IMG_1531.JPG

Michael GOVE -Justice Secretary

Following the Conservative election victory on 07 May 2015, Cameron replaced Chris Grayling as Justice Secretary with Michael Gove. This blog reflects on his progress in that post. 

Pre Justice Secretary

Gove was previously Education secretary, attracting controversy and unpopularity in equal measure. A review by Ian Leslie of Gove’s successes and failures , together with his challenges ahead as Justice secretary, was published here in the New Statesman.

He has consistently championed cutting public expenditure, other than his own (the extent of his expenses-guzzling outlined in the Telegraph here.)

 Comments on his appointment 

A cautious welcome and “improvement on his predecessor” said Jerry Hayes (barrister and former Tory MP)

An assessment and initial analysis in this article in Legal Voice

A piece by Tom Smith (writing for the Justice Gap) looked at the ongoing battle with criminal legal aid contracting and asked whether the approach to Gove should be Conciliation or revolution?

There is certainly nothing conciliatory in Frankie Boyle’s description of Gove as a tree-frog escaping a scrotum…

A website with opportunity to slap Michael Gove was launched and continues to attract regular hits (have a go viaThis link.)

First speech

On 23 June Gove delivered his first policy speech since appointment, describing a “two-tier” system of justice. 
My reaction via BBC News in this clip.

He identified the problem, but not the cause of the problem, making no mention of the Legal Aid cuts which led to two-tier justice.  He also failed to identify the solution (proper funding) , instead preferring to focus on “improved technology and increased digitalisation” and the notion that there might be more “pro-bono” work from better-paid commercial lawyers who may want to dabble in social justice.

Gove and Prison Reform

Gove was a huge improvement on his predecessor, apparently wanting to take a constructive approach to a prison service in crisis. Eventually there were reforms set out in Queen’s speech (May 2016) but lacking the investment needed to really tackle the problems. He had however already overturned Grayling’s ridiculed and unlawful  prison book ban.
Gove and Legal Aid 

Gove initially appeared set on implementing further cuts to Legal Aid, albeit by continuing with the proposals of his disastrous predecessor Grayling. He  declined to cancel the 8.75% cut which came into effect on 1st July, leading to a series of firms refusing to act in what was to all intents and purposes a Legal Aid Strike. Jack of Kent summarised the issues in his excellent blog “Gove and the Lawyers revolt.”

 

After several weeks of the Criminal Lawyer’s strike, the representative bodies (LCCSA and CLSA) were invited to meet Gove- a step forward from Grayling. Further talks with MoJ were offered, and action was suspended as a “goodwill gesture”. Finally, the offer from Gove was communicated in September- a suspension of the latest 8.75% cut for three months, from January 2016. Tendering proceeded for “two-tier” contracts, and contract awards were made -but on a flawed basis. Unsuccessful bidders launched legal actions (for outcome, see “ending two-tier” below)

In the meantime….

Gove squandered taxpayers cash on empty Courts, with Courts closed to save money, but many remaining unsold (reported in the daily Mirror.)

MOJ and the Saudi contract

Goves efforts to extricate the MOJ from Graylings ill-judged commercial contracts with a despotic regime are explained here in an article by Jack of Kent.

Poetry  

Poem for Mr Gove (published on National Poetry Day last year)

Gove’s Visit to Highbury Court

In January 2016 the Lord Chancellor visited Highbury Corner Magistrates Court, with an army of  civil servants and advisers. He visited the Advice Service based at that Court, and every department but met no representative of the Defence Advocates. I attempted to engage him, and was able to present him with a letter offering to meet:-


was advised that Mr Gove was indeed willing to meet a representative of the London Defence Community, for an informal constructive chat, and his advisers would set up a meeting as soon as possible. We are still waiting

Ending Two-tier contracting!

In January 2016 Gove finally abandoned Grayling’s plans for a two-tier justice system with this announcement. This was welcomed by most solicitors (see eg LCCSA comment) Detail and comment in this piece in Solicitors Journal.

Gove and Grayling

Cancelling two tier, ending the prisoner book ban and Saudi contract (above) and the Criminal Court Charge, meant that at least six of Grayling’s main policy disasters were now overturned. Read this useful summary of the top 6 reversals -within six months! Gove 6, Grayling 0

Missing in Action: Gove and Brexit

In February, Gove came out (in this Spectator Article) as a key cheerleader for the “Leave” campaign in the proposed referendum. For the next four months he was never out of the news- usually alongside Boris- as that toxic campaign rumbled on. I do not intend to include Brexit in this blog- suffice to say that tumbleweed blew around the MOJ offices, and most legal aid lawyers were just relieved to be left alone in peace and quiet, as were Human Rights lawyers (see below)

Gove and Human Rights

Abolishing the Human Rights Act was seen by some commentators as both the most urgent and most difficult task in Gove’s in-tray (see eg this analysis by Joshua Rozenberg) In practice, Gove (sensibly) did absolutely nothing about it.

The Gove Committee

During his period of MOJ abstinence Lawyers received the news about the “advisory committee” that Gove had promised in January (above) – but not from Mr Gove or even the MOJ – but from the apparent chair, Gove’s friend Gary Bell QC (aka “The legalizer“)  in this article (TLS Gazette 24/05/16)   Mr Bell appeared to have selected members of the Bar-dominated committee himself, comprising friends, colleagues and an instructing solicitor, leading the Law Society to question the diversity of the panel. Read more about Bell (and his controversial views on Solicitor-Advocates) here.

Personal Life

Gove is married to DailyMail journalist Sarah Vine, a glimpse into their relationship is offered by an email from her to Gove that was accidentally sent to the wrong address and then published, as described here (Guardian, 29/06/16). See also her account of the day after Brexit as Reported in the Daily Mail on the same day.

The future

On 30 June Gove announced he was standing as a candidate to be the Conservative Party Leader (and therefore if successful, Prime Minister) . It is not immediately clear whether he is resigning as Justice Secretary. 

Conclusion

Gove deserves two cheers, one for leaving human rights and legal aid alone, and another for positive noises on prison rehabilitation. Whether those noises amount to genuine reform is doubtful – see this analysis  (in “the Justice Gap”)

Confounding expectations, Michael Gove was a better Justice Secretary than most criminal lawyers or legal aid lawyers could have hoped for, although largely because he was an improvement on Grayling, which was a low threshold.

Any acclaim due arises largely as he spent the first half of his tenure undoing the damage inflicted by his predecessor and the second half doing very little. 

Lawyers wait with apprehension to see who his successor may be.


Below- an effigy of Mr Gove making an appearance at a Save UK Justice rally, January 2016

img_2079.jpg

The Magistrates Court- Managerialism vs Justice

 A Fair Trial in the Magistrates Court? 

This blog was a draft for a piece later published here on LCCSA website. 

Comments/suggested links welcome (gregfoxsmith@msn.com)

A “Legal Advice Note” issued to Magistrates this month (below) casts doubt on whether a citizen accused of a criminal case can secure a fair hearing in the Magistrates Court, and is illustrative of changes which cumulatively may have, without public debate, reversed the burden of proof.  
Practitioners in Criminal Law have become used to a fast pace of legislative changes and Judicial Policy, along with the incorporation of Criminal Procedure Rules, Speedy Summary Justice, Transforming Summary Justice and more. 

Some have raised concerns that the cumulative effect has reversed the burden of proof.

Most carry on nonetheless representing the best interests of their clients and the interests of justice to the best of their ability. On occasion, to do so requires more time, and it may be necessary on the first hearing of a case to ask for an adjournment.

In seeking an adjournment, the lawyer has no financial advantage. Cases at the Magistrates Court are paid as a fixed fee, with no increment for travel or the inevitable waiting time. it follows that seeking an adjournment is likely to be in the interests of justice rather than financial gain. Reasons can include;-

-To obtain proper disclosure of evidence, in order to properly advice on plea (see eg the protocol devised by CLSA to highlight this frequent difficulty) 

-To seek a referral back to the police to receive  a “caution” rather than prosecution, particularly in the Youth Court

-To make representations to the Prosecution, where those cannot be made or considered on the day (eg if an “agent” or “Associate” prosecutor is at Court without authority to respond) 

-To obtain a psychiatric assessment for a client with apparent mental health issues who may not be able to provide instructions.
How are such apparently reasonable requests to be approached by the bench or District Judge?

The answers are set out in this guidance (unpublished, but circulated to magistrates):-

LEGAL ADVICE NOTICE

Date: June, 2016

Issued to: Magistrates, District Judges (Magistrates’ Courts), Legal Advisers and Court Associates 

Issued by: HM Courts Service Justices’ Clerk
Subject: Case Management Good Practice – Legal Advice Note 



Always take plea at the first hearing

Rule 3.9(2)(b) Criminal Procedure Rules 2015 requires the court to take the defendant’s plea at the first hearing. 

The following are not good reasons not to take plea: 


I should have got a caution: this is no basis for not taking plea. See Legal Advice Note 3 of 2014. The decision in R (F) v CPS and the Chief Constable of Merseyside (2004) 168 JP 93, emphasises that if a reprimand, warning, or caution is offered at the police station but the suspect declines to make any admissions at that time, they are not entitled to rethink their position once charged and require the matter to be returned to the police station for diversion. Neither the CPS nor the police are bound to act in that way. This means that it is inappropriate to adjourn an adult or youth offender for consideration of a caution where that youth or adult did not make a clear admission of the offence at the police station. The court should proceed to sentence. Defence advocates will sometimes urge the court to adjourn but such requests such be refused where the youth or adult defendant failed to make a clear admission at the police station whereby a caution could then be considered. 


The defendant has mental health problems and a psychiatric report is needed before plea can be taken: this is not normally a basis for not taking plea. There is no fitness to plead procedure in the magistrates’ court. The court must follow the statutory procedure set out in s11 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 or in s37(3) Mental Health Act 1983. Seek the advice of your legal adviser. 


For legal aid to be obtained: this is not a good reason not to take plea. The clear advice from the Senior Presiding Judge and the Chief Magistrate is that plea should be taken even if legal aid has not been sorted out. 


For defence to make representations to the CPS: any representations should be made at the first hearing and the prosecutor can decide on them. In any event plea should be taken. If a NG plea is entered then a trial should be fixed but with a review hearing before the trial if the representations might make a material difference to whether the trial proceeds or not. 


Because the IDPC is not adequate: Initial disclosure of the prosecution case (IDPC for short) is governing by the Criminal Procedure Rules. The relevant rule is Rule 8.3 which states: 

Initial details of the prosecution case must include— 

(a) where, immediately before the first hearing in the magistrates’ court, the defendant was in police custody for the offence charged— 

(i) a summary of the circumstances of the offence, and 

(ii) the defendant’s criminal record, if any; 

(b) where paragraph (a) does not apply— 

(i) a summary of the circumstances of the offence, 

(ii) any account given by the defendant in interview, whether contained in that summary or in another document, 

(iii) any written witness statement or exhibit that the prosecutor then has available and considers material to plea, or to the allocation of the case for trial, or to sentence, 

(iv) the defendant’s criminal record, if any, and 

(v) any available statement of the effect of the offence on a victim, a victim’s family or others. 

This is further supplement by the Criminal Practice Direction issued by the Lord Chief Justice which says as paragraph 3A.12
3A.12 Where the defendant has been released on bail after being charged, and where the prosecutor does not anticipate a guilty plea at the first hearing in a magistrates’ court, then it is essential that the initial details of the prosecution case that are provided for that first hearing are sufficient to assist the court, in order to identify the real issues and to give appropriate directions for an effective trial (regardless of whether the trial is to be heard in the magistrates’ court or the Crown Court). In these circumstances, unless there is good reason not to do so, the prosecution should make available the following material in advance of the first hearing in the magistrates’ court: 

(a) A summary of the circumstances of the offence(s) including a summary of any account given by the defendant in interview;

(b) Statements and exhibits that the prosecution has identified as being of importance for the purpose of plea or initial case management, including any relevant CCTV that would be relied upon at trial and any Streamlined Forensic Report; 

(c) Details of witness availability, as far as they are known at that hearing;

(d) Defendant’s criminal record; 

(e) Victim Personal Statements if provided; 

(f) An indication of any medical or other expert evidence that the prosecution is likely to adduce in relation to a victim or the defendant; 

(g) Any information as to special measures, bad character or hearsay etc. 
Paragraph 3A.14 goes on to say that nothing in the above paragraph shall preclude the court from taking a plea pursuant to CrimPR 3.9(2)(b) at the first hearing and for the court to case manage as far as practicable under Part 3 CrimPR.



NGAP Court

Where a case has been listed in an NGAP court, the prosecution should have complied with its duty to provide enough information to satisfy CPR 8.3(b) and PD 3A.12. 

The defence advocate must make it clear as to why they are unable to take their clients instructions and advise as to plea based on what the CPS has provided and complete the Preparation for Trial Form.

If there is a failure of the Crown that can be immediately remedied by the service of further evidence in that Court session then the case should be put back to allow this to happen. 

If the Crown argue that they have complied with their obligations under the CPR and PD and have good reason not to have the information to serve as identified in PD 3A.12, then it is for the Defence to demonstrate to the Court that they have not, i.e. that it is impossible without the missing information to advise on plea or case manage. 

If the Defence then apply for an adjournment, apply the relevant case law on when and when not adjourn the case.  

If the case is adjourned, advise the defaulting party that the issue of costs of the wasted hearing will be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings. 

Make the necessary directions for the service of the missing material in preparation for the next hearing. 

If the Court refuses to adjourn the case then the Defendant must enter his/her plea. 

If the defence ask for a note to be made on the court file to the effect as suggested in the CLAS protocol, the court should refuse to do so if it has decided that the CPS have complied with their obligations under the Rules in that sufficient information has been provided in the IDPC according to law to advise as to plea. 

The Chairman should remind the defendant that credit for a guilty plea will reduce thereafter. 



GAP/Virtual Remand Court 

Where a case has been listed in a GAP court or is a first time custody case the prosecution should have complied with its duty to provide enough information to satisfy CPR 8.3(a). This is normally restricted to a summary of the case and of any interview. 

The defence advocate has a duty to make it clear as to why they are unable to take their clients instructions and advise as to plea. If the CPS have complied with CPR8.3(a) it would be hard to see a situation where a plea could not be taken and either the Court move to sentence or adjourn to a case management hearing after 28 days as per TSJ if the defendant pleads NG.

If the Court has not adjourned the proceedings at the request of the defence, then no note should be made on the Court file to preserve the maximum discount for an early guilty plea if the court is satisfied that the obligations set out in CPR8.3(a) have been met and the Defendant should have been able to enter their plea. 
Notes about preserved discounts for guilty pleas

The only time that a note to preserve the Defendant’s credit could be made on the Court file is where all parties to the proceedings agree that a key piece of evidence has not been made available, that would be outside the defendants knowledge and a not guilty plea has been entered. 

If the complaint of the defence is because of a poorly prepared case summary by the police, then in order to assist the Court in discharging its burden under the CPR then this will need to be escalated within in the management level of the police by e-mailing Julia.Harman@kent.pnn.police.uk. Legal advisers and court associates are asked to e-mail examples of poor IDPC to Julia Harman who will investigate and report back. 
If sitting on a trial then the following case law guidance is helpful: 

A prosecution witness is missing and the defendant is denied the opportunity to cross-examine that witness: this is not a reason not to get on with the trial. See Al-Kazzaz v DPP [2015] EWHC 3016 Admin in which the main prosecution witness failed to attend but the trial was able to proceed because another witness attended who had witnessed the assault. The defendant can draw to the court’s attention the absence of the main witness. What may or may not have come out of cross-examination of the missing witness was speculation and did not deprive the defendant of a fair trial. 

CCTV evidence is missing: where live evidence can be given the absence of CCTV evidence does not deprive the defendant of a fair trial. What is on CCTV may be wholly speculative and the trial can and should proceed on the available evidence (DPP v Spalluto [2015] EWHC 2211 (Admin) and DPP v Petrie [2015] EWHC 48 (Admin) – both cases in which CCTV evidence of the custody suite in which breath specimens were taken was missing but the High Court ruled that trials relating to the breath test procedure should still take place on the basis of evidence from the officers who took the breath samples and of the defendant and without the need to see the CCTV evidence). 


(Doc ends)



POSTSCRIPT



The Legal Advice Note above states :-

Rule 3.9(2)(b) Criminal Procedure Rules 2015 requires the court to take the defendant’s plea at the first hearing”.

That is in fact only part of rule 3.9(2)b which in its entirety reads:-

 “At every hearing the Court must, where relevant, (b) take the defendant’s plea, or if no plea can be taken find out find out whether the defendant is likely to plead guilty or not guilty”

You may think that this is not exactly the same as the Advice Note.

As for the remainder of the “advice”, none of this is new, but it may shock some to see set out in such stark terms the modern Judicial approach at the Magistrates Court.

If you represent a youth of good character who was unrepresented or poorly advised at the police station, now admitting the offence- well, bad luck, plead guilty and have a conviction.

-If your client is unwell but appears on a day when the Court Duty Psychiatrist is not present, well never mind.

-If you cannot get a decision on representations about a plea on limited basis or to a lesser offence, don’t bother asking for an adjournment, plead Not Guilty, spend half an hour completing a case-management form, set down for trial and take up half a day of Court time, and hope for a Prosecutor who may review somewhere pre-trial.

-And if your disclosure is inadequate, and you wish to cite the protocol or Law Society Guidance, or act in accordance with your professional duty, remember your client “must know whether they are guilty or not”, and the “credit” for pleading guilty will disappear to be replaced with a punishment for seeking to do the case properly in what is still an adversarial system with a supposed presumption of innocence. 

Do these rules and practice notes actually help with the professed aim of convicting the guilty and acquitting the innocent, or only the first half of that ambition?

Action

The LCCSA believe things have gone too far in tipping the scales of justice against the right of a defendant to a fair trial
The burden of proof is under attack, managerialism and bureaucracy are prized above justice, with the emphasis on “cracked trial rates” , adjournment statistics and “guilty plea rate”.
We will be holding a symposium with interested parties, to highlight these issues and call for changes to restore the presumption of innocence and a fair hearing that includes protecting the rights of the accused. (Check LCCSA website for detail) 

Notes

The Legal Advice Note was circulated to Magistrates in Kent. We know it has been forwarded to at least some regions of London, although unclear if adopted. I am grateful to Andrew Keogh for this clarification of the status of this advice:-

The status of the advice is to be found in ss 28(4) and (5) Courts Act 2003: (4)The functions of a justices’ clerk include giving advice to any or all of the justices of the peace to whom he is clerk about matters of law (including procedure and practice) on questions arising in connection with the discharge of their functions, including questions arising when the clerk is not personally attending on them.

(5)The powers of a justices’ clerk include, at any time when he thinks he should do so, bringing to the attention of any or all of the justices of the peace to whom he is clerk any point of law (including procedure and practice) that is or may be involved in any question so arising.

The LCCSA believe that Judges and Magistrates, if relying on or considering Legal Advice Notes, should state so in open Court, providing a copy and an opportunity to respond. Open Justice requires transparency.

img_2084.jpg

Freelance Advocacy Services: News and Advocacy Availability

Subscribe to the Fortnightly Freelancer! An email bulletin sent on request every other Friday. 

Content is updated regularly here (as is availability on www.freelanceadvocacyservices.uk

Greg Foxsmith COURT AVAILABILITY:-

 I am available for criminal or regulatory hearings, Inquest hearings or arbitration. I am starting a trial at the Old Bailey on 1st July. Future availability here.   To book please email gregfoxsmith@msn.com or call 07980846330  

Lawyers of the Week: Rick Shearman and Mark Bowen

Rick and Mark set up Shearman Bowen 15 years ago, and the firm celebrates that landmark this week. Congratulations!


A full list of this year’s Lawyers of the Year (so far) is here (and 2015 here)

Birthday! A special mention for Helen Valley of 25 Bedford Row, who celebrates a significant birthday tonight! 

Lawyers on the move Good luck to Nick Lane (solicitor advocate at GT Stewart) who leaves join Capsticks.

Jane Hickman, the co-founder of Hickman and Rose, is to retire from the partnership, it was announced yesterday.

 I have been contacted by an outstanding Criminal Solicitor (and Advocate) looking for a new position- please let me know of firms currently recruiting.
Music for July:   A July playlist here. As we commemorate the battle of the Somme, try my War and Peace playlist.

NEWS

Howard League Seminar Summary of THL Lawyers group seminar discussing youth sentencing consultation here.

Gove Leadership bid! A Summary of his time as Justice Sec in this new blog.

Survey about touting and other sharp practice. See Law Society website here

Disclosure, Fairness and Adjournments in the Magistrates Court –this New blog asks whether there is now any such thing as a fair Summary Trial, or has the burden of proof been reversed?

Eddie Gilfoyle check out the latest news on the campaign for justice for Eddie here

Youth Sentencing Consultation -Do respond to the Current Sentencing Guidelines Council Consultation here

08 July LCCSA Summer Party! Better than the Touts Ball. The “must-attend” event of the year! Heavily subsided for LCCSA members. Stunning venue, food and drink, no black-tie dress code. Speak to me about reductions for trainees or paralegals. Book now ! https://www.lccsa.org.uk/events/summer-party-08072016/

Representation Orders – no need to keep a copy in the future! (See this announcement)

Prevent Strategy- a personal perspective in this blog by Samira Noor-Khan

Defence/CPS Engagement. I attended with colleagues and raised ongoing issues with IDPC, and the “ABE amnesty

Sentencing in Dangerous Dogs cases. New guidelines from the Sentencing Council in force today (1st July)

Referendum  Well done Kingsley Napley for  holding an enjoyable referendum party on 23rd June. A poll of party-goers was about 9-1 in favour of Remain, which sadly wasn’t replicated the next morning across the UK!

LAA are consulting on new draft Legal Aid Contracts see Law Society Gazette article for detail

Lawyers for Bugs My friend Emma Dixon (Blackstone Chambers) is swimming the River Dart to raise money for Buglife. Read more – and Sponsor her – via this link

Autumn Conference The LCCSA Autume Conference is in the beautiful City of Ghent- booking and detail here

Labour Most of the shadow Justice team are amongst those MPs who have resigned from the opposition front bench. It appears to leave little opposition to the Government on Justice issues, although thankfully Gove is pre-occupied. It is worth remembering that Jeremy Corbyn has always been a staunch supporter of legal aid. Meanwhile, Labour’s former shadow attorney-general Karl Turner MP has to apologise for failing to declare “relevant interests when tabling parliamentary questions”.

Legal Aid spending falls due to reduction in volume of cases . Stats here.

PREVIOUS  NEWS ITEMS

The Public Accounts Committee today reported what we already know- the Criminal Justice System is at breaking point. Read about their damming report here.

Gove’s Advisory Panel (on legal aid announced here in Jan.) will be chaired by Gove’s mate, controversial QC Gary Bell

Coping with online Disclosure Lawyer of the week Sandra Paul explains here.

How to become a QC: This letter tells us much about the judiciary, the bar and silk selection….

Jon Black on Brexit writing in the Solicitors Journal here

London Legal Walk Thank you to all who sponsored the LCCSA committee team. Congratulations though to the Highbury Corner Magistrates Court team, entering for the first time, who raised over £700 (and can still be sponsored here!)

Prison Reform Good words from Gove, but this will fail if prison numbers don’t fall (argues Simon Jenkins in the Guardian)

CLFS Conference – London  (Detail here) Over 300 delegates attended. My speech here.

New lawyer on the block: Greg “Box-Smith” defending, as reported in the SCUM newspaper....

Hillsborough:New blog- barrister Anna Morris shares her experience as counsel at the Inquest in this guest blog

Crime in Islington -my response to a call from Islington Labour Councillors to Highbury Magistrates for an increase in custodial sentences for young offenders here

Report into unrepresented defendants here (by Penelope Gibbs for Transform Justice) See also Tuesday Truth.

In May, the  LCCSA committee team completed  the London Legal Walk. You can still sponsor us!  Via this link 

Highbury Court flooded –again. Detail in Islington Gazette here.

Stop the Touts! Will the SRA act?! Report in Law Society Gazette

What next for Legal Aid? Young Legal Aid Lawyers consider their future in this piece in the Solicitors Journal

Community Advice at Court. Check out This piece on the Centre for Justice Innovation website.

Kicking Off. Please read this guest blog by Len Hodkin (solicitor at GT Stewart)

Lenient Sentence? The “Hatton Garden raid” sentence considered here

London marathon. Please check this link and dig deep to support the fight against cancer.

The End of Two-tier! Dramatic development as Michael Gove abandons the hated contracting proposals introduced by Grayling, which were fundamentally flawed and led to litigation. The announcement here. (LCCSA response here.) Reports in the Solicitor’s Journal and in the Law Society Gazette

Voices for Justice – the Justice Alliance hosted speakers including J Corbyn as reported in the Guardian

  

DSCC Problems First they were hacked. Then they were not hacked…(Gazette article)

MoJ and Two Tier. First there were rumours MoJ was dropping two tier. Then they were not. Then it was “under review”….(Law Society call for clarity

Michael Gove visited Highbury Court recently as revealed exclusively in the last Friday Freelancer. A report on Gove’s visit was subsequently published in the Law Society Gazette here.

Transfer of Legal Aid -read a sensible proposal from Greg Powell
Ministry of Justice cock-up contract awards -read the full story via Edward Fail website

Review of 2015  via The Justice Gap here and Jon Black looks back on the legal aid litigation of last year in the Solicitors Journal here

New Allocation Guideline -the Sentencing Council this week published a guideline for Allocation of cases – detail here. (comes into effect March 2016)

President Speech  –shortened version of my speech as new LCCSA President (AGM, Nov 2015)

Alternative to Criminal Court Charge – see my blog with a proposal for replacement here 

18 year old dies in adult prison  read about the sad case of suicide in custody of Imran D. in this blog

Labour Legal Aid Review. I attended a meeting of the Labour Party review into Legal Aid, chaired by Lord Bach, and attended by the shadow chancellor, shadow Lord chancellor, Karl Turner MP and Jeremy Corbyn
  
  
Law Society Excellence Awards.I was honoured to receive the Highly Commended Award for Solicitor Advocate of the Year at this years awards. Thank you to those who nominated or supported the application, particularly Sandra, Jon, Sean, Ronnie, Amanda, Lee and the Shearman Bowen team.

  

When Kate met Paul –read Kate Goold’s account of the Gambaccini case , and how it illustrates the bigger picture on police bail and necessary reform.Advice Service at Highbury Court. Read all about it here!

The pre-history of Magna Carta -a blog by David wilson.

Strike! Coverage of the Criminal Lawyers strike over Legal Aid received international coverage. My comments on Spanish TV on  this link.

Legal Aid cuts. My comments on BBC news here (June 2015)

Prisoner book ban- rules relaxed by Michael Gove, in a welcome departure from the policy of his predecessor.My forum piece in the Islington Tribune here.

Joint Enterprise-time for reform? New blog by Ronnie Manek. 

Legal Aid Fact Checker Check out facts behind the myths on Legal Aid.

The Law on Children and Young PersonsCheck out this on-line resource –Youth Justice Legal Centre

Modern Slavery Act  Get up to speed with the New Act in this synopsis by Ben Ticehurst.

Mayor’s new housing chief James Murray used to talk about Housing Needs in Islington (in a private box at Lords)

Howzat!! Islington Cllr James Murray, newly appointed deputy Mayor for Housing, was wined and dined in a private box at Lords in 2013 by a housing company according to this article in Islington Gazette.
Caught out? Or bowled a googlie in an unfair presentation of the facts?
The story had legs because Cllr Murray, not shy of attacking opponents as “arrogant and greedy”, was himself at the time the Labour lead Cllr for housing in Islington, a portfolio for which he was handsomely rewarded by the Council Tax Payer in the form of the high allowance that he and colleagues voted for. In short, he could have paid his own way.

There is no doubt that Murray is dedicated to campaigning for more affordable housing, saying recently “Islington is in desperate need of family homes for social rent, particularly while low income families bear the brunt of cuts”.
I do not criticise him for taking an opportunity to network at a hospitality event, and I make it clear that there is no suggestion that he was put under any improper pressure, or that there is anything untoward in the invite or his acceptance of it (and as the Gazette makes clear, this story only came to light because he quite properly declared it)

What intrigues me is  Cllr Murray’s desperate explanation (when challenged) for attending a cricketing event given that he implausibly claimed to have little understanding or enthusiasm for the sport (despite having attending public school). 

His quote in full:-

When asked why he could not have a discussion about Islington’s housing priorities in a different setting, Cllr James said there was a broad range of people at the event and it was an opportunity to talk to them all.
He said: “I don’t know much about cricket and I still don’t after going to the match as I took it as an opportunity to talk to people.”
“I went there because it was a chance to speak to lots of people and other councils about the needs of Islington.”

I am not sure the other (unnamed) people enjoying Family Mosaic’s hospitality and trying to enjoy the cricket would have been bowled over by being talked at by Cllr Murray about the needs of Islington, or what that would have achieved. A waste of Cllr Murrays time, an annoyance for others, and certainly a waste of a ticket.

James Murray was one of Islington’s finest Councillors, but previously claimed that he “nearly had to leave Islington altogether” as a newly elected opposition Cllr back in 2007, as the rental market was “unaffordable” (this was before his Executive Allowance ) Thankfully Islington Labour MP Emily Thornberry helped out by buying a Housing Association properly at auction, and renting  out “cheap and cheerful rooms to young peoples”, one of whom was Cllr Murray.
(Full story in Camden New Journal)
It was that tough background that helped forge the young Cllr into the hosing campaigner he became and the high-salaried Deputy Mayor for housing he has become.
So let him not be judged harshly for his freebie. But if Family Mosaic want to invite people in future to talk about housing AND enjoy the cricket, let them start with their tenants. They may deserve it more, they would certainly enjoy it more.

The James Murray cricketing playlist

20131002-121812.jpg

img_1991.jpg

Speech at CLFS Conference, May 13 2016

Intro



I am now all that stands between you and the Friday evening drink, and all that stands between you and the weekend. I therefore hope to be brief.

Although probably not as much as you hope that I will be brief.

I have been asked to speak on the topic of “the victory”, or the “win” by which I think is meant the climb-down earlier this year by the MOJ in respect of two tier contracting.
I have to say that this was very much a Pyrrhic victory, and although there was much relief, there was only muted celebration.

Much time, energy – and money – had been expended on tortuously difficult tendering documents, much anxiety hanging on the results. Firms had closed or merged in anticipation of the outcome, or planned mergers. Solicitors changed firms- only some voluntarily.

Some were bidders, some not, some “winners” some losers.

Then when contracts were awarded, those unfairly left out were minded to challenge the outcome, potentially in conflict with those awarded contracts.
What was Two Tier ?

Accompanying another 8.75% fee cut, yes the follow up to a the first 8.75% cut we had already absorbed, TT was the controversial contract-tendering procedure which would restrict the number of law firms permitted to do duty legal work. 

It was hatched by the MOJ and initiated by Chris Grayling, the previous Injustice Secretary. It was supported -encouraged even- by some firms in the BFG.

It threatened to wreak havoc on a supplier base acknowledged to be fragile, and for comparatively modest savings.

This proposed enforced consolidation of the profession would have been effectively forcing many solicitors’ firms to merge or close.

This, despite an acknowledgement that over the last parliament annual spending on legal aid was reduced from £2.4bn to £1.6bn.

What went wrong?
TT was wrong in principle, but to add insult to injury it was ultimately botched in application.

Contracts were awarded, and a whistleblower revealed the marking had been carried out by unqualified temps from a recruitment agency. 

So unsuccessful firms took legal action against the MOJ….

Take the example of EFBW:-

In October EFBW were informed by the LAA that they had been narrowly unsuccessful in their attempt to obtain a legal aid contract for duty solicitor work in Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets. EFBW brought legal challenges (represented by Bindmans) against the results of the procurement process in all three areas. Almost 100 other firms brought similar challenges.
The LAA then admitted that it made a basic transcription error in scoring at least one of EFBW’s bids, and that consequently EFBW should have been awarded a contract in Hackney. 

The possibility of such an error was identified by Bindmans in October, but was not addressed by the LAA in pre action correspondence and a formal offer of ADR was not taken up. 

The LAA sought to resist disclosure to other firms, and a Court order had to be requested.

Even after disclosure, the LAA ignored requests to settle EFBW’s claim and proceeded to file a defence that admitted the error but failed to acknowledge the consequences. Only later did they acknowledge that if the error had not been made, EFBW should have scored higher than at least one of the purported successful bidders, and therefore should have been awarded a contract.

The LAA still refused to settle the claim despite the fact that it should never have had to be brought, and summary judgement was sought.

So, increasingly firms involved were confident of victory, but the case rumbled on.
The Announcement.

In January the SoS for Justice, MIchael Gove announced that the plans for two-tier contracting and the cuts of 8.75% to legal aid fees for duty criminal solicitors were to be suspended.

This was a policy U-turn which followed many others, as Gove re-planted the scorched earth of the Grayling period.

Announcing the about-turn in a Commons written statement, Gove pointed out that awarding a limited number of “dual contracts” – under which solicitors take on duty legal aid work at police stations and magistrates courts as well as represent their own clients – would lead to a less diverse and competitive market.

WE COULD HAVE TOLD THEM THAT!

(WE DID TELL THEM THAT!!)



 We had pointed out that natural consolidation was already taking place in the criminal legal aid market, as crime reduced and natural competition took place.
Gove also accepted his department had already made substantial savings.
Secondly,as he said:-

 ” it has become clear, following legal challenges mounted against our procurement process, that there are real problems in pressing ahead as initially proposed. My department currently faces 99 separate legal challenges over the procurement process, which has required us to stay the award of new contracts. 

In addition, a judicial review challenging the entire process has raised additional implementation challenges. Given how delicately balanced the arguments have always been … I have decided not to go ahead with the introduction of the dual contracting system”
So ultimately it was the lawyers wot won it, using the only effective tactic in our armoury- the law.

We can celebrate the acts of those in the litigation that argued the tendering process was fundamentally flawed. There was also support even from those not directly involved:

big firms and small, private and legal aid, 

two-tier contracts, single-tier contracts and lots- of -tears no contracts.

History of Campaign



Before the “victory” there were other battles in the ongoing war, with many skirmishes along the way. By ongoing war, I mean the continuing battle for legal aid lawyers to be properly paid.

First there was a consultation, or bearing in mind it was from the MOJ a NONsultation.

That was flawed, and had to be re-run.

Then there was the tendering procurement scheme itself, and the JR in which we argued the whole scheme was irrational. 

The LCCSA was proud to have fought that battle, together with CLSA and TLS.

We lost.

And it was expensive.

We campaigned and fundraised.

Many of you contributed – thank you.

Counsel’s fees from a leading Admin set totalled around £150k (which goes to show why we should practice admin law not crim law)

That meant, despite generous donations, we depleted our reserves and gave our treasurer sleepless nights. 

So the fact that we have survived as an Association, with membership steady, and in a period of consolidation, is a victory of sorts.
But campaigning had started long before the litigation

For example:-

On May 22nd 2013 the LCCSA organised a demo which generated national coverage

On the afternoon of the same day there was a national meeting attended by 1000 solicitors and barristers. 

On 4th June (the closing date of the first consultation) another demo organised by solicitors outside the MOJ again with considerable national publicity. 

By March the following year there was a day of action, a withdrawal of services from courts, called in some quarters a “strike”.

We had No Returns.

We had a protocol where firms agreed to sign up no new legal aid cases. Only a small minority breached that, some reluctantly for vulnerable own clients only, and fewer still took an opportunity to clean up or profit.

We learned solidarity, and began to trust each other.
But the truth is so far as funding is concerned, for years we have endured a slow death by a thousand cuts, a sustained attack, and only belatedly we learned to fight back. 

We campaigned, protested, demonstrated, withdrew services, and went on strike.

We battled the most odious and incompetent of Lord Chancellors, the infamous Chris Grayling.

To be perfectly blunt, he was a bit of a

difficult man to engage with.

Grayling, known by all as “failing Grayling” was described by JH as a “turd that couldn’t be flushed”.Grayling didn’t like lawyers, and the feeling was mutual.

So, we rallied in Parliament square, outside Westminster Magistrates Court, the Old Bailey and MoJ HQ, and we walked from Runnymede to Westminster.
And we took legal action against the MoJ, with our JR at the High Court.
Much of this achieved little at the time, so maybe the “win” in January is something we should cherish.

The New Legal Aid Landscape



Right to legal aid is ‘basic human right’, Jeremy Corbyn told a Justice Alliance meeting at the start of this year. 

Whether you area Corbynista or not, the fact that the Leader of a Political Party – the leader of the opposition no less – not only mentions legal aid but does so in a supportive way is a significant development.

Labour have initiated the Bach review into Legal Aid, and Gove has said that he is convening a committee or forum to discuss legal aid in a constructive way.

There was nothing constructive about relations/negotiations with Failing Grayling, so the political landscape has certainly changed.

Unity 
Two years ago, Paul Harris spoke about the need for unity.

At that time, relations between leadership of the criminal bar and solicitors had reached a low point. Last year Greg Powell again spoke on the theme of unity. This followed a slightly fractious period- relations between solicitors and our friends at the bar had become strained. Like an old married couple, we were bickering, but I think we are living comfortably together again now.

At least until the next row! 

We are working constructively on proposals for AGFS and litigator fees to try and make sure we are all properly paid for the work we properly do.

We can learn from what happened when Grayling successfully sought to divide and rule.

The lesson of unity is a simple one, especially where we have a common enemy.

United we stand, divided we fall.
Current Campaigns



There is always some horror lurking around the corner.

 Currently, during this quiet period when Michael Gove has become the SoS for Brexit, our friends at the Sentencing Guidelines Council are consulting on the amount of credit for guilty pleas- and with some alarming proposals out there to reduce the incentive if the client didn’t cough and confess at point of arrest. 

If not before.
BCM/ DCS/ PTPH/CJSM 


Yes its acronym time – Bloody Case Management, Dire Case Systems and Pressure to Plead Hearings. 

A good idea in principle- less hearings, less paper.

But the underlying problems have not gone away -inadequate disclosure, late disclosure, lack of legal aid, problem getting prison visits etc.

The LCCSA and CBA have worked hard to try and help this work, at a series of meetings, from the National Implementation Team (NIT) to the London Implementation Team (LIT)

Thankfully there hasn’t been further devolution to the Central London Implementation Team, or the South Hampstead Implementation Team, the anacronym of which may best sum up the whole mess.
Gove

Gove didn’t just abandon two-tier tendering.

He had already reversed many of Grayling’s money saving initiatives, including 

-the ban on prisoners receiving books from their families 

-the equally detested criminal courts courts charge, (the mandatory payment of up to £1,200 imposed on all convicted defendants irrespective or means or ability to pay

He forced the government to cancel a £5.9 million contract to advise the Saudi Arabian prison system.

He scrapped the commercial wing of the Ministry of Justice after human rights concerns.

And Gove abandoned plans to build a £100 million “secure college” for teenage prisoners.
But where is he now?

Missing in Action
He popped up at HCMC at the start of this year on a day where I also happened to be there, and as he was meeting everyone but the defence I ambushed him with a letter requesting a meeting, and he agreed.


We are still waiting.

But perhaps no news is good news.

We have had enough of diktat and pronouncement by highly paid civil servants at the MOJ , and we have had enough of cuts.

 We cannot take any more.

The sustainability of the justice system relies on proper preparation and presentation of cases.

We all play our parts- barristers and solicitors.

Brothers and sisters in arms.

So yes we had a victory in January, but let’s not be fooled- that was a battle, and so far as legal aid is concerned there is an ongoing war.

At least we no longer have Grayling, who managed to combine total war with Cold War.

But depending on the outcome of the Euro Referendum, we may not have Mr Gove much longer, and who knows who will succeed him?
The LCCSA had virtually -and by necessity- re-invented ourselves as a campaigning organisation.

Thankfully, we have put the banners and t-shirts away, at least for now , and gone back to our core business- training events, representing criminal lawyers in London whether doing legal aid or not, and of course our famous social events.

Which presents me the chance to do my one “plug” – the LCCSA Summer Party, July 8th!

So it’s a half- cheer for the Victory in January, and a relief that we can get back to our day jobs.

Some of us will always remember where we were on the day when we heard the news of Gove’s announcement abandoning two-tier. 

I certainly remember going to the pub to meet fellow lawyers to celebrate the victory.

Unhappily, I was in “dry January” and celebrated without the assistance of alcohol.

That bleak month has long passed, and I promised not too keep you too long from your drinks.

So I hope to see some of you in the pub- Steve has the details- and let us raise a glass to justice, celebrate solidarity, drink to the health of legal aid, and share a toast -to Victory.

Cheers!

Greg Foxsmith

President, LCCSA

img_1985-1.jpg

Offending in Islington

Crime in Islington is on the rise, and questions have been asked of the Council’s “Crime tsar” Councillor Paul “crack-down” Convery under whose watch mobile phone thefts, robberies and knife crime rocketed.

In an internal “scrutiny” report, LBI Councillors have swallowed Convery’s explanation that this is all down to “soft-touch” magistrates letting offenders off too lightly, as reported in the Islington Tribune here (“Fears young thieves and drug dealers are getting an easy ride from Islington magistrates”)

In fact, the report, even after making allowances for the sloppy drafting and poor grammar, shows a shocking lack of knowledge about the causes of crime, the prevention of crime, and the workings of the Criminal Justice System.

Background

Islington Labour has always had a default position of cracking-down on crime by deterrent and retribution rather than prevention and rehabilitation, and were early and enthusiastic supporters of the ineffective counter-productive ASBOs.

There has also been an over-reliance on CCTV, turning Islington into a closed-circuit saturation State, but without proper investment or supervision on those agencies who can actually work within communities to prevent crime.

The writing was on the wall by January this year, with a damming report into a failing Youth Offending Service , and rising crime figures.

Scrutiny” Report

In a belated attempt to examine the “causes of crime”, it is clear Labour Councillors have looked for excuses rather than reasons as evidenced in the attempt to blame “lenient sentencing” for Islington’s crime figures, predictably grabbing the headlines and deflecting attention from their own failings.

Nowhere is this clearer than in “recommendation 1” which calls for a “briefing meeting” with the “Clerks” at Highbury Court. 

It shows how out of touch the Councillors are when they refer to “clerks” where they presumably mean Legal Advisers, the name being changed over 10 years ago, and demonstrates the first failing of their review- a failure to actually visit the Court, and witness sentencing in practice (albeit there is no public gallery in the Youth Court, a quick observation in the Adult Court would show the rigour with which sentences are applied) 

The “clerks” (legal advisers) do not pass sentence, but advise the Magistrates on sentencing powers- and any attempt to interfere with that process by “briefings” to magistrates would be an intolerable interference with Judicial Independence. In any event, there is NO evidence to show that sentencing at Highbury is “more lenient” than at any other Court- which is unlikely as sentencing guidelines ensure consistency across Courts.

The fact is that far from leniency, in England and Wales we lock up more young people, and for longer, than any other European Country, with nothing to show for this draconian incarceration but recidivism and failure. In 1997, the Government lowered the age of criminal responsibility for children from 14 to 10, and presided over a five-fold increase in youths imprisoned in the following decade.

The reoffending rate for children who have been in custody is around 75%, suggesting that child custody is not an effective rehabilitation strategy. Nonetheless, we are seeing an increase in prison sentences and decline in community punishment.

Islington Labour Councillors responsible for the report are out of touch. Cllr Convery has been challenged by Frances Crook of Howard League for Penal Reform to produce evidence in support of his assertions, and is awaiting a reply.

Notes

A variation of this article was published in the Islington Tribune, 13th May (Forum pice)

Guardian summary of PRT report explaining why so many young people end up in custody here 

Howard League: Publications on youth offending 

Current Sentencing Guidelines Council consultation on Youth Sentencing here

Read about Cllr Convery’s Late Night Levy Madness (a privately funded barmy army patrolling Islington streets)

Playlist for Crime in Islington.

Gove and Prison Reform – need to cut prison numbers (argues Simon Jenkins in the Guardian)

Photos

1 Councillor Convery Cannabis Crackdown


2 Cllr Convery on CCTV


img_1978.jpg

Hillsborough Inquest – a lawyer’s perspective (guest blog by Anna Morris)

Dedicated to the memory of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster who died on 15 April 1989.

On 26th April 2016, I hugged two of my clients with elation after a jury of 6 women and 3 men set the record straight after 27 years about what happened at Hillsborough stadium on 15 April 1989. Moments later, they looked at each other and said, without missing a beat, “so, what do we do tomorrow?” They hadn’t dared to believe there could be a day when they would not have to fight for justice, to fight to clear the name of their loved one. This had been a life-defining fight for a generation of children, wives, parents and siblings of those 96 men, women, boys and girls.

The jury’s conclusions finally saw their families achieve something they recognise as justice. Much has rightly been reported about their tenacity, commitment and patience. But I want to say something about their humanity.

The families have endured the longest jury case in English legal history. 319 days of witnesses, evidence and submissions. For many of the families, attending Birchwood business park had become a full time job. Employers who asked, “haven’t you got over it yet?” had to be negotiated with, child-care had to be arranged, health problems had to be managed, life continued to be put on hold. But when they could be there, they were there. Sitting, listening. Waiting.

At the start of the process, many approached with caution after decades of being let down again and again by lawyers, judges and politicians. They had no reason to trust us, their lawyers but as they sat there in our conferences, polite but knotted tense with questions and anger, their thoughts were never just of themselves; “who will look after the jury?” “What about the survivors, who speaks for them?” “How do I find the man who helped our brother, I want to thank him?” We could only tell them, “we will try and get these answers for you. We hope we can”.

Most of the families had an encyclopedic knowledge of the papers disclosed as part of the Hillsborough Independent Panel. As their lawyers we had to be able to call up documents at the click of a finger to answer the broad and complex questions that troubled them. More than one set piece of witness examination conducted by our team of advocates was centered on a document recalled through the mists of time by one of our clients, tracked down in the 250,000 plus pages of disclosed material. In fact, one of my clients, when she presented 10 neatly typed pages of devastatingly precise and searching questions to Operation Resolve, the Coroner’s Investigation team, was (with only a hint of humour) offered a job as an investigator. We all had to be at our best. No one wanted to let these families down.

But on many occasions, it was our clients looking after us, using their 27 years of pain to help us navigate our way through the sea of changing emotions. From flasks of pea-whack soup served from the boot of a car, to cups of tea in their homes, we were shown such warmth and respect that it was truly humbling. I took great strength from one client who, when I asked her how she kept going through all the lies being told about her brother, about him being a drunken hooligan who caused his own death, she simply smiled broadly and answered, “eyes and teeth, eyes and teeth”. I have repeated that mantra many times since that day.

During the inquest I was the mother to one young boy and pregnant with a second. I was representing the family of boys who were 15 and 19 when they died and I was incredibly moved by the loss of so many young boys’ lives. I couldn’t imagine them just not coming home one day. One client, on the morning of her young son’s inquest, presented me with a bag full of hand knitted baby clothes specially made for my son. It absolutely floored me that this woman could even think about anyone else in the circumstances, let alone extend such deep kindness. I have a drawer full of beautiful blankets and clothes, made by those strong women of Liverpool. Nothing could make me prouder.

When my youngest son finally made his first trip to Birchwood, he was passed from mother to mother, bounced on knees and fussed over as if he was one of their own. It only struck me later, like a tidal wave, that I had been swapping teething, sleeping and feeding stories about children who would never grow old.

There are many small moments that made the Hillsborough Inquests more than just an inquiry into the circumstances into how 96 people died that day. Moments that might have started in the court room but resonated far wider. The pen portraits that painted the real pictures of 96 cherished loved ones who attended a football match and never came home with humour and dignity. The vigorous handshake in the corridor between a father and the off-duty Metropolitan Police Officer who pulled his son from the pen, the damp-eyed slap on the back for the fellow fan that carried someone’s brother on a stretcher and wished he could have done more. The sympathetic words for colleagues who also lost loved ones during the months of the inquests. The jurors who when discharged when court concluded that final time, were each hugged by the families, each thanked for their commitment. The families in their grace never left anyone un-thanked. I hope that those witnesses, relieved of their burden after 27 years were the lighter for it.

Every day of the inquest we shared tea and tears with those who traveled to that grey box on a business park. On the some of the most difficult days of evidence, the families would always be able to find a joke, a smile and a hug for each other. Willing each other on. Someone was always in charge of making sure there was milk for tea and the biscuit tin was always full.

They are the best in all of us. It could have been any of us in their shoes whose brother, father, sister or son went to that match. They have defied the state’s attempt to define them by gender, geography, class or type. We can all aspire to their dignity and strength. It has been a privilege to walk with them on a small part of their journey.

No one can now deny the success and the power of the families’ campaign for justice all these years. They are the reason that 96 verdicts of ‘accidental death’ were quashed. It is their demands that ensured the truth has now been heard. We should never be in doubt that this is the reason why families should be at the heart of the inquest system.

Anna Morris, May 2016


NOTES/LINKS

Hillsborough Independent Report: http://hillsborough.independent.gov.uk (disclosed materials and report)

Inquest Charity: http://www.inquest.org.uk/

Michael Mansfield: “Hillsborough families were my rock ” (Liverpool Echo)

A full if harrowing account of the evidence, the inquest and the outcome reported in the Guardian here.

Why the police “apology” was neither sincere or believable explained by Mark George QC. 

Call for a rebalance of the justice system and equality of arms at Inquest hearings (reported here in the Guardian May 2016)

Another Hillsborough Lawyer, Elkan Abrahamson, interviewed here in the Liverpool Echo.

And don’t miss this survivor’s account by Adrian Tempany. Powerful and moving.

About the author

Anna Morris is a barrister at Garden Court chambers. Anna’s practice focuses on criminal justice and civil liberties and encompasses criminal defence and appellate advice, inquests into deaths in custody, civil actions against the police and public law. A human rights specialist, Anna has extensive experience of successfully representing clients whose cases challenge public policy and promote civil liberties. Read full profile on Chambers website here.

img_1951-1.jpg

20k in 2 days

On Sunday 15 May I ran 10k in the Hornsey 10k. My son Daniel (9) ran a mile. These runs were part of the great Crouch End festival, and I have blogged about it  here. 

In previous years we raised £150 and were delighted to do so again. Please sponsor us here.  thank you 

On Monday 16 May I walked 10k as part of the LCCSA team doing the London Legal Walk raising money for legal charity LLST. 

Please sponsor us Via this link Thank you

(I blogged about the 2014 Legal Walk here.)

There were over 9000 walkers from numerous teams, including one from my local court Highbury Corner, pictured below.

img_4392.jpg

Hornsey YMCA and the Crouch End Festival

My son Daniel (9) ran a mile at this year’s Crouch End festival to raise funds for North London YMCA.  All the money raised goes directly to their work and services, not fundraisers, bureaucrats or charity directors. Their work is community based, and includes outreach work, youth work, housing and finance advice.
In 2014 we raised £150 and we hit that target again last year

THANK YOU FOR HELPING US REACH THAT TARGET AGAIN! 

It’s not too late to help by sponsoring Daniel now-thank you!



Running Playlist here

Below-Daniel and Adam from a previous year’s effort

20140518-213629-77789892.jpg

Below:- end of 10k!


Air Quality in Islington

Air pollution is rising at an alarming rate in major Cities including London (as reported in the Guardian (May 2016))

Islington, like much of London, continues to suffer from polluted air, whilst the Council takes inadequate action to improve air quality. It is time for real action, and the new London Mayor should widen the Central London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) proposed for 2020 to include more areas such as Islington.


Labour (who run Islington) should have campaigned to get TFL to include LBI in ULEZ. Instead, they voted against that proposal by Green Cllr Caroline Russell when raised in December 2014 (as she explains here.)

Air quality in Islington is terrible, the air we breathe being potentially deadly. Respiratory illnesses, asthma, heart and lung problems, cancer, and dramatically reduced life expectancy are the consequences of the polluted air, and the lethal micro-particles we inhale along with nitrogen dioxide. Two years ago I called for the council to aim for a diesel-free borough (as reported here in the Islington Tribune)
Air pollution levels in Islington- even near schools- are double EU limits (as reported in Islington Gazette)
In the great smog of 60 years ago, people could see and taste the polluted air around them- and Government acted quickly, passing the Clean Air Act. The pollutants we ingest now are on the whole invisible*,odourless, but arguably more deadly.But because they are an unseen killer, it is easy for politicians to fail to act. There are policy failings at National, London(mayoral) and local levels.

In the absence of proper monitoring by LBI, Islington Green Party funded air quality checks which showed illegal and dangerous levels of pollutants including near schools (figures here)


Islington Council is not funding the actions that are needed to protect residents, especially young children, from harm. Sadly, in February 2014 at the Council’s budget Labour Cllrs voted against a modest expenditure on air quality, choosing instead to spend Council Tax money on their allowances and political spin doctors. They then voted against a budget amendment proposed by Green Councillor Caroline Russell in February this year (
see here)

The scrutiny report of May 2013 which recommended a number of changes the Council should implement has been largely ignored and now removed from the Council’s website.

Mayor Sadiq Khan made great promises to tackle air pollution, after 8 years of inaction by Boris, but his first act on taking office was to withdraw opposition to City Airport expansion!


What residents want is clean air, not hot air.

Check out music on this Clean Air Playlist

For more info on clean air in London generally, check out Clean Air in London

20140118-235628.jpg
*although on some sunny days you can see the discoloured air! especially from high up- as in the photo above on Town Hall roof

Below:- receiving award from Clean Air in London

20140509-074215.jpg