, the most important thing here is your dignity. Don’t worry about the trivial notion of something like justice, think only of your career; avoiding professional embarrassment is the ONLY thing that matters now.”

theintrigant

Sixteenth Letter to the Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice,

Mr Chris Grayling,

22nd May 2014

Re: Operation Cotton (R v Scott Crawley and others)

Dear Lord Chancellor,

I want to congratulate you on your Court of Appeal pyrrhic victory yesterday. It will make your appearance on BBC Question Time later tonight a little easier, but we both know that you are in a very tight spot here.

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An Important Step & A Debt of Gratitude

CriminalDefenceBarrister

images

The kicking dished out by the Court of Appeal to HHJ Leonard QC yesterday was not unexpected. A stay of criminal proceedings is, and must be, a most exceptional remedy and it’s pretty difficult to justify when then State says it can and will provide adequate representation within the foreseeable future (although whether anybody else will regard the quality of this State-provided representation as “adequate” is another matter).

But Judge Leonard’s ruling was robust and courageous, and to him we at the Bar owe a significant debt of gratitude. He may well have foreseen as inevitable the appellate repercussions, but he succeeded in bringing a crucial issue squarely back into the limelight, even if only for a week or two.

I’m sure that he, like the rest of the Judiciary, is fed up with sub-standard advocates appearing before him bringing inefficiency and obfuscation to even the most simple of trials…

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A Fairy Story

An allegorical masterpiece. Let’s hope it’s protagonists recognise themselves and their folly

A view from the North

Picture, if you will, two island states. One of them is called the Great Barrister Isles, the other is the Isle of Solicitors. The Great Barrister Isles are made up of lots of little independent countries, the Isle of Solicitors is more tribal but a proud and venerable civilisation none the less.

Dividing these two great island nations is a patch of water called the Referral Straits. This area of sea is of critical strategic importance to both civilisations. It is also the trade route between the two. Each of the nations had very different traditions and strengths. The Great Barrister Isles fished in the seas around them. The Isle of Solicitors had enormous mineral reserves and vast crops. Trade between the two nations was vital.

One day the people of these two islands awoke to find that they had been besieged. At every port and along every shipping lane…

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The PDS Business Plan (I – Police Station)

Dan Bunting is devilishly good at sums. The MoJ is notoriously otherwise. Here he demonstrates the attractive economics that Grayling may well have been a aiming at all along. Cut the budget, and above all, Control The Justice System form both sides. Scary? You bet.

THIS is why the CJS has to be united, Bar and Solicitors, to resist the attempt by Government, and Grayling in particular, to monopolise our courts by stealth.

As Dan says:

“In a fair fight with private sector firms and the bar, the PDS is toast. It is also much more expensive. But the MoJ can rig the market and save money and keep more control. Ignore the PDS at your peril.”

Dan Bunting - A Life in the Bus Lane

From equaljusticeworks.org - not appearing in a Court near you as they're in the USA From equaljusticeworks.org – not appearing in a Court near you as they’re in the USA

Introduction

The Operation Cotton appeal has been heard and we await the Court of Appeal’s response. One aspect that caused some level of derision in the legal community is the fact that the MoJ’s answer to the fact that people won’t do VHCCs at a 30% reduction is to bulk up the Public Defender Service (PDS), bringing in barristers (and I think that it has all been barristers. So far). Given that it’s always more expensive to employ people than have them freelance, and the salaries that they are paying are pretty tasty, how can this make any sense?

Tweet FFQC

On the face of it, that’s clearly right. If the point of the PDS is just to ‘firefight’ when naughty barristers go on strike, then this is madness. But many suspect that there is a slightly…

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Operation Cotton – does it matter who wins?

Dan Bunting - A Life in the Bus Lane

All eyes on this man - photo from the Gazette All eyes on this man – photo from the Gazette

Introduction

On 13th May 2014, the Court of Appeal heard, and reserved judgment in, the Prosecutor’s appeal in the Court of Appeal. Permission was given by Leveson P for the proceedings to be filmed, but unfortunately it wasn’t possible to watch it live. There was some sterling work done by some of the people there in getting the live action out on to twitter. If you weren’t following it, Lucy Reed summarised the real time tweets on it in a storified piece, which is a pretty good summary.

The smart money, at the end, appeared to be that the Court of Appeal would allow the appeal :

Where next?

We’ll have…

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Jeffrey’s Review – Summary and Thoughts – Fusion is a coming?

Dan Bunting’s analyses on so many topics are unerringly accurate. This is no exception

Dan Bunting - A Life in the Bus Lane

From the Guardian From the Guardian

Introduction

The Jeffrey’s Review into “Independent criminal advocacy in England and Wales” was released on 7th May 2014. The full report is here and worth reading. It is one of the three reports into criminal advocacy that is in the pipework.

Most people would be looking at this for ammunition in the ongoing battle with the MoJ about fees, but this was specifically excluded from the terms of reference of the report. But, as Sir Bill recognises, “legal aid fee rates are neither the whole story nor none of it. The income to be derived from doing publicly funded work clearly affects behaviour, but there are, I believe, other factors at work which deserve attention“. The Terms of Reference are in a separate document here.

There are important questions raised as to the future. Here is a very quick summary of the report and…

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Operation Cotton

This from Tim Thomas. A very experienced Junior Barrister, whose principal practice lies in VHCC work. He really DOES know what he is talking about.

A view from the North

I post here a guest blog from Tim Thomas, someone who knows first hand about Operation Cotton

Timothy Thomas is a direct access barrier specialising in Commercial Criminal Fraud at 1 Pump Court. Here he gives his views on how the government should respond to the dramatic disintegration of the Operation Cotton trial last week.
If the Government, in the form of MoJ officials, continue to blame the Criminal Bar for exercising its right in an (albeit rigged) market to reject unfavorable contract terms, it needs to wise up pretty quickly.
The prosecuting authority in Operation Cotton, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), bears responsibility (along with the Prudential Regulation Authority) for ensuring that companies, their directors and their employees behave appropriately towards investors when they raise capital. When they do not, the FCA have the power to impose civil sanctions or launch criminal prosecutions.
Such regulation must be at the…

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