The Ballad of Brian Cohen, or What Have The Solicitors Ever Done For Us?

Like any Legal Aid Criminal practitioner, Solicitor or Bar, I am pretty hacked off at the moment. Acres of blogs have already been written about MoJ’s declared intention to plough ahead with Dual Contracts and the second tranche of LGFS cuts. It’s a crude and very blatant attempt to divide the two professions and thus negate any effective opposition, – or so they hope.

This did not come about as a result of any shady deal between the CBA and the MoJ, of that I can be certain, though I can’t speak for other darker forces.

The true force, and voice of the Criminal Bar are the legions of junior barristers who give just that little bit extra every day, for no money, and few thanks. Often the reverse is true.

I even had a judge criticise me this week for failing to have a witness statement available at 2pm, from a witness who had only attended court at 12.45. “What have you been doing since the witness arrived?” she asked. I was tempted to say “eating my lunch” but she would have known this was not true as the court in question has no catering facilities. No, I was liaising closely with the DC, who had also given up her lunch hour in order to take the statement, so that the witness could be called that afternoon, so that there was no danger of the trial overrunning into next week when the Judge was errr, going on holiday.

But sadly, that voice of the junior Bar can still occasionally be heard asking “what have the solicitors ever done for us? Why should we support them?” Some people still don’t get it. If you browse around this blog site, you will find any number of reasons why. I’m not going to link to them again, just have a look around please.

What I AM going to do, is incorporate a post from an experienced and respected solicitor who tells of just what it is that solicitors do in police stations. The good ones that is. While you’re reading it, remember the times when you have opened a brief to read a ROTI, and recoiled in horror at the results of an inexperienced police station rep who can ruin your defence before your client has even got out of the police station.

Then ask yourself what life will be like in the brave new world of the BFG sausage machine, where managers will be forcing targets within a limited fixed fee? You can’t blame them in one sense because the government has forced them into it. But you can look at this and ask yourself something else. Do I really want to find myself practising in a Criminal Justice System where the defence case is doomed from the start, or do I want to stand up and fight to preserve the service we now have from dedicated professionals, who will go the extra five miles to get it right?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Phil Street, of Taylor Street Solicitors
Are we fat cats…?

Let’s have a look, and please bear with me for a moment or two, because I really would like you to understand…

That terrible incident in Bradford…

A child arrested on Attempted Murder…

He will correctly receive advice from an experienced Solicitor who will travel out to the Police Station without delay, go through the custody procedures, check the custody record and looking both for what is there, as well as what might be missing, knowing the difference between the two and which section of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act governs any areas of concern, liaising with the Appropriate Adult who is there to look after the welfare and interests of the child, speaking with the officers who often “drip feed” the evidence they have, again looking for gaps, what are they hiding, why are they not disclosing, considering the disclosure given and applying the information to the law in relation to both Attempt and to Murder, speaking with the client, explaining Police powers and Procedures, explaining PACE, explaining the role of the appropriate adult, advising on and explaining the law in relation to the caution (you know, that one you hear on the bill, but this time, it’s for real, and you need to make sure that a child understands it fully), constantly assessing for mental health issues, self harm issues, suicidal tendencies throughout, explain the evidence to the client, define and explain the law to such an extent that a child can understand it properly, ensure that the appropriate adult is happy with the client and his welfare, apply the facts to the law, advise on guilty pleas, discounts, not guilty pleas and trial processes, discuss interview options and place the client in a position where they are able to make an informed tactical decision as to the approach to the first interview, particularly bearing in mind that the Officers have not disclosed all the evidence that they have, explain then discuss interview techniques, if a prepared statement is required, prepare the same making sure that the client understands the evidential and tactical importance, both in relation to the investigation and proceedings, go for a first account interview, which may last several hours, then debrief the client, check with the appropriate adult that they remain happy with welfare issues, wait for the police to think about what they want to do, after an hour or two attend the officers and receive second disclosure, repeat the process about the law, evidence, tactics, trial issues and again place the child in a position where they can make an informed decision as to what steps to make, review your notes to make sure they properly represent the details behind every point made thus far, every single central point (hint-all points thus far are just a taste) consider all the new evidence, the advice, the decisions, discuss the tactical approach and consequences of the forthcoming interview with the child, prepare them for the interview, attend the interview and repeat as above for each “dripped disclosure”, advise in respect of bail, bail conditions, advise in respect of remand in custody, bail application procedures, bail applications in the Magistrates’ Court, Judge in Chambers applications, make representations to the Officers in relation to any evidential gaps, procedural gaps, keep disclosure of any written statement under constant review throughout all of the above (if applicable), if we are off for further enquiries, discuss bail and failure to surrender consequences with client, wait for the CPS to consider the evidence once the Police have gone round and round their drip disclosure, again, make sure your notes are absolutely bang on…

THEN… Repeat to fade, as you return on bail after, sometimes, 6 bail periods which can last 2 years or more…

Each time you go back with the child client, you need to have all of the knowledge and experience needed for the above at your fingertips, up to date, polished… Ready to go, day or night…

The client eventually gets charged…

The fee earned by the Solicitor, which must cover his office, his secretary, Professional Indemnity Insurance, copier, paper, pens and ALL the expenses of offices and staff…?

Give a guess…

At the end of the case… Perhaps a year or more…?

£122.93

Yes… The decimal point is in the right place…

About the same as you would be charged for changing a door lock, or to fix a leak in a pipe… Paid months after you have done the work, sometimes years…

Fat cats…?

This is probably the toughest £122.93 that will be earned in any work that I can think of…

One final point… It costs more than £122.93 to employ and send out my staff to deal with this stuff…

That means, I personally pay for the privilege of helping others…

Do not be surprised, my friends, when it is gone…

And without us, you have a Police State… Did you vote for that…?

33% of you did…”

And THAT my friends is one of so many things that we ALL have to fight to preserve.

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