Category Archives: Law

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Greg Foxsmith COURT AVAILABILITY   I am on annual leave from 8-23 August, for future availability see www.freelanceadvocacyservices.uk).  Book via gregfoxsmith@msn.com or 07980846330

NEWS

Well done to advocate Paul Morgan- who completed a marathon golf challenge for charity here

The Accused-another edition of the C5 fly on the wall Legal documentary aired on Friday, featuring Greg Stewart (GTS) and Ravinder Saimbhi (33 Bedford row)  Essential viewing! #TheAccused View here

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The “Innocence Tax” –a great piece by Fleet St Fox in defence of Legal Aid. definitely one to promote, circulate and share with your family and friends who just don’t get it. Reported here in the Mirror.

Tribunal fees Judiciary give the Government a pasting -see here

“Flexible working” .Thoughts on the pilot, now scheduled to start in September, by Jon Black (LCCSA) here in the Tuesday Truth. Read the response by senior Judiciary dismissing criticism as “ill-informed” here

Disclosure failings read the scathing CJJI report here

Research by Howard league on sentencing young adults here

New Lord Chief Justice here

Gove in salt incident – here

Lord Neuberger in a speech last month referencing legal aid argued that it “verges on the hypocritical for governments to bestow rights on citizens while doing very little to ensure that those rights are enforceable”.

 

The LCCSA European Conference will take place this year in Seville from Friday 6th October until Sunday 8th October 2017.

https://www.lccsa.org.uk/events/european-conference-in-seville-on-friday-6th-october-sunday-8th-october-2017/

Lawyer of the Month July –  Graeme Hydari

Congratulations to Graeme on winning criminal lawyer of the year at this year’s Legal Aid Lawyer “LALY” awards. Graeme is at HJA, and has specialised in representing defendants with autism.

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A special mention as well for short-listed Jude Lanchin (Bindmans) -an outstanding and tenacious lawyer, and Mel Stooks (GTS) for shortlisted in Children’s Rights category.

Good luck and Congratulations to Meer, who joins the long list of departing Legal Advisers from Highbury Court, to take up a manager’s role at CPS

June’s lawyer of month: Mel Cooke. Mel is the leading expert on all football related law. her firm Football Law Associates is the go to place for Public order offences, Football Banning Orders, and more.

A list of lawyers of the Year for 2016 is here, and here is a 2015 list,

Music 50 years on…look back at the Summer of Love ❤️with this playlist 🌺

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New Lord Chancellor David Lidington

On 11 June 2017 PM Theresa May in a post-election re-shuffle appointed David Lidington as Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor. He replaces Liz Truss,  who had herself been appointed by May in a post-election re-shuffle less than a year before.

Lidington is the fourth consecutive non-lawyer appointment- his predecessors were Liz Truss, Michael  Gove and Grayling (widely regarded as the worst Lord Chancellor ever).  Dominic Raab (courts and justice minister) Phillip Lee and Sam Gyimah ( junior ministers) complete the team.

This blog aims to monitor Lidington’s performance over his term of office.

Background

David Roy Lidington CBE PC (born 30 June 1956) has been MP for Aylesbury since 1992. He was Minister of State for Europe from May 2010 to July 2016, and Leader of the House of Commons.

He was educated at a public school, before studying history at Cambridge (appearing on University Challenge)

He was given a CBE in Cameron’s widely criticised resignation honours list.

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Expenses scandal In May 2009, it was revealed Lidington had claimed £1,300 on expenses for dry cleaning. He also claimed for toothpaste, shower gel, body spray, vitamin supplements and a second home allowance. He repaid the claims for toiletries, saying: “I accept that many people would see them as over-generous.”  So although he eventually came clean you paid for his soap .

Record in Parliament pre-appointment  (Justice issues)

Lidington voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act,  restricting the scope of legal aid and limiting fees paid to solicitors in no-win no-fee cases. The “they-work-for-you” website says Lidington generally voted against equal gay rights, and his record on cutting legal aid is here.

Challenges Ahead

The new Lord Chancellor was sworn in on 19 June.  In the in-tray:-

Read an open letter to Lord Chancellor from Joshua Rozenberg

-sort out the prison crisis-read these recommendations from the Howard League

His first official pronouncement, following the Grenfell tragedy, was on availability of legal aid in housing cases- and he got it wrong (see here)

 

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Lord Chancellor Liz Truss-a Review of her Term of Office

On 14th July 2016 incoming Prime Minister Theresa May  appointed Liz Truss as the new Secretary of State for Justice (also known as Lord Chancellor).

She lasted less than a year, being demoted by May on 11th June in the re-shuffle that followed the “mandate” election.

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

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

This blog reviews Truss’  time in office.

Background-Pre-Justice Secretary

Truss was previously at DEFRA, and perhaps best known for her widely ridiculed Conservative Party conference speech about French cheese and British Pork (footage enjoyed on this clip from Have I Got News For You )  This was followed another much ridiculed Conference speech (October 2015) when she called for a return to “giving animals their proper names”

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.”

Background

Born: 26 July 1975, in Paisley, Renfrewshire
Constituency: MP for South West Norfolk since 2010
University: read PPE at Merton
Before politics: 10 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 support cutting the legal aid budget.

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 and initial reaction 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.  Her priority should have been 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 his post because he felt that the inexperience of Truss  could  put at risk the standing of the judiciary and courts.  Anna Soubry QC turned down post of No. 2 to Truss (according to this piece in Legal Cheek)

Much of the commentary focussed on Truss’ gender, and her being supposedly the first female Lord Chancellor, but critics of Truss denied misogyny ( eg Lord Falconer here in the Guardian)

Lord Pannick 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.

 

 

First Three  Months

After a long  pause to master the brief, Truss gave her first interviews and indicated she was planning to introduce a Bill of Rights. No such bill was introduced.  It was initially unclear whether we would be keeping or scrapping the Human Rights Act.

Truss 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 the Government 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 then topical high suicide rate in prisons, but promised that “ex-soldiers” would be recruited as prison officers.  The rest of the speech was a series of platitudes. In. Very. Short. Sentences. Text  here.  Quentin Letts’ summary “How could so jellyfish and unformed a political personality have been made lord chancellor? I have known ping-pong  bats less wooden, CBeebies presenters more statesmanlike.”

November-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. #WheresLizTruss?  was 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)

Truss later managed a half-apology, but the criticism never really died away and (in March 2017) the Lord Chief Justice piled in  here.

Prisons Crisis

The effects of the drastic cuts implemented by Grayling led to a crisis which continued to escalate during Truss’ term of  office. There was an escalation of assaults on prison staff, suicide and self-harm of prisoners,  a “strike” by officers, violence, drugs, escapes and riots. How did Truss cope? Poorly is the general consensus – see eg here

PI Reform

Truss achieved better headlines for her “crack-down” on whiplash claims. But these “reforms” , badged as reducing insurance premiums supposedly over-inflated by dodgy claims and the “compensation culture” will in fact not help consumers, but harm those suffering genuine injury, and offer a bumper pay-out for insurance companies. See this article for the detail.

Six months In 

In December Truss appeared in the Commons to announce that “barking dogs” would tackle the problem of drones being used to courier drug deliveries. Seriously. Read this article and play the clip where Truss announces this (to laughter). Could they? See the Guardian Pass Notes

Happy Christmas!

Liz Truss extended a special message to hedgehogs. Happy Christmas hedgehogs!

2017

Februaryslammed by lawyers following another “car-crash” TV Interview

First bill  (23 February 2017) – the Prisons and Courts Bill (2017)  covering four main areas:-

1 Prison safety and reform –  described as a “new framework and clear system of accountability for prisons”  It will “enshrine into law ” that a key purpose of prison is to reform and rehabilitate
2 Court reform: -another commitment to victims and the most vulnerable, as well as improving the system by digitisation. (But see here for critical commentary)
3 The judiciary – a better working environment for judges,  modern court facilities + better IT
4 Whiplash compensation – new fixed tariffs capping whiplash compensation pay-outs

The bill has not yet been enacted.

April By April, Truss appeared out of her depth, and reports indicated she does not have the confidence of the Judiciary OR cabinet colleagues.

See this  summary of her tenure, by Frances Crook (Howard League) . Meanwhile, with the election called, pundits predicted she would not last a full year -see eg this Legal Cheek piece by Joshua Rosenberg They were right.

May-June and the General Election Truss was largely absent for most of the General election campaign. But she did visit Wibsey! 

Goodbye Truss, hello David Lidington 

So Truss has left the full cabinet by being demoted to first secretary to the treasury, replaced by David Lidington. Lidington is the 3rd new lord chancellor in little more than two years. It used to be a job that the recipient would fulfil for a decade. He is also the fourth consecutive non-lawyer to have held the post. Read more about Lidington here.

Conclusion

If Truss had showed even half the enthusiasm for justice that she has for cheese, she could have really made her mark in an area crying out for reform. As it is, Truss lasted just 11 months in the job, the shortest tenure since the post was created, and has now been demoted.

Truss was not the worst Lord Chancellor in recent time (Grayling set a high standard  for that) but she fell far short of what was required. She never appeared to be on top of her brief, abjectly failed to tackle the prison crisis, failed to stand up for the Judiciary, and does not appear to have a solitary positive achievement she can point to from her term of office. 

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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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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

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Michael GOVE -Justice Secretary

Following the Conservative election victory on 07 May 2015, Cameron replaced Chris Grayling as Justice Secretary (Lord Chancellor) with Michael Gove. Gove was sacked by incoming Prime Minister Theresa May on 14 July 2016, and replaced by Liz Truss. This blog reflects on his achievements and failures in office.

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  consistently championed cutting public expenditure, other than his own (the extent of his expenses claims 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 was 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 (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 who would not engage. 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:-

We were 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. That was confirmed in several emails, but never happened. Gove was invited to the LCCSA Summer Party, but failed to attend and was replaced with a G(l)ove puppet.

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 was 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.

Tory Leadership bid

On 30 June Gove announced he was standing as a candidate to be the Conservative Party Leader (and therefore if successful, Prime Minister) . He did not resign as Justice Secretary. By 7th July he was out of the running, failing to attract support and generally ridiculed for his disloyalty. He was proved right about one thing – he was unsuitable to be PM.

Meanwhile, judging by the content it appears that somebody other than Mr Gove had registered the Gove2016 website…..

Sacked

Post Brexit vote, Gove was now a Minister waiting for the axe. He had unfinished business that had been on hold during his electioneering- continuing  prison reform, and perhaps reforming the Court of Appeal (as argued by Julie Price in this powerful piece in the Justice Gap.)  Theresa May sacked Gove in appointing her initial cabinet, having assumed office the previous day.

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,  largely because he was an improvement on Grayling, which was admittedly a low threshold.

Michael Gove spent the first half of his tenure undoing the damage inflicted by his predecessor and the second half doing very little. 

On that basis alone, he was quickly missed, and initial assessments of his successor were underwhelming -see this assessment of Liz Truss.

Gove-Post Justice Secretary

Gove returned to journalism, writing for the Times. He had been a staunch cheerleader for Rupert Murdoch, even during the Leveson enquiry (leading to this call by Ian Hislop for an investigation)

He returned to the cabinet following May’s ill- judged “snap election” in June 2017.

More GOVE

The classic video of “Michael Gove falling over” (a YouTube classic)

Gove at Oxford Union Debating Society reveals what is under his kilt, and in so doing reveals also his character (Here)

An unfortunate encounter with salt here

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

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The Magistrates Court- Managerialism vs Justice

 A Fair Trial in the Magistrates Court? 

This blog has been updated following an earlier draft  published here on LCCSA website. 

This is an ongoing issue, and the blog will be updated. (Comments, examples of injustices arising from managerialism or links to related articles are welcome and can be incorporated -email gregfoxsmith@msn.com)

A “Legal Advice Note” issued to Magistrates in June 2016 (extracts below, and in full Here) casts doubt on whether a citizen accused of a criminal case can secure a fair hearing in the Magistrates Court.
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 to the best of their ability within an adversarial system. 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 (at least in legal aid cases) 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 a lawyer seeking an adjournment is likely to be doing so 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 (circulated to magistrates) and some extracts of which I include here:-

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 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 

There is a long section within the advice note on disclosure – see the full note for detail)

MY COMMENTARY

The Legal Advice Note includes :-

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 wording of 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,who made no comment but is now admitting the offence- well, bad luck, plead guilty and they will have a conviction.

-If your client is impaired with mental illness 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 CLSA 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 and others 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 appear to be prized above justice, with the emphasis on “cracked trial rates” , adjournment statistics and “guilty plea rate”.

The LCCSA, with CLSA, CBA and The Law Society, raised these issues at a meeting with the Senior Presiding Judge, DPP and Chief Magistrate. Consideration was given to amendments to the CPR, which were later modified as a result of our representations.

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.

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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

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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