Cradle to Grave

Yeah, but then you leeching parasites spin out all those pre trial hearings as long as possible to screw the legal aid fund for as much as you can stuff in your fat wallets dontcha?
Er… Was that all right Mr Dacre?

A view from the North

A few years ago the CPS advertised for lawyers who would see the case from “cradle to grave”. The advertisement showed a lawyer one step behind the police as they burst in through the door of the suspect’s house and then showed the same lawyer representing the Crown before the Crown Court Judge. The sort of lawyer that Emma Thompson would play in a film.

The idea of case ownership is laudable. That a lawyer should have overall control of the case from start to finish has obvious benefits. Decisions are made early, issues are refined and the trial process is more efficient. It is true for both sides, prosecution and defence.

It is such an important aspect of the Criminal Justice System that it is catered for in the Criminal Procedure Rules. Rule 3.19 of the CrPR requires the defence to notify the court of the identity of the…

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Campaigning as an independent parliamentary candidate in Devon

Lots to do in the next five years, but I think we have something here

Rich Mills

What have I learnt from the recent General Election? Well, aside from the obvious – (1) the manipulation of the media by the Conservative party is absolute, (2) politicians can and will lie in order to get elected without anybody questioning what they say & (3) Moretonhampstead is a socialist enclave in the heart of True Blue Devon, I have learnt this:

It is and probably always will be really difficult for an independent candidate to challenge an established, mainstream party MP seeking re-election.

I watched the campaign of Claire Wright with interest as we had a previous employer in common, I work in the constituency where Claire was standing – Devon East – and also I liked what she had to say. Claire’s campaign went brilliantly and there was a real groundswell of support, great coverage in the press, strong performances in hustings and bookmakers flagged Claire as a potential upset…

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A Brief Note for Briefs

Still more reasons why a vote to give the CBA a mandate to resist further government action against the CJS, is a MUST
Don’t lets roll over again this time.
It’s the LAST time

A view from the North

Joseph Markus from Garden Court North in Manchester, attended the CLSA and LCCSA Rally about Dual Contracts. He kindly agreed to produce this briefing note. Clearly he wrote it for publication before the General Election. However, as the time for decisions about action draws nearer, it is important that as many people as possible understand what is afoot. Joe’s note is a pretty succinct explanation of what is planned and when it is coming into effect. Maybe the new Lord Chancellor may need to read it so he is totally up to speed.

Many thanks to Joseph for producing this.

LCCSA rally – dual contracts

Criminal legal aid services are provided under contract to the Legal Aid Agency. The current position is that an individual firm can apply for a Standard Crime Contract, which gives that firm the opportunity to take instructions from new clients as well as join a…

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It is Time to Vote For The Future of The Criminal Justice System

I haven’t always agreed with CBA management.

I do this time.

I make no apology if you are now having to sponge coffee from the front of your shirt.

Tony Cross’s explanation in the MM, here of the need for the Criminal Bar to give him a mandate for action, is right. He has my full backing – for whatever that is worth.

It is vital that anyone who has not yet voted Yes, should do so now. If you are a CBA member,  you can follow the Link in that MM to the voting page.

This is not a time to say we should hold back a minute, and “engage.” and nor will we lose the opportunity to do so if we vote “Yes” now. I’ll explain why a little later on.

We must give the CBA that mandate now. We may not need to use it immediately, but it has to be a weapon at our disposal.

Let me ask you this:

How much did you earn in the last year from Direct Access work?

In a year’s time, are you going to be able to survive on that?

If Dual Contracts are implemented, you may have to.

You have heard and read the arguments. The scheme is deliberately designed so that solicitors with contracts will HAVE to take their Crown Court Advocacy work in house.

It is not scaremongering, it is what the MoJ have intended all along. In the JR proceedings, the MoJ’s counsel specifically argued that the scheme could only work if the second LGFS cut was implemented so that firms would have to consolidate and take the advocacy work in house.

The idea that “my solicitors will always be loyal to me” is nothing more than “an emotional spasm.” (see below). Partners in larger firms are only too well aware of the financial realities. Those who are subsumed or “consolidated” from high street firms into said larger firms, will be told in no uncertain terms that their duty and own client work is now the province of the managing partner who will make all decisions on allocation.

Do not think that the detailed costings calculated for the purpose of tendering for these contracts included any element of briefing out routine Crown Court work to counsel. They won’t have.

Firms who have either not tendered for the duty scheme or were unsuccessful, will have to rely on own client work. They are hardly going to be in a position to brief much if any of this out to counsel when they themselves already have an even smaller share of the pie.

The only ones who are likely to survive are those senior juniors, (or silks of course) who do work that the vast majority of solicitors would consider to be beyond their competence.

Even then we cannot rule out the possibility that certain firms will recruit senior juniors in house, to do this work as well. Some have already done so.

It is the Junior Bar, and the more junior end of it, saddled as it is with a mountain of student debt, that will be extinguished, with all the consequences that will have for the profession and the judiciary in the future.

There is a superficially attractive argument that the Bar should not take or threaten action without first engaging the new Lord Chancellor in negotiations. It presupposes one very important factor; that the Lord Chancellor is remotely interested in talking to us.

Why should he be? What has he got to gain as things stand, by doing so?

The “Deal,” by which the Bar agreed to end action in the form of “No Returns,” which all are agreed was hugely effective and brought Grayling to the table, RUNS OUT IN A FEW WEEKS! You may remember that in return for halting No Returns, the MoJ agreed to delay the imposition of AGFS cuts (cuts to the Bar’s fees) until July 2015, together with ad hoc arrangements for VHCC fees, and er… that’s it.

Mr. Gove now has an electoral mandate to continue the “work” that his predecessor had started, and in particular by

  1. the imposition of Dual Contracts on Solicitors,
  2. the second tranche of cuts to solicitors fees,
  3. AND the cut to the Bars fees.

There is nothing to stop him, and absolutely NO incentive for him to negotiate. From his point of view what is at issue? Nothing.

Think about that. Why on earth SHOULD he talk to us? What is there for him to discuss, as opposed to simply imposing these things on us?

Nothing. Nada, Rien.

Indeed it might actually be worse if he agreed a further delay to the AGFS cuts whilst proceeding with the implementation of Dual Contracts. If he did, who could blame solicitors for believing that the Bar had done yet another Deal. We haven’t as far as I know, but it would be yet another political manouevre by the MoJ to foster division between the two halves of what is still one profession.

I was castigated by some during the general election campaign for repeating a quote of Aneurin Bevan about the Conservative party, so this time I shall adapt another quote, about his own party, by adding one word.

“But if you (don’t) carry this resolution and follow out all its implications — and do not run away from it — you will send a British Foreign Secretary, whoever he may be, naked into the conference chamber. … And you call that statesmanship? I call it an emotional spasm.”

If Tony Cross is to be able to negotiate with the MoJ so as to preserve even the tiniest fragment of our Criminal Justice System, then he cannot do so without a credible deterrent in his armoury.

Just like Trident, it doesn’t mean he has to use it. The threat does not need to be specific.

I have read and listened to the views of those who promote the line that the Bar should not be taking action to support solicitors, if the solicitors themselves will not take action.

I have news for them. Many solicitors WILL take action. I know. I have been speaking to them, and the leaders of their Representative bodies for the last two years, even when such a thing was “unfashionable.”

They themselves recognize that not all of their own will do so. There will be some backsliders with nothing more than their own selfish motives to pursue. The same could be said of certain members of the Bar.

But that is not a reason for shying away from what we, and they must do now.

Solicitors have the added difficulty that they have several representative bodies. A united front in such circumstances is as impossible to achieve as say, a united Bar.

Do not forget the work of those who first promoted the petition which brought us a debate in Parliament. They were solicitors. Despite what some at the Bar have said about No Returns, anyone who has read the accounts of support given by solicitors to this action, will realize just how much work and sacrifice some of them put into that too. To suggest otherwise demonstrates an ignorance of the reality of what really did happen.

Then there were the JR proceedings, challenging Dual Contracts. Certain individuals from our sister profession worked themselves into the ground to pursue that.

The demonstrations outside Parliament and the Global Law Summit. Again organised and/or supported by our solicitor colleagues

The complaint that solicitors have done nothing to fight for OUR profession is baseless, and offensive to many. Now, some are even talking positively about taking action similar to the Bar, in the magistrates court, in the teeth of threats they may face in relation to Contract Notices. They have realized that there really is nothing left to lose. So should the Bar.

If we don’t draw a line in the sand now, which we cannot do without a mandate to take action if it is needed, then we will have consigned our profession, and our justice system to history.

A “YES” VOTE DOES NOT MEAN AN IMMINENT STRIKE, or any kind of immediate action. What it means is that Tony Cross and Mark Fenhalls can sit at a negotiating table safe in the knowledge that they have a hand to play.

Without such a vote, what is going to happen in six weeks or less, when the Mephistophelian MoJ say, “Right, time’s up. The Deal has expired. Your fees are cut by another 8.5%. It’s what YOU agreed to remember.”

How are the naysayers and foot draggers going to respond? “Oh but we must DO something!” Well yes, but what then?

Don’t think it wont happen. It will. We must be ready with a mandate to act.

If you vote yes now, you are effectively voting to maintain the status quo, whilst giving your leadership the ultimate weapon, which hopefully they will never need to use.

If you don’t, you will be out of a job.

James Vine

p.s. Although I am, and have been a member of the CBA Executive Committee for the last two and a half years, this blog is entirely my own work. It does NOT represent the views of the CBA, and should not be taken or quoted as such.

“The Myth of the Wasted Vote” or “Why I’m voting for Arthur Price in Central Devon”

Arthur Price lives in Central Devon. He has done for a very long time. It is a rock solid Tory seat, and as Arthur readily accepts, is going to stay that way come May the 7th.

BUT,

That hasn’t stopped him from standing as an independent candidate. This blog, something of a departure from my usual fare, explains why I am going to vote for Arthur, and why we should all take a step back from industrial politics and think.

Here is a link to Arthur’s website Its worth looking at for the video of his first hustings performance (the Tory banned them after this one) and his campaign song. (Lyrics by D. Cameron Esq)

And here’s a link to his Facebook Page. Please do “Like” it.

And on Twitter @arfprice

He’s not the Messiah, he’s not even very naughty. He’s quite witty, though certainly not a comedy candidate.

So here’s why I’m voting for him

A single snowflake, doesn’t make a snowdrift. It needs millions, and a driving wind.

Arthur Price probably doesn’t see himself as a snowflake. He doesn’t even have white hair, in fact he doesn’t have any hair to speak of (sorry Arthur) but in the current political climate he may have more in common with one than you might think.

On the Today programme this morning, the BBC, in a vain attempt to inject some, ANY, interest into this election campaign, broadcast a duet between Shirley Williams and Michael Heseltine. I’ll spare you the details, but one valid point that SW made was the fact that politicians are so closely cosseted by their SPADS.

There have been some good examples in this campaign. Mel Stride banning filming of the Hustings, on the pretext that he didn’t want to be edited or quoted out of context. He seems conveniently to have forgotten the blatant editing by the Tories of the Ed Balls interview on non doms.

Pre prepared questions to the candidates so central office can craft the answers. No chance of your candidate having to demonstrate his or her mettle with anything remotely approaching spontaneity then.

Higher up the political food chain, party leaders refusing to appear in televised debates, or insisting on choosing with whom they will or will not appear.

Perhaps the most graphic example of all was the photo of one of Boris Johnson’s heavies, manhandling his Labour opponent away when she tried to challenge him in the street. (one of the vox pops interviewed for the same Today programme even thought that Boris WAS Prime Minister)

But Arthur won’t be elected, so why vote for him? Well nor will all the other candidates, except one. So why vote at all? The Tory party machine will see to it that Mel Stride will once again be able to settle his ample posterior back down onto the green benches, on the odd occasion when he actually does venture into the chamber. Yet another clone to make up the anonymous lobby fodder that are dragooned by the whips to follow orders.

But suppose we actually DID elect Arthur. Arthur has the time, the inclination, AND the independence, not just to listen to what his constituents have to say, but to stand up in the commons chamber, and say it. He’s not even a “one trick” political pony, as some elected independents have been in the past. He isn’t campaigning on one particular local issue, such as the saving of a hospital, or the corruption of the previous incumbent, he’s there to listen to all, and speak for all.

Arthur is not bound by the party whips. He is only bound by one single manifesto commitment, which is to represent the views of his constituents as best he can. He doesn’t have to balance the budget (only his expenses.) He cant cancel Trident, and unless he digs that old nurse’s uniform out of the wardrobe, there’s not a lot he can do about reform of the NHS either, apart from standing up in the chamber and saying what he, and his constituents think. (I know little and care less about his views on immigration. One thing Arthur is not, is a bigot.)

And that’s why I’m voting for him. He will represent me, and I am very confident that he will do so. He will listen to all who want to tell him what they think.

If you vote for Arthur, Arthur will vote for you, in Parliament, where it matters. And he WILL be voting for you, not the whips. YOU are his Lords and Masters, Not Cameron, not Miliband, nor anyone else. Just you!

No, it’s not going to happen this time round. There wont be a snowdrift of votes for Arthur, BUT, and its not such a big but when you think about it, if no party is capable of forming a viable government, then the Five Year Parliament Act is out of the window. There will have to be another election.

When the popular backlash of those incensed by the stalemate engineered by CamerBand, realizes what a waste of a vote it was supporting THEM, then maybe, just maybe there will be a small army of Arthurs waiting in the wings for the political wind to blow them into a popular snowdrift of opposition. Not a party in itself, just a group of genuine people sufficient to raise a significant voice in Parliament. Enough to make others stop and think, and melt the shrinking snowmen of the arrogant political elite.

That’s why a vote for Arthur now is a stepping stone for the future. Every single vote is a snowflake. The more there are now, the more there will be next time.