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Unity in the Criminal Law Profession

Edited text of speech at CLFS Conferences (delivered 21/10/16 Manchester +  28/10/16 London)

Intro

I have been asked to speak on unity in the profession.
I am no better qualified than anyone else to speak on this topic, but I suppose being involved in a representative  body- in my case the LCCSA–  has given me some small insight into where we as criminal lawyers have successfully united, and where we have not.

Last week I attended the Parmour lecture for the Howard league, delivered by Nick Hardwick, now at parole board but perhaps better known in his previous capacity as a fearless Inspector of Prisons, whose reports graphically condemned prison after prison as unfit for purpose.
The audience included, as you might expect, bleeding hearts, liberals, lefties, lawyers, the usual suspects. So as you may imagine. I was at home.
But the lecture was at Clifford Chance, and I did not feel at home in their glittering building in Canary Wharf.
Lawyers there are not familiar with the type of law that we do anymore than we are with their commercial activities
They don’t understand criminal law as we understand it

(Although I did read last week that somebody employed in a City firm was sacked and struck off for stealing stationery. Perhaps it’s only to be expected that things disappear in a magic circle firm…)

Anyway…

At Clifford Chance, they don’t practice legal aid
A fixed fee for an entire case at the magistrates court is equivalent to the hourly rate of lawyers there.
What do we have in common with these “masters of the Universe?”
We have the same regulatory body, we pay the same practicing certificate, we are in the same profession….

..and we have virtually nothing in common.

So we can’t expect unity with City firms
Or can we?
Underneath their expensive suits do these lawyers not still have an interest in justice? Might they not help us? There was discussion at one point of a 1% tax on Commercial Law firm profits to fund Legal Aid. That’s not going to happen, but can we, should we, dare we approach our better-heeled fellow lawyers and ask for help?

I do not mean encouraging the provision of well intentioned “pro-bono” advice from junior employees at the Law Centre, but can they support legal aid practices by eg seconding trainees, or providing support services, in the way a PL club may “loan” a player to a less well-heeled club?

Or can they help us lobby MoJ using their access to the corridors of power?
Just ideas.
Unity.

Unity in the Profession

What about the High St Practice? The one-stop shop with a range of services , a holistic approach?
Law is increasingly fragmented, and LASPO has ripped the heart out of much of what would have been publicly funded advice.

We think we have it bad in Criminal Law, but where were we when multi-disciplinary practices were axing family departments, abandoning employment, immigration and welfare benefit advice? Were we campaigning and fighting for the principle of equal access to the law, or squabbling about page count?
We need to fight for Justice generally, not be marginalised into separate spheres of narrow self-interest.
Representative bodies try to do this, meeting together -TLS, LAPG, YLAL, CBA

Can we expect unity with our fellow lawyers from other disciplines? Do even we deserve it?
Can we achieve it even between ourselves as criminal lawyers? We are all competitors in a diminishing market.
I believe that although we have much that divides us we criminal lawyers have much more in common
We have , I think, an overarching interest in justice
This is not a job, or even just a profession, it is a vocation.

Of course we all have a degree of self interest, and we all would like to be well paid.
Or at least properly paid.
Or sometimes even paid at all.

But we care about the principle of justice.

And we actually want what the current Govt has adopted as a slogan- a “criminal justice system that works for all”

We are united in wanting for example:-
-video-links that work,
-prisoners to arrive on time,
-competent interpreters to be booked,
and an opportunity to assess the evidence, and give proper advice , and get proper credit for pleading guilty without being rushed or bullied into pleading.

We want a level playing field, we want a fair hearing.

So there is understandably good unity when we campaign on those issues that we all agree on.

Unity against a common enemy

Lawyers individually and their Practitioner Groups are at their best when have a common cause or better still a common enemy.
When we don’t it all falls apart and we can get back to hating each other, like the PFJ vs the JPF.

The last time we had a very obvious common enemy, it was an easy target, an odious pig-headed individual who will be forever remembered as worst LC ever.
I probably don’t even need to say his name, but it rhymes with Failing.

Which brings me back to the Howard League lecture I attended last night. Much of Grayling’s bad work has been overturned or abandoned, but in the failing prison estate we are seeing the legacy of Grayling’s cuts and policies.
The shocking murder in Pentonville this week is the 6th murder in prison SO FAR THIS YEAR.
Grayling described the increase in deaths in custody as a “blip”
I invite you to pause for a moment and consider that continuing blip
In last 12 months, over 300 deaths in prison (up 30%)
Over 100 were prisoners taking their own life.
Over 10k self harm incidents
Over 20k assaults
And the prison population keeps rising, as the resources and staffing for the prisons diminishes.

And where are the prison lawyers?
Access to legal advice to prisoners was heavily curtailed by Grayling in September 2013. That reform has not overturned.
Where were we when prison law was being axed?

First they came for the immigration lawyers, but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an immigration lawyer.
Then they came for the prison lawyers, but….

Well you know how it goes.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.
Let’s look at and celebrate what we can achieve when we are united-starting with “two-tier”

Unity in Adversity (fighting the two-tier litigation)
In January we had “the victory”, and although there was much relief, there was only muted celebration.
For those who don’t know or don’t remember, 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 “Big Firms Group”.
Accompanying this was a proposed 8.75% fee cut, the follow up to the first 8.75% cut we had already absorbed

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.

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 effectively forced many 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
They banded together in a consolidated group action.
And they were successful.
Unity.

Before the tendering process began, there was a 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 Admin set 11kbw totalled around £150k (which goes to show why we should practice admin law not crim law)
It wasn’t pro-Bono, and it wasn’t mates rates.
That meant, despite generous donations, we depleted our reserves and gave our committee sleepless nights. We were not indemnified against losses, we were personally liable.
So in our darkest hour, we had to fundraise and more importantly trust that people would renew their memberships just to survive.

So the fact that we have survived as an Association, with membership steady, is a victory for Unity.
Although you may be interested to know that when we asked 11KBW whether they would contribute or sponsor an LCCSA event, answer came there none.
Instead our sponsorship came from friends at the criminal bar who don’t command such eye-watering fees, small firms, and individual solicitors.
I thank you.
Unity!

Unity in Campaigning

On May 22nd 2013 the LCCSA organised our first demo outside Parliament which generated national coverage.
On the afternoon of the same day there was a national meeting attended by 1000 solicitors and barristers.
In June another demo was organised by solicitors outside the MOJ
In March 2014 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 a few 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, once memorably described by Jerry Hayes as a “turd that couldn’t be flushed”.
Grayling didn’t like lawyers, and the feeling was mutual.
So, we rallied, we lobbied, we marched, we demonstrated.

And we learned Unity

Unity Undermined: “divide and rule”

But Grayling’s one great trick- and looking back it’s hard to believe any of us let him get away with this- was to divide and conquer.
He played barrister against solicitor.
At those rallies and actions I described we were shoulder to shoulder with the criminal bar led by Michael Turner QC.
But later, the MoJ met other representatives of the bar privately, and struck a “deal”.

Relations between leadership of the criminal bar and solicitors reached a low point. Like an old married couple, we were bickering.
We lost that unity, and we were the poorer for it.

I believe put those differences behind us.
We enjoyed a good relationship with Mark Fennells QC, and have confidence in his successor Francis Fitzgibbon QC.
We need to 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.

It wasn’t just solicitor v bar.
A few years ago we also saw the creation of new self-appointed special interest groups, principally the so-called Big Firms Group.
Who are they?
I don’t really know.
They don’t have a website.
I don’t know if they have a constitution, or if their committee -if they have one-is elected or self-appointed. I do know you cannot join them as an individual solicitor, even if you are employed by one of the Big Firms who apparently constitute the membership of the group, which again is unclear. Perhaps they have a secret handshake.
So they are unaccountable.
Now it is right that two of the leading firms of the BFG- TV Edwards, and Tuckers-joined the strike (sorry I mean individual actions) of June 2015.
And I accept unequivocally the right of any individual or firm to organise themselves as they want, and to act in their own best interest, and competitively. But, if we fracture into competing interest groups, big vs small, owners v staff, employed v freelancer, we are not united.

We can learn from what happened when Grayling successfully sought to divide and rule.
The lesson of unity is a simple one.
United we stand, divided we fall.


Current Campaigns

There is always some horror lurking around the corner.
We are currently engaged in 6 consultations.
And we have put a lot of work and endured many meetings with the LAA, to try and improve the contents of the new LA contracts.
Just this week we forced the LAA to redraft the embarrassment clause.
What was that?
Remember how in North Korea they banned sarcasm?
Well LAA inserted a clause in contracts that bans any contracting party from doing any act that “might cause embarrassment.”
This was nothing short of a “gagging” clause, and I am glad to see the back of it.

Gove
We liked Michael Gove.
He left us alone.
He made positive noises on prison reform.
He overturned Grayling’s policies.
He abandoned two tier.
He postponed the second cut.
The one thing I wasn’t so keen on, was his ill-judged appointment of an “advisory” committee, headed by his chum Gary Bell QC.
Gary had some strong views on solicitor advocates, and these were recorded NOT in off-the-cuff  remarks but (here) in an interview in socitors magazine Law Society Gazette  :-
“The biggest threat to its existence”, he asserted, is not the two-tier system for solicitors’ contracts, but a situation that has existed for some time — the increasing use of solicitor higher court advocates (HCAs), who are insufficiently qualified and ‘not up to the job’.

HCAs, he rates, as ‘rubbish’.  “I’m sure they’re nice people and are nice to their children. I’m sure they do their best for their clients.

The majority of solicitor HCAs, he suggests, are ‘failed barristers – who either started at the bar, but never got pupillage or tenancy, and for good reason, or who did but then found that they couldn’t make a living because they were useless.

‘So they go and work for these solicitor’s firms as very low paid HCAs and because the solicitors have got the ear of the client they can always persuade the client that this absolutely crap person that they employ is the best person to conduct their case.

‘They are the best person from one perspective — it’ll optimise the earning capacity of the solicitor’s firm. And if that means that the client has to go to prison for a few years, that’s not really a problem for the solicitor – at least they can buy another Aston Martin.’

His anger is not directed towards HCAs themselves, but the firms that compel them to do higher court advocacy. ‘It means that venal solicitors will earn a lot more money. It’s greed; it’s avarice”

Mr Bell is one of the highest earners at the criminal bar, reportedly earning nearly £1/4million p.a. On his legal Aid work. How are you doing in comparison, you “venal” greedy solicitors?
He concluded his interview with this:-
‘If there are any solicitors that read this who employ HCAs, they can fuck off anyway, because they’re destroying both professions’.

UNITY? Perhaps we still have some way to go.

Bell then appointed his own committee, bypassing representative organisations, and sidelining solicitors.

I don’t knows what has happened to his committee or his report

But as for Gove, he got caught up with Brexiting, and ended up exiting.

Truss

Our new LC Liz Truss was a bit of an unknown quantity.
We knew she liked British cheese and pork markets
But will she sort out the mess of our prison estate?
What will she do about the second cut?
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.

So to conclude:-
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.
But we are ready to resume action if forced to do so, and will do so if the Government tries to bring in that second cut, which will threaten not profitability but sustainability.

But all the representative bodies are only as strong as our membership.
We can only campaign, take legal action, put on events if our membership is strong and we are funded by the membership fees.
If you join, or retain a membership, we are stronger.
My plea to you is, if you are not already signed up, join your representative body (LCCSA, CLSA, CBA)
If you are a member already-thank you.
Thank you for your support.
We don’t want to do this without you, and tbh we can’t do it without you.
Join up, and we are united together, and we can achieve great things together that we cannot do on our own.
That is the true message of Unity.

And now, time to “unite” and join friends and colleagues in the pub.

With thanks to CLFS for a fantastic conference, and 25BR for sponsorship.

Cheers!
Greg Foxsmith
President, LCCSA

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Mentoring in Islington – ” Bridging the Gap”

For several years, a small group in Islington called “Bridging the Gap” have been arranging mentoring partnerships in Islington. I am proud to be one of the trustees (Details of our trustees here: http://www.bridging-islington.org.uk/who-we-are/)

Last year we became a registered charity (see notes below)

And we have now formally launched our website! http://www.bridging-islington.org.uk/

Please check us out , and share news of what we do to interested parties.

Bridging the Gap Islington is looking for:-
-mentors (we provide the training)
-sponsors  (people, local businesses or companies interested in being a patron, sponsor or partner)
-volunteers (to help with fundraising)

-funding! We welcome contributions toward our work. (All our mentors and trustees are volunteers, but we have some admin costs and cover mentor’s travel costs) Donate via this link

I have been involved in many mentoring projects over the years, but I am really excited that at last in Islington we have a partnership that brings together people in need of help and guidance and those willing to provide it. Please spread the word!

Notes

1 Status and Administration
Bridging the Gap Islington (the Charity) was established 1st Dec 2012, and was constituted and registered as a charitable incorporated organization (CIO), no. 1162671 on 15th July 2015.

2 Objects
The objects of the Charity are: The prevention of crime and the rehabilitation of offenders by offering offenders, ex-offenders and people at risk of offending advice, guidance and support, including to address their needs and promote their integration into the wider law-abiding community, working together with other organisations with similar aims particularly but not exclusively by providing a voluntary mentoring service for people at risk of offending.

 

Pictured Below- BGI had an official launch party at our AGM on November 21st…

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PRESS RELEASE

Bridging the Gap -AGM, Launch Party and website launch

A. Introduction

1 Bridging the Gap Islington is an Islington based charity that provides a mentoring service by providing trained volunteer mentors, and linking them with people in need of help and support.

2 Bridging the Gap Islington first started in 2012 but re-constituted in 2015 as Charitable Incorporated organisation

3 Bridging the Gap Islington is a Membership organisation – because we believe that helping vulnerable people and people at risk of offending is a community responsibility. We welcome new members! To find out more and to join email Josie Osei at admin@bridging-islington.org.uk

B. AGM 21/11/2016

1 The accounts were approved, and we are pleased that we have a firm foundation for our work in the year ahead thanks to grants from:-
Awards for All – The Big Lottery Fund
Islington Community Chest and the Cripplegate Foundation
London Community Foundation and Comic Relief

2 The following were re-elected as trustees:-
Mick Holloway
Maddy Robinson
Jonathan Joels
Robin Latimer
Greg Foxsmith

Details of our trustees here http://www.bridging-islington.org.uk/who-we-are/

We welcome new trustees, and if you are interested in joining the Bridging the Gap steering group, please contact Robin Latimer – Robin@bridging-islington.org.uk

C. Launch Party!

1 Having gradually evolved over 4 years Bridging the Gap Islington is now established and viable.
At this year’s AGM, BGI finally had a formal “launch” to celebrate our successful mentoring projects.
A packed party at the launch party held in Islington Town Hall heard from volunteer mentors, and from Councillor Joe Calouri, exec member for crime and safety.

2 The website was also officially launched!
http://www.bridging-islington.org.uk/

D. Appeal

1 Bridging the Gap Islington is looking for:-
-mentors
-sponsors (in particular local businesses or companies that may want to be an official sponsor)
-a Patron
– volunteers to help with fundraising

If interested in any of the above please contact Robin Latimer at robin@bridging-islington.org.uk

2 We also welcome contributions toward our mentoring work! All our mentors and trustees are volunteers. Donate online through the donation page of our website here http://www.bridging-islington.org.uk/donate/ or contact Robin@bridging-islington.org.uk

E Quotes

1 Founding member and trustee Robin Latimer said  “Bridging the Gap Islington provides a unique opportunity for local people to help many people in our community who are excluded by a competitive and bureaucratic society. Anybody can benefit from talking about their plans and friendly encouragement to put plans into practice. As well as welcoming prospective mentors, we are also looking for ways to make contact with people who need help.”

2 Islington Councillor and Exec member Joe Calouri said  “It’s fantastic to have Bridging the Gap working in the Borough with some of our most vulnerable residents. Well trained mentors can provide the kind of trusted relationship that can help create real change for vulnerable people.”

3 Greg Foxsmith, trustee, and former councillor said “I have been involved in many mentoring projects over the years, but I am really excited that at last in Islington we have a partnership that brings together people in need of help and guidance and those willing to provide it”
F Notes

1 Status and Administration
Bridging the Gap Islington (the Charity) was established 1st Dec 2012, and was constituted and registered as a charitable incorporated organization (CIO), no. 1162671 on 15th July 2015.

2 Object

The objects of the Charity are: The prevention of crime and the rehabilitation of offenders by offering offenders, ex-offenders and people at risk of offending advice, guidance and support, including to address their needs and promote their integration into the wider law-abiding community, working together with other organisations with similar aims particularly but not exclusively by providing a voluntary mentoring service for people at risk of offending.

BRIDGING THE GAP ISLINGTON
Press Release 22/01/2016

 

Freelance Advocacy Services Awards-TOP 25 Solicitors of 2015!

In  2015 Freelance Advocacy Services launched a weekly news-email, “The Friday freelancer” (also published online in this blog, updated weekly) which included a feature “Lawyer of the week”

This page celebrates the recipients of the awards, and has been edited to the top 25 solicitors of that year, and provides a ‘where are they now’ update (as at November 2016) A list of my top lawyers of 2016 (so far) is published by Freelancer Advocacy Services HERE

The list below was in date order (Kate the first award of the year and Tim the last) and is therefore in reverse chronological rather than hierarchical order, all being top lawyers of equal merit!

These were my “LAWYERS OF THE YEAR 2015”:-

Tim Huestis  Tim represented my old client Ashley Walters with a new case. Tim, an outstanding lawyer who previously blogged about drug driving here, is at Shearman Bowen.

2016 update- Tim instructed me at the Crown Court and we ensured there was a NOT GUILTY verdict for the contested racially aggravated charge

Sean Caulfield and Hannah Britz Sean (criminal) and Hannah (housing) are both at HJA, and this week announced the birth of Molly Caulfield. Congratulations! 2016 Update- Sean was best man at the wedding of Ronnie and Aileen (see below)

Rakesh Bhasin   Rakesh is at Steel and Shamash, and has been on the LCCSA committee for two years. At the AGM in November he stepped up to take on the role of treasurer.2016 update-Rakesh was re-elected as treasurer at the LCCSA AGM

Tim Walker  Tim was LCCSA treasurer during difficult times- including through our JR actions against the MoJ Tim stands down at the AGM, and we thank him for great service. 2016 Update- Tim was appointed as a Recorder at the Crown Court. Congratulations!

Bill Waddington  Bill is director of Williamsons In York, and is approaching the end of his tenure as chair of the CLSA. He has tirelessly worked in supporting criminal solicitors, bringing the JR against the MoJ, speaking at events and demos and lobbying the Government. 2016 Update -Bill was elected LCCSA/CLSA rep on the law Society Criminal Committee

Charlotte Howarth Hird. Charlotte has an outstanding reputation for public law and civil liberties cases. She has been advising and assisting Carla whose son Imran lost his life in Belmarsh Prison, aged only 18. I previously wrote about about that here. The Inquest started on 12 October. Hopefully,  Carla will have some of her many questions about Imran’s death answered. 2016 Update- Charlotte and I supported Carla through the inquest following which there was a narrative note 

Steve Bird. Steve is my lawyer of the week, firstly for penning a demolition of the MoJ “offer” in response to the protest against Legal Aid cuts, and secondly for captaining the LCCSA “veterans” football team who have performed so well in the London Legal Aid league. Steve has his own firm BIRDS and is an outstanding lawyer and an Appeal specialist. 2016-Steve’s 5-a-side LCCSA team win the Legal Aid league!

Myles Jackman. Myles was featured in the Guardian, a revealing portrait of a lawyer in full-time campaign mode, with insight into Myles’ views, and the current laws on obscenity. It’s also a wonderfully well-written piece, with some lovely asides on the CJ system.

Paul Morgan. Paul is an outstanding Solicitor Advocate. Paul has been a steady source of encouragement and advice, and we had great fun co-defending recently. This week I had a difficult case for an old client that I needed someone to cover due to a fixture clash, and Paul is stepping in. Although regularly instructed by Birds, he is an independent freelance HCA, and a quality brief.

Paul Harris. Paul this week chalked up 25 years service at Edward Fail Bradshaw Waterson, where he is now Managing Partner. A stalwart supporter of the LCCSA and Legal Aid campaigner, Paul is also the solicitor representative on the CPR committee. Paul was also responsible for the “Tuesday Truth” blog. 2016 Update – Paul was awarded a “honorary lifetime membership” of the LCCSA in November 2015

Mark Troman, Mark is a solicitor advocate at Powell Spencer Partnership, and is a committee member on the LCCSA. 2016 Update – Mark is now Secretary of the LCCSA 

Nicola Hill is a great lawyer and and has a substantial regulatory and professional discipline practice at Kingsley Napley. She was last year’s president of the LCCSA.

Jon BlackJon, a founding partner of BSB solicitors, is currently the President of the LCCSA. He has shown leadership throughout a difficult term of office, notably during the JR action against MoJ. Jon is active on Twitter and other social media, and was as co-signatory to this letter in the Guardian .

Jenny Wiltshire

Jenny (Hickman Rose) is an outstanding lawyer (featured in Legal 500) and secretary of the LCCSA. 2016 Update- Jenny is now the LCCSA Vice President

Greg Stewart, Daniel Jones and Joel Bennathan
(authors of Criminal Appeal Handbook)
I am currently reviewing this book for the Advocate magazine. (Greg, as well as running GT Stewart, is also a fellow player in the LCCSA football team). 2016 Update – book review published in the Advocate here

Ed Grange and Rebecca Niblock
Ed and Rebecca are top extradition lawyers, and co-author of Extradition Law: A Practitioner’s Guide  (a new edition of which has just been published) and a fellow LCCSA committee members. Ed is with Corker Binning and Rebecca with Kingsley Napley.

Kate Nutter
Kate is a barrister, currently working at Shearman Bowen and Co, who was the organiser and inspiration for the joint SB/LCCSA team in the London Legal Walk. 2016 Update-Kate has commenced a pupillage–at 2 Bedford Row

Anna Thwaites
Anna is a solicitor specialising in civil liberties at HJA. I remember her as an outstanding trainee there in 2005. On Sunday she ran the London Marathon. She had barely recovered from running the Brighton Marathon! Update 2016 – Anna continues to specialise in contentious inquests and civil actions arising from protests. After the NYC Marathon in November 2015, she has decided to take a break from running!

Ben Holden

A partner at Shearman Bowen and Co, Ben Holden is a great lawyer, and one of the nicest people in the profession. Now he takes on a new challenge-fatherhood! Congratulation to Ben and Elys on the birth this week of a beautiful baby daughter! Posted April 2015

Ronnie Manek and Aideen McMahon

My joint lawyers of the week are Ronnie Manek and Aideen McMahon, both with GT Stewart solicitors, who have announced their engagement. Congratulations to you both! Originally posted 10 April 2015 Update 2016 -Ronnie and Aideen were married in Ireland, and I officiated as Registrant at their wedding in Ireland 

Arlene Mansoor

Arlene is a solicitor at Shearman Bowen, and a trial advocate. Last year for charity she climbed Ben Nevis and the Yorkshire “3 peaks”, as well as walking from London to Brighton. This year she has a new challenge – walking 100km to raise money for CRISIS. Posted 03/04/15 Update 2016 -this year Arlene and I worked together on a difficult case in Oxford Crown Court,during which I had to report some newspapers to the Attorney General for contempt of court when the complainant (a well known BBC journalist) gave a pre-trial interview in the Times… 

Pam Reddy.  On Friday 27th March Pam Reddy left HJA after 14 years, to join Simons Muirhead and Burton. Congratulations and good luck! Posted 27/03/15 2016 Update- In November 2015 Pam joined the LCCSA committee

Rhona Friedman

Rhona Friedman (Bindmans) is a great lawyer, and a founder member of the Justice Alliance.
Rhona came up the idea of “impeaching” the Justice Secretary and walked from Runnymede to Westminster to join the Magna Carta demonstration that she had helped organise outside the so-called “Great Legal Summit” at which Grayling was speaking. Rhona is on the LCCSA committee.

Ben Ticehurst

Congratulations and good luck to BEN TICEHURST who has been headhunted by EMM Legal
Ben and I worked together at HJA, and then at Shearman Bowen2016 Ben has now joined Rahman Ravelli

Kate Goold
(Bindmans) 
Kate is an outstanding criminal lawyer, and gave expert evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee on the issue of police bail. She also represented Paul Gambiaccini  Posted 06/03/15 

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LCCSA Outgoing President Speech November 2016

Welcome to the LCCSA AGM!

President’s speech 07/11/16

I woke this morning to the exciting news on my radio that we are about to experience the most important Presidential election ever. They were saying that whatever the result the current outgoing President was highly regarded, and far more popular than a likely successor.
Imagine my disappointment on realising they were talking about tomorrow’s US Presidential election, and not this evening’s LCCSA AGM and election of our new President…

It has been a funny year-a new PM, a new Lord Chancellor, BCM and “Pressure to plead Hearings, Brexit, killer clowns, and Donald Trump.

But for me, It has been an amazing year and enormous privilege to be LCCSA President.
It was a bit daunting….
The President was meant to be the then VP, but with a WEEK TO GO he bailed out, and (in the absence of anyone else) I was parachuted in.
My immediate predecessor was Jon Black.
I had to prise the presidential medallion from him, chest hairs still attached. Now I feel the same sense of ownership of the Presidential medallion, which exerts a command like the ring over a Hobbit.

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Equally “precious” and hard to relinquish is the Presidential cigar box, although I am disappointed to say when my successor opens it, he will find only a note saying “sorry-I smoked all the cigars
The Constitution said the outgoing president has to stay on for a further year. Thank goodness! Jon’s hard work over the last year has been an enormous help. Thank you Jon (below,as Pres)

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I have also been hugely helped and supported by Jenny Wiltshire as VP, who stays on as VP for another year- thank you Jenny. (Pictured above, LCCSA Conference, Ghent)

First the sad news-
We are losing from the committee one of the key officers, loyal to the LCCSA and lovely to work with, and who took on the role of Law Reform Officer and reformed it.
There are innumerable consultations and reforms, too many for you to respond to, so this association does so on your behalf. When i say association, I mean….TONY

imageToast to Tony Meisels

The good news -we are retaining all of our co-opted senior statesman-Steve Bird, Ray Shaw, Malcolm Duxbury and Paul Harris, and joining them is Jon Black, who deals with the CLSA.
Last year we made Paul Harris an award of Honorary Life Membership.
This year we also feel compelled to reward onother of our former presidents an award, for staying on the committee and being supportive. Raymond Shaw
TOAST RAY SHAW
Rakesh Bhasin remains in post as our treasurer having kept us solvent, Mark Troman our secretary, Diana remains training officer.

And Congratulations members-tonight you have just elected a BRILLIANT COMMITTEE
And best of all we have as incoming president- Greg Powell.
Those of you who voted through the new constitution without reading it may not have realised the change that any future Pres has to be called Greg.
I don’t know whether Greg Stewart will be feeling pleased or anxious….

All of the committee bring their ideas and enthusiasm, many contribute significant amounts of time. I salute you all. (Pictured below, committee dinner, January 20160

img_4052Toast- the LCCSA committee

President.
I had very little time to prepare for the role.
It took a while to get used to the idea.
Mrs F, however quickly become adjusted to the idea of being a president’s wife. It basically meant extra work for her when I was absent on LCCSA business. There is no recognition or reward for being the wife of a President, but she took that on without complaint, has never been anything other than supportive, and, being grounded, has reigned in some of my crazier ideas.
Those of you who know her know she is brilliant, and those who know us both know that she really is my better half.
Now she realises that my Presidency is over and we can spend more time together, she may be the only person wishing I had stayed on for another year.
Toast-the ex-President’s wife

It seems like only yesterday I was starting my criminal career at EFBW.
Heavyweight lawyers, Nigel Dean (now DJ Dean) John Lafferty (now HHJ) and LCCSA legend Paul Harris
And Howard Riddle.
HR was senior partner when I started my articles.
He taught us several important lessons and gave extremely helpful Advocacy tips.
Of course, back then we practised in a fully adversarial justice system, much of which has been eroded and sacrificed on the bonfire of expedience and speedy summary hearings. I don’t know who to blame for that…
Anyway, as you know Howard became a stipendiary Magistrate, and ended up as the “Chief Magistrate”, and throughout has remained a member of and friend to this Association. I am delighted that he has agreed to be our guest speaker tonight, and welcome him and Hilary to our AGM Dinner.
Speaking of advocacy, last year I spoke of a report then just published which criticised the experiences of non-lawyer participants at the Crown Court, making reference to the alienation of seeing barristers swishing about in gowns and wigs.
i had a bit of fun with that, and tried on a series of wigs to see what difference they may make…

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When this came out, a spirited defence of wiggery was then made by some at the bar- “dignity of the court” and “providing anonymity”.
I was told the wig “protects the identity of the advocate”

Really?!

Not much of a disguise is it?!
Imagine cross examining on ID in a case where the alleged robber was concealed only by a horsehair wig with curls!

Why stop at a wig to avoid recognition?
Why not wear a full mask?
How about -to be really contemporary-a Donald Trump mask, or even a “killer clown”mask?

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Killer Clowns-scary but comical, a bit tragic. Come to think of it, very definition of Chris Grayling.

Alternatively, if a mask is going too far and we stick to a wig, how about something more contemporary-a Donald Trump wig perhaps?

I’m just teasing our friends at the bar.
We have many friends at the crim bar, and I have enjoyed working with the CBA. It is so important that the two sides of the profession are united in tackling our current challenges.

We have had in the last year great support from certain chambers, and particularly 25 Bedford Row, 5 St.Andrews Hil, and Doughty st.

We have worked with the Justice Alliance and the CLFS.

We also thank Thomson Reuters for sponsoring tonight. LCCSA members are eligible for discounted copies of Archbold.

Toast: Friends of the Association

Review of the last year:-

In January we defeated Grayling’s two tier proposals
I met the Lord Chief Justice (wearing a Christmas jumper)
We are engaged in a War on touts, and busy Ghost-busting.
We had a great Autumn Conference in Ghent.

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We relaunched the London Advocate in digital format.

And, within the last month, we had an LCCSA victory on the “embarrassment clause” (forcing the LAA to rethink clause 2.2 aka the “gagging clause”. We were the only practitioner group named in the action that led to this, and can be rightly proud that we did not shy away from taking the fight directly to them.
(A full review of the year is in my President’s report, published on the LCCSA website)

Unfinished business
The postponed cut has not gone away-it was only postponed (to March)
We have to persuade the MoJ to abandon it, and we have to be ready to act if they do not.
And we will be ready.

We now have the measure of Liz Truss.
When our Senior Judges came under political and polemical attack, the lord Chancellor, whose oath of office is to support the independent Judiciary, has been found wanting.
Our association condemns the tabloid and political attacks on justice, and castigates the Secretary of State for Justice for her failure to swiftly support due process and the Rule of Law.

Well we have news for Liz Truss.
We are not gagged or trussed, and we will fight fearlessly for justice, for legal aid and for our member’s interests.

We are not the “Big Firms Group” or a small firms group, we are an accountable and united members group. You are the members. We are the LCCSA.

Conclusion
It has been a challenging but enjoyable year. have survived it only thanks to enormous help from a supportive and hard-working committee, whom I am proud to know as colleagues and happy to think of as friends.
Long live the Association

Members, thank you all for coming.
With your help and support the LCCSA has a strong future.
Final toast -the LCCSA

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Above-current ID card.                                               Above -LCCSA ID card circa 1989

Criminal Law: new case on adjournments: Hottak v DPP

HOTTAK v DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS (2016)

DC (Sharp LJ, Nicol J) 18/10/2016
A magistrates’ court had exercised its discretion reasonably in refusing to adjourn a trial, to exclude evidence, or to recuse itself, after an Achieving Best Evidence video had only been disclosed to the defendant on the day of the trial. The magistrates had taken steps to ensure that the defendant had time to consider the evidence, and they could be trusted to exclude from their deliberations any inadmissible material arising from the video.
The appellant appealed by way of case stated against several decisions taken by a magistrates’ court during his trial for common assault.

The appellant had been accused of assault in relation to a domestic altercation with his two sisters, who were aged 16 and 18. It was alleged that he had kicked the younger sister and pulled her hair, causing injuries, and bitten the older sister’s arm. They called the police and photos were taken of the injuries. The police conducted an Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) interview with the younger sister. Its contents were summarised and a summary provided to the appellant. The younger sister later withdrew her allegations. The ABE video was only made available on the first day of the trial. The appellant applied to adjourn the trial, and for the video to be excluded from evidence because it could contain impermissible material. The magistrates refused both applications. The video was shown to all parties and the court, and the appellant was given an additional two hours to prepare. In the video, the sister discussed the appellant’s violent conduct over several years. The prosecution had not submitted a bad character evidence application. The appellant submitted that the magistrates should recuse themselves as they had heard impermissible evidence, and that the trial should be adjourned so that he could respond to the video evidence. His applications were refused, with the magistrates holding that they would not take into account any impermissible material and would not adjourn, in particular because the sister, a vulnerable 16-year-old witness, was present and waiting to give evidence. A second trial day took place a few weeks later. The appellant did not give evidence. He was found guilty and given a suspended sentence. The case stated questions were whether the magistrates had exercised their discretion reasonably in refusing (1) to exclude the ABE video as evidence; (2) the first application to adjourn the trial; (3) the application to recuse themselves; (4) the second application to adjourn.

HELD: (1) The magistrates had correctly exercised their discretion in each instance. The appellant’s submissions did not come close to undermining the judges’ discretion. They had been entitled to reach the decisions taken. Although the appellant should have been given the ABE video before the hearing, the magistrates had been capable of accommodating that fact during the trial. They took steps to ensure no unfairness arose for the appellant. No prejudice had arisen from the admission of the ABE video.

(2) The refusal to adjourn was reasonable on the facts of the case: the substance of the ABE video had already been disclosed via the summary, so there were no surprises for the appellant or reasons for adjournment. The only point made at the time was that the sister had spoken quickly in the video and no transcript was available, but the court was unimpressed by the proposition that the appellant had been unable to prepare a straightforward case in the two hours allowed by the magistrates after the video had been played.

(3) The matters relevant for adjournment by a magistrates’ court were those in Crown Prosecution Service v Picton [2006] EWHC 1108 (Admin), (2006) 170 J.P. 567. The magistrates had been concerned about the sister, a vulnerable 16-year-old witness who was waiting to give evidence. They had considered both sides’ positions and had been entitled to decide that no adjournment was required, after properly considering all the factors, Picton applied.

(4) The argument that the magistrates should have recused themselves lacked merit. They could be trusted to decide the case on its merits and to exclude inadmissible material from consideration. Nothing in the ABE video was out of the ordinary. They had been entitled to proceed as they had done. Their decision was not unreasonable, and was correct on the facts.

Appeal dismissed
Counsel: For the appellant: Tom Dunn: For the respondent: Ben Lloyd

LTL 18/10/2016 EXTEMPORE
AC9402051

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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:-

Available for criminal or regulatory hearings, mainly Crown Courts but also Magistrates Courts and Police stations. Current Availability here.   book via gregfoxsmith@msn.com or 07980846330 .

NEWS

Abuse. The case of Khan reported here is well worth a read. It deals with recusal, bias, abuse of process and the CPR.  Defence counsel Steve Kamlish QC is criticised for his robust and adversarial approach which is described as “last Century”. The Judgement Refers to “scurrilous” accusations levelled against opponents in the case. It disregards the fact that sometimes there are corrupt police, and sometimes Prosecutors who are too easily influenced by police or too lazy to correct bias and/or deal with proper impartial investigation and disclosure. The case refers to some other reports where Kamlish has raised accusations as if to portray him as some kind of crazed maverick or vexatious advocate. It is worth remembering that there have been countless miscarriages in the “last Century”, not all of which have been acknowledged or corrected, and also worth remembering that of those that were many were represented by Kamlish and his ilk. It is fearless advocacy , and if the authorities are not fearlessly challenged then “this Century” will see a proliferation of miscarriages of justice, although they will at least be well case-managed and delivered in a more cost-effective way.

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One recent example of why it is sometimes necessary to raise challenges of this type is outlined here in the Daily Mail- reporting on a case where there was apparently clear evidence that a top QC ‘buried evidence of Met bribes to put innocent man in jail”. Again, it was Kamlish who uncovered it, and challenged it.

Judge jails phone Yes you read that right. In Plymouth Crown Court a Judge jails a phone

CLFS -My Speech on Unity in the Profession delivered at the Criminal Law Friendly Society conferences in October now published here

Bach Commission– the prelim report into access to Justice and Legal Aid is out (reported here)

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For the full report, summary, and details of what happens next see the Fabian Society website

Lawyers of the Year 2015– where are they now?! Last year I initiated the Friday Freelancer email and introduced “Lawyers of the Week”. I have edited my list of award winners from last year to this “top 25” list, and updated their profiles. Congratulations! 

(Lawyers of the Year 2016 so far here . Who is missing? Send your nominations!)

A “soul-destroying production line”. The modern Magistracy, as outlined here in the Guardian which deals with Court closures and JP resignations and recruitment problems.

Legal Aid Top 20

The biggest earner from the legal aid fund in criminal cases in most recent figures was Tuckers Solicitors, It billed nearly £7.5 million over the past year, ahead of Cartwright King, and The Johnson Partnership, both of which billed about £6.5 million.

The highest earning 30 law firms picked up slightly more than £90 million in total last year from the criminal legal aid fund, although this list includes not just criminal law but all legal aid spend

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For those firms that are doing ok, let us hope the principle of “trickle-down” economics applies, and some of the lesser paid employees get a modest share! Advocacy: good to see our old friend Gary Bell QC, who describes solicitor advocates as “rubbish” and solicitors that instruct them as “greedy” and “venal” is doing ok with more than £1/4mill last year. ££££££

Tweet tweet!  Freelance Advocacy Services has joined twitter! Follow @FASadvocacy

Bridging the Gap-Islington. This charity (of which I am a trustee) has finally launched, and is providing voluntary mentoring services to young people and ex-offenders in North London. Please take a moment to read about us here!

Chris Grayling-new job offer!  Village without Idiot offers Grayling the position -see here

Ho ho ho As we hit December and the Christmas Party season, hats off to Kingsley Napley regulatory team who got in early with a great Christmas drinks party on Ist December. The most talked about criminal party so far though was GT STewart solicitors whose party tonight last Friday was on a Thames cruise. Ahoy matey!

Lawyer of the Week-Raymond Shaw. 

At the AGM last month of the LCCSA, Raymond was awarded an honorary life membership of the Association. Ray was himself a former President, and remains a co-opted member of the committee. Ray is a founding partner of Shaw Graham Kersh

PREVIOUS NEWS STORIES

LCCSA AGM/Dinner -report. Congratulations to Greg Powell, incoming President!

My outgoing speech as LCCSA President is HERE  LCCSA Annual Report here

No Adjournments Check out case of Hottak v DPP- -it’s available on Westlaw, or a summary here. Defence refused an adjournment even when ABE Served on day of trial.

The Advocate

It’s  back! The LCCSA magazine returns in digital format. Check out the new edition here

Victory over Embarrassment Clause The LCCSA were party to a pre-action letter to LAA about their objectionable “gagging clause” in the new Legal Aid Contracts. This was the clause which prohibited contracting firms from doing anything which may cause “embarrassment” and was drafted so widely it could include adversely commenting on legislation, posting a critical tweet, making an effigy or a Gove puppet, or attending a demo. The LCCSA were the only practitioner group to take on the LAA , others saying they were worried about upsetting (or embarrassing?) the LAA.  Following LCCSA action, the LAA had a re-think. See here for detail, or this report.

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The LCCSA message is clear “We will NOT be gagged“.

Truss Watch:-  

Keep up to date with news of the Lord Chancellor with my Liz Truss blog.  Or alternatively read this Conference sketch  (extract:  “ I have known table tennis bats less wooden and CBeebies presenters more statesmanlike”

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CLFS  It was a pleasure to speak at CLFS Conferences last month in Manchester and London.

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Meeting the SPJ  With my LCCSA hat on I met the Senior Presiding Judge, DPP and the Chief Magistrate, and discussed some potential changes to the Criminal Procedure Rules on disclosure that may help address the current inadequacies of IDPC. I also raised the controversial Advice Note circulated to Magistrates. I requested that all Advice Notes should be both published and publicly available, and that the senior Judiciary should correct the false impression given in this note.The SPJ gave an undertaking to respond on both counts. I have updated the blog Magistrates Courts- Managerialism v Justice.

Justice Secretary untrussed!   Read more about our new Lord Chancellor Liz Truss  here.(updated blog)

LCCSA summer Party   President speech here.

Michael Foot memorial – a reaction to the criminal damage of this monument (in Plymouth) in this blog by Matt Foot (later picked up by the Plymouth Evening Herald here.)

Gove sacked! My assessment of his tenure as Lord Chancellor here

Chilcot Report. Will there be a prosecution of Tony Blair? Updated blog here. See also this crowd-funded legal action.

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

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

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

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

CLFS Conference Spring 2016- 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 Ma

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Michael Foot Memorial (guest blog by Matt Foot)

Editor’s Intro:-

Michael Foot was born in Plymouth, Devon, and a Lord Mayor of Plymouth. He served as Labour MP for Plymouth Devonport from 1945-1955, and was Labour Party Leader 1980-1983.

A memorial, funded by public subscription and fundraising, was unveiled in Plymouth in August 2015.

The memorial was defaced with nazi graffiti in July 2016, following the Brexit vote.  A response to the graffiti  in chalk was later added by a local artist, quoting Michael Foot. Both original graffiti and response were removed by the local Council.

The blog below ( published 15/07) is a response by Michael Foot’s great-nephew, solicitor Matt Foot. A version was later reprinted (with permission) by the Plymouth Evening Herald here.

GUEST BLOG BY MATT FOOT 

We are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier’ 

My first thought when I saw that my Great Uncle Michael’s Memorial had been daubed with fascist graffiti was for Michael’s niece Alison Highet. She was the driving force to ensure the Memorial came to being, only to see it abused with a swastika. 

When Thatcher died the state (us that is) paid £3.2 million for her funeral, but no money was proffered for Michael. Fittingly, a campaign obtained funding for this Memorial in Freedom Fields opposite the house where he was born. It recognises Michael alongside his unique contribution to his beloved Plymouth, whose constituents he served, and then supported all his life, including becoming an honorary member of its football team at the age of 90. 

It is a special place for our family to remember him.

The response to the racist graffiti has been tremendous, with widespread disdain in the community, press and social media. Especially so the contribution of a local artist who used chalk to draw one of Michael’s famous quotes in front of the memorial,

“We are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier, more battered and crippled than ourselves. That is our only certain good and great purpose – Michael Foot, 1983.”

Thank you to the sympathiser who sent me the marvellous poem ‘V’ by Tony Harrison, written after he found his parents gravestone defaced. Michael would have approved – he never missed an opportunity to inspire others to read literature and poetry. 

The Memorial also celebrates Michael the peace activist, and no doubt in the week of the Chilcot Inquiry, he would be insisting we reread Tony Harrison’s “A Cold Calling” written in 1991 during the First Gulf war but which would make a fitting forward to the Inquiry:-

I saw the charred Iraqi lean towards me from bomb-blasted screen, 

his windscreen wiper like a pen ready to write down thoughts for men,

his windscreen wiper like a quill he’s reaching for to make his will. 

I saw the charred Iraqi lean like someone made of Plasticine

as though he’d stopped to ask the way and this is what I heard him say: 

“Don’t be afraid I’ve picked on you for this exclusive interview.

Isn’t it your sort of poet’s task to find words for this frightening mask? 

If that gadget that you’ve got records words from such scorched vocal cords,

press RECORD before some dog devours me mid-monologue.” 

So I held the shaking microphone closer to the crumbling bone:

“I read the news of three wise men who left their sperm in nitrogen, 

three foes of ours, three wise Marines with sample flasks and magazines,

three wise soldiers from Seattle who banked their sperm before the battle.

 

Below: Visiting Michael Memorial Freedom Fields Plymouth, summer of 2015.


 

Notes

 Matt Foot is a solicitor with Birnberg Peirce in London.
Both author Matt Foot, and blog editor Greg Foxsmith, are also fans of Plymouth Argyle (as was Michael Foot)

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New Justice Secretary Liz Truss

On 14th July 2016 incoming Prime Minister Theresa May as part of her cabinet reshuffle appointed Liz Truss as the new Secretary of State for Justice (aka Lord Chancellor) and the first female incumbent.

Truss takes over from Michael Gove,  sacked for his disloyalty and failed leadership bid rather than his performance in post (Gove had himself replaced the hopeless and reviled Chris Grayling, widely believed to have been the worst Lord Chancellor in living memory)

Truss is the third consecutive non-lawyer to be appointed to the post. Does that matter? Read the Secret Barrister blog.

This blog Aims to chart the progress of Truss in  office.

Pre-Justice Secretary

Truss was previously at DEFRA, and most famous or infamous for her widely ridiculed conference speech about French cheese and British Pork (footage enjoyed on this clip from Have I Got News For You )

She co-authored a book (“Brittania unchained“) which accused British workers of laziness :”The British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor. Whereas Indian children aspire to be doctors or businessmen, the British are more interested in football and pop music.

Critics who have attempted to engage with her, (according to George Monbiot in The Guardian) have said she is “indissolubly wedded to a set of theories about how the world should be, that are impervious to argument, facts or experience. She was among the first ministers to put her own department on the block in the latest spending review, volunteering massive cuts. She seems determined to dismantle the protections that secure our quality of life: the rules and agencies defending the places and wildlife we love.

Background

Born: 26 July 1975
From: Paisley, Renfrewshire
Constituency: MP for South West Norfolk since 2010
Education: Educated at local comprehensive in Leeds; read PPE at Merton
Before politics: Ten years as a management accountant, economics director at Cable & Wireless; deputy director of Reform education think tank

Truss and Criminal Justice (pre-appointment)

Truss was a member of the Justice Select Committee between March 2011 and November 2012, but apparently only ever spoke about justice issues three times in parliament,one of which was to strongly supportt cutting the legal aid budget.

In terms of her votes on Home Affairs she consistently voted for a stricter asylum system and stronger enforcement of immigration rules; for the introduction of Police & Crime Commissioners, and for requiring the mass retention of information about communications. She spoke several times during the committee stages of LASPO (transcripts here)

Comments on her Appointment 

There was initially mixed disappointment and scepticism from legal aid lawyers, largely due to Truss’ record of continuously voting for Legal Aid cuts. A priority should be to sort out and protect Legal Aid, said the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid, as reported here in the Solicitors Journal. Concerns were also raised about her views on prisons (eg here in the Justice Gap, July 2016)

Lord Faulks,  justice minister under her two predecessors, resigned the post because he felt that the inexperience of Truss  could  put at risk the standing of the judiciary and courts.  “I have nothing against Ms Truss personally,” he told The Times. “But is she going to have the clout able to stand up to the prime minister when necessary on behalf of the judges? Is she going to be able to stand up, come the moment, to the prime minister, for the rule of law and for the judiciary … without fear of damaging her career?”

A previous Labour lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, told The Times: “Liz Truss has not experience or gravitas and gives every impression of only wanting to climb the greasy pole.”

Anna Soubry QC turned down post of No. 2 to Truss (according to this piece in Legal Cheek)

In a lively debate in the House of Lords (20 July) Former Supreme Court Justice Lord Brown claimed she was “not over-burdened with previous experience” of courts and access to justice.  His remarks were condemned by Baroness Helena Kennedy, who said there had been a “clamour of male lawyers and judges” criticising Ms Truss who had not spoken out about  Gove or Grayling’s lack of legal background. (Source: Esther Webber, BBC Parliament online)

This in turn prompted a top piece of trivia from crossbencher Lord Pannick, who pointed out that contrary to some reports she is not the first female Lord Chancellor – that was Eleanor of Provence, who filled in for her husband Henry III in 1253.  He added that at the time “there was probably a 13th-Century Lord Falconer complaining Eleanor hadn’t been trained as a lawyer”.  

The CLSA released a statement welcoming her appointment.

Peter Oborne writing for the Mail on Sunday had this observation:-

I greatly enjoyed seeing Ms Liz Truss, the new Lord Chancellor, in her majestic Tudor-style robes of office, redolent of old England, tradition and deference.

It is amusing to recall Ms Truss’s radical anti-Monarchy speech to the Liberal Democrat conference in 1994 (she was once on the national executive committee of that party’s youth and student wing) when she proclaimed: ‘We do not believe people are born to rule.’ Her target was the Queen. 

She found out soon afterwards that Oxford graduates in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, such as herself, are indeed born to rule, and it doesn’t much matter which party they are in.  I’m sure she’ll enjoy the many conversations with Her Majesty she’ll now have, thanks to her new high office”

First days in post

The Annual HM Inspector Of Prisons report was published (19 July) and once again showed a prison service in crisis- violent, over-crowded and full of drugs with few opportunities of rehabilitation. Truss response below:-



On 21st July Truss got to dress up in black and gold robes, and was sworn-in as Lord Chancellor. The ceremony can be viewed on this YouTube clip.

The New Team

Oliver Heald is Minister for Courts and Justice  Sam Gyimah is Minister for Prisons and Probation, and  Phillip Lee is Minister for Victims, Youth and Family Justice. Read about the new MOJ ministerial appointees in this blog by Russell Fraser

Challenges Ahead

Will Truss save Legal Aid? This letter from lawyers asks her to urgently redress the LASPO cuts. Will Truss have the courage to release IPP prisoners? (Article here -Guardian 28/07)

Truss and Legal Aid 

Truss has lamentable form in attacking legal aid – as explained by James Sandbach here on Legal Voice (08/16)

First Three  Months

After a suitable pause to master the brief, Truss gave her first interviews and indicated she was indeed planning to introduce a Bill of Rights. It was later clarified this did not mean the UK would be withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights. It was initially unclear whether we would be keeping or scrapping the Human Rights Act. She also indicated the Government would not be proceeding with “Problem Solving Courts” (previously announced by Gove) although it was later clarified she actually meant they were still considering them, and a week later confirmed were in fact proceeding with them.

After a Summer break, Truss attended a meeting of the Justice select Committee, (07 September) where to the astonishment of all those attending or following, she could not confirm any planned legislation, merely saying everything was under review (Guardian report here ) Private Eye was also unimpressed:

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On 03 October Truss was all trussed up again in robes, together with a “train bearer”,  to attend her first “Opening of the Legal Year” service. Her speech here.

On 04 October Truss gave her first Conference speech as Lord Chancellor. It was a more assured performance than the infamous “cheese speech” (see above) but failed to mention Legal Aid or Access to Justice. She spoke of prison reform, announcing £14 million additional investment (although it turned out this was funding already announced by Gove). She did not acknowledge the current high suicide rate, but promised that “ex-soldiers” would be recruited as prison officers. (As we know, sadly many ex service-men are already in the prison system, but not as prison officers.) The rest of the speech was a series of platitudes. In. Very. Short. Sentences. Text  here.

Or read Quentin Letts’ summary “How could so jellyfish and unformed a political personality have been made lord chancellor?” Letts asked of his readers. “I have known ping-pong [that’s whiff whaff to you, foreign secretary] bats less wooden, CBeebies presenters more statesmanlike.”

Whilst at Party Conference in Birmingham , Truss was also approached by a campaigner for the Families of the Birmingham Pub Bombings, lobbying for a public enquiry, who described Truss as “like a rabbit in the headlights”, according to this piece in the Birmingham Mail.

Failure to Defend the Judiciary

On 03 November, the High Court ruled in the case of Miller that Brexit via article 50 should require a vote in Parliament. In an outpouring of outrage in the tabloids there was open hostility to the judges who were described on one front page as “enemies of the people” The LC, whose oath of office is to uphold and defend the Independence of the Judiciary, would be expected to speak up in defence of the rule of law. Instead, for a long period, silence. #WhersLiztruss? Began trending on twitter. Read more here. Then, belatedly a half-hearted statement as reported here.  Criticism continued to grow, with an attack by some Tory MPs, as well as lawyers (see this summary as reported in the Guardian)

High Court Action

The Independent reported that 6 High Court Judges have launched a legal action against Truss and  MoJ, for age discrimination (full story here 08/11)

Prisons Crisis

The effects of the drastic cuts implemented by Grayling have led to a crisis which has continued to escalate since Truss took office. Assaults on prison staff, a “strike” by officers, violence, drugs, escapes and riots. How has Truss coped? Poorly is the general consensus – see eg here

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LCCSA Summer Party -President’s Speech

Welcome guests to LCCSA Summer Party!



Background:-

Last November, at our AGM, many members were still tied up in litigation after the award of contracts in LAA’s botched two- tier contracting exercise.

That contracting, initiated by Grayling, followed an unsuccessful JR by the Association in 2015 against the whole tendering process, which despite generous contributions by members, depleted our resources as we had to fund that action.

Counsel’s fees alone were in excess of £100k, and our action, including those fees, brought this Association to our knees financially. The committee and membership were also physically and mentally exhausted, after several years of desperate campaigning against Legal Aid cuts. 

So when I agreed, at short notice, to take up the Presidency I did wonder whether we would survive.

Would solicitors, demoralised and involved in litigation, renew their memberships? 

Well you did rejoin, our membership is solid, we remain a dynamic accountable representative body -I thank you.

And our AGM dinner sold out, and was the best-attended ever. 

And then, in January this year, Gove abandoned two-tier!

And now, tonight, the Summer Party!

Sold out, because you are here, solicitors, counsel, members, friends.

Not on our knees, but standing shoulder to shoulder.

Tonight we are here to party, but we are also ready for battles ahead, with whoever takes over as Lord Chancellor, ready to deal with whatever new idiocies are inflicted soon us by the MOJ, and take on the Courts with their increasing managerialism.

So Thank you all for coming tonight, and your ongoing support for this Association.

We did ask the Public Law set,  whose Counsel earned well over £100k in that unsuccessful JR, whether they would as a gesture sponsor this event. They would not.

Thankfully therefore, our friends at Doughty St chambers stepped up and have sponsored tonight’s party. Their generous sponsorship means we keep the costs down, and have more drinks available. I thank them   

This event is not run at a profit, and I took the decision to dispense with the tradition of inviting Judges as paid-for guests. Of course, there is nothing to stop members inviting Judges as guests, or in years to come Judges buying their own tickets to attend, and I hope they will do so. Instead this year I chose to subsidise tickets for trainee solicitors or paralegals, and I am delighted to see some younger members of the profession here tonight, albeit slightly concerned about their ability to drink…..

You guys are the future, please join the Association and ensure it survives to serve your futures

I thought I would invite the Big Firms Group tonight, so I looked to their website to get contact details, but they do not have one. They have, so far as I can tell, neither website, constitution or elected officers. But they continue to have a seat at the table in talks with the MOJ. and are recognised by the Law Society as a practitioner group. This has got to stop. We have now way of knowing how many solicitors this group represents, although clearly it is representing the owners of those firms rather than the employees.

This association alone aims to represent the interests of all criminal solicitors in London:-

 Owners, managers, partners, salaried staff, big firms and small firms, legal aid or private. 

Of course we sometimes have competing or even conflicting interests, but we try to resolve these fairly, and we recognise we have more in common than those issues that divide us, we have re-learned the important adage that United we Stand, Divided we Fall.

Traditionally, this event was a black-tie dinner, with a top-table and speeches.

I  invited two special guests to this event to my “virtual” top table.

Firstly, the SoS for Justice,  the Right Honourable Michael GOVE MP.
Gove ended two tier, and reversed many other Grayling policies including the Criminal Courts Charge. He spent his first six months on prison reform, and the remaining time campaigning successfully for Brexit and unsuccessfully to be PM. As a result, he has largely left us alone, and I thank him for it.

Michael Gove has many failings

But manifestly less than Grayling’s 

He is, I regret to say, not here.
So, instead of Michael GOVE, I introduce to you… Michael GLOVE (introduces the Gove/glove  puppet)


And when you think about it, Gove is a bit like a right-handed glove- all fingers and thumbs, limp and floppy, and useless on it’s own…

My second invited guest is a good friend of Gove, Gary Bell QC

I thought it would be helpful for him to be here not just for us but for him.

As you all know, he has appointed himself chair of an advisory panel on the justice system, terms of reference unknown, and with his friends as members. He is also by his own admission sometimes ‘used as a bit of a conduit by the Criminal Bar Association’. I thought he may want to hear our views, I know you would want to share them.

He, I regret to say, is not here either.

I understand he holds strong views about solicitor advocates, who he says are :-

insufficiently qualified” and ‘not up to the job’, and firms that employ them are “venal”  (see here for full quotes)

I was hoping we could take the opportunity to put Gary straight on some of those views. 

But he has not replied, so instead I have Gary “Alarm- Bell”

And when you think about it, any lawyer making such pejorative comments. tick-tocking  away with ill-informed remarks about HCAs would be a bit of a clock, albeit without the second consonant.

And so I don’t have MGMP or GBQC here in person as actual entities, and I can present them to you tonight only as non-entities on my virtual top-table, and I stand between them, the Gove-end, and the other end.

A few thank you’s

To PSP (the firm with most attendees here tonight!)

To KN (continuing help and support for the Association including use of room for committee members)

To HJA (providing our regular training venue) 

To Sara, (our administrator) and my fantastic committee (a special mention to Rhona Friedman at Bindmans!)

To Stuart Wild and Nigel Edwards, from Save UK Justice, who have yravelled from outside London to be here!

To 25 BR who are here in numbers, and are sponsoring our Autumn conference in Ghent (along with 5SAH)

And To Doughty St for support tonight

On which note I would like to introduce and welcome from DS:- FFQC

Francis is currently vice chair of CBA, and soon assumes the helm. 

I wish him well, and I look forward to us working together.

So, two things – firstly a toast:  “the Association”

And secondly a warm welcome to FFQC and a show of appreciation to DS chambers!


  

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Legal Action against Blair over Iraq- could it happen?

Could Blair be prosecuted for War Crimes?

British involvement in the Iraq War was recognised by some (such as Elizabeth Wilmshurst) even at the time as unlawful.

There have been calls for a prosecution of Tony Blair for his role in the Iraq war since at least 2005, and these have been renewed (see eg Lindsey German in the Guardian) following the publication of the Chilcot report. Initial opinions in the run-up to ublication of the report were that a Prosecution was unlikely (see eg this piece in Telegraph)

However, after the Chilcott report, lawyers and commentators began looking beyond a prosecution by the ICC, and considering other options eg Misconduct in Public Office.

Blair and Iraq: Conduct or Misconduct?

Tony Blair’s conduct in the run-up to the second invasion of Iraq could amount to misconduct in public office, Lord Macdonald (who was DPP between 2003 and 2008) has said.

Writing  for the Times,  Macdonald said  it “seemed very likely” that the former prime minister had “roundly abused the trust placed in him by the public” and accused Blair of “twisting both the evidence and the law”.
Macdonald told The Times: “It is the final disgrace that a British prime minister should have sunk so low as to twist not just the evidence but even the law itself, in order to send British men and women into a conflict for which there was no justification other than the satisfaction of his own desire for flattery in Washington. 

Millions of people will feel that if the law now has no reckoning for Mr Blair, then it is the law itself that is diminished by his disgrace.”

He added: “It is of no comfort that the consequences of Mr Blair’s outrageous manipulations are with us still in Syria, Iraq and throughout a world made radically more dangerous by his awful miscalculations.”
Lord Macdonald pointed to one example of “particularly egregious misconduct” revealed in the report, which appears to have happened when Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general at the time, told Blair that any legal justification for war was utterly dependent on Iraq having committed “further material breaches of UN resolution 1441”.
Macdonald said: “Yet, without seeking any advice whatsoever, or calling for any evidence to determine whether this critical condition was met, Mr Blair simply expressed ‘the unequivocal view’ that such further breaches had indeed occurred.”

He added: “In behaving in this disreputable way to win tainted legal backing for massive armed conflict, it seems very likely that Mr Blair roundly abused the trust placed in him by the public.

“The only remaining question is whether he had a reasonable excuse. Mr Blair, of course, will resort to familiar claims of security armageddon in the event of Saddam’s survival in power, but Chilcott and history have combined to expose his defence as a busted flush.”

Prosecution of Blair?

Elsewhere, Joshua Rozenberg also suggests that Chilcot may have opened the door for Blair to be prosecuted (writing here in the Guardian). A careful appraisal (by Philippe Sands) of the Chilcot report, with focus on the legal advice at the time and the consequences now, is well worth a read (here in the LRB)

Civil Action

Families of soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq intend to sue (as reported here in the Telegraph) 

Review and analysis of options considered here on the BBC website

A crowd-funded legal action on behalf of families has been launched here. Read more about that in this powerful piece in the Justice Gap.

Notes

1 There is a bounty available for Blair’s arrest – claim via this link – www.arrestblair.org

2 Few MPs in office at the time come out of the Iraq War debate with any credit, but one who does is Jeremy Corbyn (as argued in the Independent here)

3 There was at leat an imaginary prosecution, in the 2010 play The Trial of Tony Blair

4 There is a call for impeachment and prosecution here , and by Stop the War Coalition

5 There are also some petitions calling for Prosecution including this one from Stop the War coalition

6 Even the Deputy Prime Minister at the time now believes the war was illegal (John Prescott writing in the Mirror)

Below- cartoon by Dave Brown (Independent newspaper)