Ten years asleep – An alternative history of the CPR

“Let us not kid ourselves here, we need to be realistic. Whatever the original intention of Sir Robin Auld, the pushing of these schemes is not to do with ensuring justice, it is not to do with protecting the public, it’s not even to do with sparing witnesses where possible, it is to do with ramming through cases as quickly as possible, wringing as many guilty pleas as possibly, with the ultimate aim of saving money – pure and simple. Whether the changes are right or wrong (and in fairness it’s probably a mixture of the two) we have sleepwalked into what is a fundamental twisting of the adversarial process and a fundamental change to our criminal justice system.”

Dan Bunting - A Life in the Bus Lane

Just one of the examples of the consequences of a sea-change Just one of the examples of the consequences of a sea-change

Introduction

Ian West got into a bit of hot bother when he let rip with a judge and said what many of us would want to say when being put on the naughty step for failing to properly engage with ‘case management’. I’m not going to look into the rights and wrongs of that here. Suffice to say that I wouldn’t have dealt with matters the way that Ian did. And, whilst I can see that legitimate criticism can attach to his behaviour, it seems to me that Matthew Scott put it best when saying it was a bit of a storm in a teacup.

But, what is at the heart of all this is the ‘brave new world’ of case management. Although I say ‘new’, it is now heading towards being a teenager, with all the tantrums…

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Proud to Be

“So Chris, why is it that you hate lawyers so much? Why is it that you are more than happy for all sorts to earn vast amounts out of the justice system, as long as it is not the lawyers? Capita? G4S? Serco? They can have millions and millions of pounds of public money. Lawyers? They deserve crushing.”

A view from the North

Dear Chris,

you probably do not recall meeting me. I am just one of a number of angry lawyers that you have met with over the last year or so. When we met in the Town Hall in Altrincham, I was very angry and you were very wrong. Not much has changed.

At that time you were still peddling PCT and restrictions on client choice. You were pressing ahead with swingeing cuts to advocacy fees. You were proud of your residency test. So I suppose one or two things have changed. You have been comprehensively and repeatedly proved wrong. You have abandoned or delayed some of your more disastrous proposals. The courts have given you a bloody nose on others.

Have you changed? Not one bit.

At that meeting you innocently told the room of criminal barristers and solicitors, “I have been accused of saying that barristers are fat cats…

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Seventeenth Letter to the Lord Chancellor

Lynton Crosby. Says it all really

theintrigant

Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice,

Mr Chris Grayling MP,

22nd July 2014,

Dear Lord Chancellor,

Well you survived the reshuffle you old dog. It’s no surprise to me that you have kept your job given things are going so well at the MOJ with you at the helm.

Prisons policy
1. Prison officer numbers have been cut by 30% between 2010 and 2013 (27,650 down to 19,325).
2. 18 jails have closed in that period with a reduction of 6,500 places.
3. But there has been a recent sharp rise in the prison population.

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Rights and Wrongs

Some might call it a fantasy, but……

A view from the North

The night of the long knives has arrived. The Prime Minister sits alone in his office. Before the night is over the walls will be coated with the blood of many a politician. The BBC correspondent, Nick Robinson, has just Tweeted that the Lord Chancellor is on his way to see the PM. That meeting never actually happened. This is the imagined conversation if the meeting had taken place.

LC: Prime Minister, before you make any decisions that I come to regret can I just say that it’s not all my fault. I mean we never expected that the barristers could get organised but it’s all sorted now. There was a problem, now problem gone. And we still have the solicitors on the ropes. And the prisons, well we embarked upon a benchmarking process and we set the benchmark too low for the number of officers compared to our high…

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Position Vacant – No Experience Required

I am speechless. Jaime Hamilton less so, thank goodness.

“He is notionally the Leader of the Bar (and the Bar Council should act immediately to end that tradition after this appointment). He advises the Government on the law (would they usually go to someone with 8 years experience to advise on whether we go to war?). He appoints the head of the Crown Prosecution Service (a job that an 8 year post call advocate would not even get an interview, if he applied).”

A view from the North

I will declare this personal interest – many moons ago, when we were both undergraduates, I was kind of friends with Robert Buckland MP. I believe him to be an able and decent man. He is also an all round nice fellow. Nice enough that, when I contacted him through the mist of years to discuss Legal Aid, he was prepared to listen and engage.

This is not just a bit of lame name dropping by me, it is so you know that background when I excuse him from the criticism that I level here. He has been appointed Solicitor-General and I do not see anything wrong with that appointment. He is an able deputy to the Attorney-General, being called in 1991, practising until 2010 and being appointed a Recorder in 2009. What is remarkable is that he is the deputy to Jeremy Wright. The new Attorney-General was called in…

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Act in Unison

Jaime ponders the possibilities for unity within the whole profession. He’s not wrong!

A view from the North

In response to my recent blog, Another Step, I received a number of comments along the lines of “how can the solicitors unite?” Now, it is not for me to tell the solicitors how they may go about unifying, but I’ll give it a go anyway!

The Bar always had problems “unifying” before now. The first lesson the Bar had to learn was that unity was not the same as unanimity. We achieved unity by largely acting together but recognised that we would not carry everyone with us. We also learnt that acting together sometimes meant going along with a tactic we did not particularly agree with.

So the solicitors need to forget about having everybody on board. It is not going to happen. They also have to put aside the view that they may have a better idea of how to act. You need one voice announcing the…

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Friends Again

I take my hat off, again, to Jaime Hamilton. Nigel Lithman, Tony Cross, are you listening. THIS is what your members really care about.

A view from the North

With the announcement over VHCCs it would seem that the Bar and the MoJ are friends again. I am not sure that the same can be said for the solicitors’ profession and the MoJ. The Law Society have always seemed on friendlier terms but there seems little genuine affection. And when it comes to the Bar and the solicitors, well, that is a topic far too controversial for little old me.

So now the Bar are friends again with the MoJ it is time for the Bar to tell the MoJ some of the things that only friends can really say to each other. You know the sort of thing – “you have halitosis” or “you get a bit whiffy towards the end of a warm day”.

So here goes – all this stuff about fees has been fiddling whilst Rome burns. The CJS, your CJS, no, our CJS

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