Category Archives: Legal Aid

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Charter for Justice- for a Fair Justice System

Charter for Justice- for a Fair Justice System- guest blog by Raj Chada

Just  5 months ago, we welcomed the “Lammy Review”  into inequality of outcome for black and ethnic minority defendants, but questioned whether it could change the landscape. .
We know that nothing has changed, but that the whole criminal justice is close to collapse.

Justice on the cheap means no real justice for any community – but it will always, and indeed has, affect most those that are discriminated against , those with limited means , those with no voice at all.
That is who we must in a Charter for Justice.
David Lammy was comissioned to prepare a  report (an   ‘independent review into the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in the Criminal Justice System “  in response to the over -representation of BAME individuals in the criminal justice system.
You are 17.5 times more likely to be stopped and searched if you are black
45% of those in youth custody are from an ethnic minority – a higher percentage than the US.

I borrow from the LCCSA response to Lammy – If you are a defendant in the Crown Court (and certainly should you reach the Court of Appeal) you can expect white Judges, mostly men and often still an all-white court room. Imagine roles are reversed. Imagine if you are white appearing in an all-black courtroom where you believe you have been harshly treated. Later you might read of higher sentences for white people, or that white deaths in custody never result in any prosecution. That white youth are disproportionately stopped and searched. You may imagine a lack of equality in the criminal Justice processes.
Think of that role reversal when you ponder why Lammy said that there was a trust deficit ; and then ask ourselves how that is not top of the agenda for Justice Secretary, every minute of every day of every week of every year that he or she is in office.
Think of that when you consider that the real trend is abolish any pretence of establishing a system with balance and checks, professionals exercising judgement from experience and training. With legal aid fixed cases cut to the bone, and a pressure to plead guilty,  there is insufficient time to develop relationships with clients ; to consider, review, analyse  the papers, and to properly advise clients. The   MoJ response to Lammy pointing out the lack of trust for BAME is not to re consider how fixed fees operate ; not to look at the absurd rates of pay in police stations, to demand at how the professions train and recognise the needs of the communities that they serve….
but to welcome the development of an app that can be used to explain people rights in custody.

The MoJ rejects the idea of accountabilty for the judiciary by feedback from users – lawyers, defendant or victims as if it will mean those that are aggrieved by decisions will use it as a complaint mechanism.
The MoJ offers nothing new about how to increase diversity of judiciary, – of the senior judiciary 81% went to Oxbridge, 76% went to fee paying schools and half went to boarding schools.
Enough already.
We need concrete action ; not the luke-warm response to the genuinely innovative idea of deferred prosecution for youth offending that will allow youngster not to have a criminal convictions on an agreement of behaviour in future. Good enough for a multi national company caught defrauding millions of pounds – not good enough for the balck defendant in Brent that was caught shoplifting for £50.
Of course I know that the solution to this is wider the CJS It requires us to help individuals through support and intervention, to hold individuals to account through community mechanisms and to develop that individual so that he has sense that he or she belongs and has a stake.
The solution as to why so many BAME youths do not feel they have that stake is political not legal: An active well-funded state that exists to help all its citizens, not just one section would benefit everyone, not just BAME communities. It is why we must make common cause across civic society with Trade unions and others…
We must start with CJS. This is not just about pay for us – it is about our participation in a public service, with our own roles to play and that the same system of justice should exist no matter what the social status, race or means of the victim, no matter what the social status, race of the defendant.

If we don’t have that now, we should be prepared to fight to achieve it.

That is why striving to achieve a fair Justice system must be part of the #Charter4Justice that we must all fight for.

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Raj Chada, (Partner, HJA,). 26 March 2018

The above is the text of a speech given by Raj at the launch of the Charter for Justice, 26 March 2018 (edited by Greg Foxsmith)

Notes

See also blog  “Lammy- we must not be silent”

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Speech at CLFS Autumn Confrence, London, 2017

I was invited (jointly with Greg Powell) to speak at this CLFS conference in the final speaker slot, on the topic of “unity, and changes ahead”

Greg Powell spoke first, lambasting the MoJ for their announcement earlier in the week that following their LGFS consultation (and despite 97% opposition) they would cap payment at 6k pages of PPE. (For non criminal legal aid lawyers, this basically is yet another cut in legal aid payments) 

The text of my speech is below:

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.

Anyway, once again I have been asked to speak on unity in the profession. This year, clearly not to be trusted I am sharing with Greg Powell,  a hard act to follow.
In the programme we are billed as the “two Gregs” – like the three amigos but less fun and without the sombreros.
Or perhaps when you think of “Greggs” plural  you have an image of a couple of sausage rolls.

I am no more qualified than anyone else to speak on the topic of unity.
But I suppose being involved in a rep body- in my case the LCCSA-has given me some small insight into where we, as a profession, have successfully united, and where we have not, as well as whether it matters.

I am also going to touch on breakfast Courts and the 14 hour rule for duty solicitors in the current LAA contract.
And there will be a thinly veiled appeal to join and support the LCCSA.
And in case none of that appeals I will have a go at Grayling.

Unity

Can we achieve it even between ourselves as criminal lawyers?
It’s a good topic because we have much that divides us, not least healthy competition, but it seems to me that in recent years there has been an increase in shabby gamesmanship by unscrupulous client-chasers posturing as reputable lawyers but lacking integrity.

A 1/4 century or so ago, when I was first attending courts and police stations, (back in the days when we were paid travel, waiting and a London allowance) other solicitor firms were rivals, but also friends and colleagues.
people I could approach for advice, and who would gladly provide it.
Nobody interfered with client choice or objected to a LA transfer.

Now you can go to some Courts (one in North London comes to mind) and find an army of solicitors from a rival firm armed with clipboards hovering by the door of the court or by the notice-board with list of cases, tapping up all the clients and diverting first appearances from the duty.
These are rivals but neither friends or colleagues.They are touts.

These sharp practices, whilst deplorable, probably arise from the ceaseless cuts which lead to a race to the bottom, and the less scrupulous fighting like rats in a  barrel.
But ignoring that debased minority, criminal lawyers nonetheless have much in common.
The work we do, undervalued and underfunded though it is, is not merely a job, it is a profession and a vocation.
We have, I think, uniting us, an overarching interest in justice.

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

So we are united in wanting better, and fairer, rates of pay.

We are also, I imagine,  united in wanting, amongst other things:-

-Properly equipped courts with an adequate advocates room, and maybe even a cafe

-List officers that take into account advocates availability

-video-links that work,

-prisoners to arrive on time,

-competent interpreters to be booked,

-timely and adequate disclosure

and an opportunity to properly assess the evidence, give proper advice, and where appropriate prepare properly for trial including the right to challenge prosecution evidence and put forward a defence case.

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

But we also have different interests.
Big firms vs small, legal aid v private, generalist v specialist, own client vs duty, etc.

And then within law firms there are divergent interests, typically between employers (partners or co directors, firm owners) and salaried staff, or “overheads” as the former sometimes think of them.
If only there were an organisation that strives to represent all those interests, not just one vested interest group….

So what is left that may unite us?
A desire for better rates of pay
A desire that the Government may just leave us alone for a while
A wish that the LAA would go and f, f, f, fade away

Can we unite around our common interests?

How do we unite?

Firstly you need strong and accountable representative organisations.
We don’t have a trades union.
We have the Law Society, but….

Here in London you have the LCCSA .

We respond to the consultations.
We lobby.
And we reluctantly became an effective campaigning organisation

How do the LCCSA and other representative bodies work together?

Easy enough when campaigning against cuts or a Lord Chancellor so universally hated that all are joined in opposition

Remember Grayling?  Whatever happened to him?
Grayling as Transport secretary
In October Grayling attending the launch of the new hybrid train between Bristol and London. A service that not only arrived into Paddington 45 minutes late after the train broke down while switching from diesel to electricity, but whose air conditioning had failed, drenching dozens of passengers with water.
As for Brexit, he says that everything will be fine because “British farmers will grow more”, a comment so facile it is beautifully eviscerated in this must-read demolition of Grayling’s ignorance  which describes him as “the wilfully ignorant, insouciantly callous former Justice Secretary who took a sledgehammer to the legal aid and prison systems” (independent)
He also appeared before the Transport Select Committee, in a shambolic performance that was beautifully captured in this sketch  (worth reading in full) which concludes with “while there was a refreshing honesty to his incompetence, there really didn’t seem to be any part of his brief that Grayling fully grasped. He was dangerously deluded about what had gone on on his watch and complacent about the here and now

After CG , we had Gove, we liked him, but he didn’t last.

He did give us the Bell Committee- anyone remember that?
Gary Bell QC, the HCA hating barrister, who was to report on the CJS
His self appointed committee appears to have died a natural death
That has certainly helped unity 🙂

A year ago we had Liz Truss, lover of cheese and pork markets, who failed to stand up for the judiciary when they were attacked by the tabloids.

Now we have Lidington, beneath the radar. Not very high profile – perhaps this week’s announcement mean he is a silent assassin.
Anyway, irrespective of which Lord Chancellor we have, there are always

topics we can unite on by opposing:-
1 The announcement this week of the LGFS “restructure” (cut) which 97% of those consulted were against. Greg Powell has dealt with the absurdity of the MOJ response and this uneccessary cut. LCCSA Statement here

The Criminal Bar Association have put out a statement which “reminds the legal community and the MOJ that the system is at breaking point. There should be investment in Criminal legal aid, not cuts or reductions of any kind. We are unified with our solicitor colleagues in our aim to ensure that legal aid survives, and thrives.”
So that is unity with our friends at the bar and we thank them for it.

2 Flexible Operating Hours

The proposal came from nowhere, no consultation.
Promised it would have robust evaluation.
That evaluation went to Tender, they got that wrong, so proposals were deferred or, we hoped, died, but now they have revived the corpse.
The Breakfast court at HCMC seems to have gone, but they will be listing CPS bail trials from 5.30 pm to 8:30 pm Mon-Thursday.

Perhaps they don’t realise that Court sometimes sits that late already, with trials listed from 2-4pm. With these plans you could be there to midnight,   So be ready to resist when handing in your PET forms…
Blackfriars will piloting 2 four-hour CC sessions and a half CC /half MC session (as before.)
Make sure the obvious objections are made at each stage, and this pilot will inevitably show the failings inherent in this half baked scheme.
3.  14 hours term in the new duty contracts 

The duty solicitor rotas were bloated
There was a desire to remove ghosts
But what are ghosts?
We thought they were the ones on the rota who were dead retired or abroad
I’m which case a requirement to do a min amount of ps work or duty compliance would suffice
So why 14 hours p/w?!

Two examples of why this is crazy:-

1 HCAs for example do considerably more than 14 hours per week, the vast majority of which is Crown Court preparation or advocacy paid on a legal aid account under the AF1.

This is not “Contract Work” and does not therefore count. Sitting behind that advocate unpaid while they undertook the advocacy on a case would count.
The absurdity of this situation is obvious.

Equally obvious is that neither of them is remotely ghost-like. I can see no logical reason why “Contract Work” is the defining element for hours worked for the firm.
Nobody is begging to be woken up at 4am to undertake duty work but it provides clients with good quality legal advice to have people like this on the rota – this is after all the point of the duty solicitor scheme.

I cannot see the justification for disallowing this work from the 14 hours. It goes way beyond the purpose of the rule and is completely unacceptable to anyone with an ounce of common sense.

2.       Child care

A DS (over 20 years call) is also a consultant and has child care responsibilities for two young but school age children. Duty work suits her well as she knows in advance when she has to be available for work and she undertakes her duty work.
She undertakes more than 14 hours a week if you do not count the weeks that she has had to be unavailable for work due to child care responsibilities, namely the school holidays. The period of review includes both Easter and the summer holidays when she was unavailable for any work at all.

When you add in those 0 hour weeks, she falls below the 14 hours and likely to be removed. Madness. And discriminatory.

It also begs the question as to how the 14 hours is calculated. Is it 14 x 52 per year – no one works 52 weeks a year – apart from probably Greg Powell. So is it 14 x 48 (4 weeks holiday) or 14 x 46 (6 weeks civil service holiday allowance)? In which case it averages over a year at less than 14 hours a week?

How did we get into this mess?
It was an LAA idea, but when canvassing representative bodies only the LCCSA objected.

For others, ghosts were not just those on the rota who never went to PS or court or undertook their duties, ghosts also included freelancers. So they supported, and still do, a requirement that solicitors work 14 hours a week and just for one firm.

The LCCSA position on 14 hours is consistent:-

In The past we have been driven into a contracting supplier base and pessimism by relentless cuts , unnecessary bureaucracy , and too often by overly hostile stances by assessors , auditors and managers .
The collapse of the scheme to contract duties passed without apology .
The LCCSA argued in relation to rules for Duty Solicitors for simplicity and an acceptable minimum standard , namely a mix of actual duties completed in court and police stations with some minimum number of overall attendances.
We argued against any hours requirement as unnecessary , bureaucratic and against the interests of working parents and especially that it offended the principles of simplicity and ease of checking .

The Present
Predictably “the Hours” will now consume much energy .All its limitations and difficulties are thrown into sharp relief as reports of overzealous interventions by account managers filter through while confusion over aspects of the schemes detail spreads .
As a membership organisation we have always fought to protect individual ownership of scheme membership .
Similarly we have favoured the widest interpretation of qualifying work and terms that allow our diverse membership to properly contribute through duty solicitor work whilst maintaining a wide variety of working lives .
The future
We will be informed by our members response .Some argue that the future should involve consolidation of the supplier Base and the concentration of ownership of duties in the hands of fewer powerful owners .This would devalue the economic positions of members of the LCCSA . It is not a position we will adopt. It is sometimes disguised as concern for the future stability of supply when it really reflects a desire to gain economic advantage.
What we always need is unity around the political issue which has been the Government desire to restrict scope and impose austerity. The hours issue is a battle for a settlement in the widest interests of members but the great issues are restoring value and scope

Well we are where we are.
What do we do about it?
Can we bring a JR ?
Well Legal Action being a last resort, we are first making representations to the LAA to soften the harsh interpretation.

We want HCA Advocacy to Count, as well as file reviews and supervision. Also:-
-Pro-rata reduction for part time workers, and for absence through illness,
-VHCC work to Count
-Hours to count whichever firm or office carried out for

Who makes these reps?
The Law Society leads.
They have a group called the ”Practitioner Group”
That includes elected bodies such as the LCCSA and CLSA
Also it includes the “Big Firms Group”

Who are the BFG ?

Nobody really knows
They don’t have a constitution
Or a website
If they have aims they are not made public
If they have a committee, we don’t know who is on it , how they were elected or even if they were elected.
They are not accountable.
We know they supported breaking the link between indiv Duty sols and their slots, putting duties in the name of the firms to distribute as they wish.

And their name suggests they focus on the interests of Big Firms, or more accurately over those that own and run them (their employee base are not consulted and do not participate)

And yet they- this self appointed group- sit at the table seeking to influence the decision makers. The two-tier contracting proposals arose from their wish to restrict the supplier base.
It is a matter of regret, that we have allowed this body to fracture Big Firms from small.
Perhaps there should also be a “Small  Firms Group”  and a “medium Firms Group”. There was a freelancers group, but the BFG and CLSA objected to them participating at meetings of the Practitioner Group.

Or perhaps we could just tell TLS and the MoJ to ignore the BFG, and we could all unite behind an organisation that represents big firms and small, owners, the employed and the self employed.

The LCCSA is that organisation.

The LCCSA have the following objectives,

The objects of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association are to:
▪ Encourage and maintain the highest standards of advocacy and practice in the Criminal Courts in and around London;
▪ To participate in discussions on developments in the criminal process;
▪ To represent and further the interests of the Members on any matters which may affect Solicitors who practise in the Criminal Courts; and
▪ To improve, develop and maintain the education and knowledge of those actively concerned with the Criminal Courts, including those who are in the course of their training.

So to conclude:-
The LCCSA had virtually -and by necessity- re-invented ourselves as a campaigning organisation.
We are if necessary prepared to fight again against cuts and to protect the interests of all who practice in criminal law.

Are you up for that fight?
Any representative bodies is 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 our membership fees.
If you join, or retain a membership, we are stronger.
My plea to you is, if you are not already signed up, is to join your representative body the LCCSA.
If you are a member already-thank you- and remember membership renewals are due on 1st November
Please come to our AGM Dinner on November 13th
Please consider joining the committee.

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.
United we stand, divided we fall.
That is the true message of Unity.

And now, time to unite and join friends and colleagues in the pub.
I hope you will raise a glass to justice, celebrate solidarity, drink to the health of legal aid, and share a toast -to Unity.

Cheers

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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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

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

A Re-Appraisal of the Law on “Joint Enterprise” (guest blog by Greg Stewart)

This blog by Greg Stewart, criminal appeal specialist and head of GT Stewart solicitors, assesses the new Joint Enterprise landscape following the long-awaited Supreme Court Judgment in R v JOGEE

Introduction

Criminal lawyers have gone from an aridly dry January (1) to fabulous, celebratory wet February – even for such a well soaked profession. How often does our highest court declare that we have all been getting the law seriously wrong for over 30 years?! Even less often I would say than Government Ministers suddenly reverse their views on whistle blowers and protests from criminal defence lawyers. (2)

Of course the Supreme Court have sought to make it clear that the clarification made to the common law by R v Jogee and Rudduck v The Queen [2016] UKSC 8 & 7 is not “unprecedented”– it’s just that you, me, the bar including umpteen queen’s counsel, and the senior judiciary had been looking at the wrong precedents for more than three decades, or more accurately, overlooking the right ones. 

Indeed, a cynical jurist may just smell a political strain that is not unrelated to what is happening in other areas of criminal justice – we have a Justice “Ministry” (with all the evangelical zeal that implies)  that now lambasts it’s own civil servants for the failings of the prison system, allows the restocking of prison libraries and generally enlisting the values of the New Testament in place of the Old. In doing so there is belated recognition that over those 30 years the prison population has doubled. The proportion of young people incarcerated in this Country, despite recent reversals, remains scandalously high.

This judgment will go a long way to stopping the interminable waste of young people – disproportionately black – rotting in detention centres and prisons for year after year well beyond condign punishment or meaningful rehabilitation.

Joint Enterprise Law- a pre-Jogee history

For those of you who have not had a chance to study the judgement, the Supreme Court reviewed the evolution of the common law principles of joint enterprise (or common purpose) from the 19th century. It noted about then there was an important clarification away from the belief that it was sufficient that the conduct of the principal was a probable consequence of the common purpose, it had to be part of the common purpose. This identified the fundamental distinction: whilst a probable consequence was always going to be an important consideration for a jury when deciding what the common purpose of the defendants was, it was not sufficient on its own to fix criminal liability. The judgment highlights the important (but until now overlooked) line of authority from:-

R v Collison (1831) 4 Car & P 565 – an accomplice of an apple thief who attacked the landowner’s watchman with a bludgeon would only be guilty if that was part of the common purpose should resistance be encountered; 

R v Skeet (1866) 4 F & F 931 – poachers routinely carry weapons and it is necessary to find a common design or intention, beyond poaching, to kill or cause grievous bodily harm for homicide; 

R v Spraggett [1960] Crim LR 840 – a burglar’s conviction for the killing by his co-accomplice was not safe where the trial judge wrongly directed that a common intention to commit a burglary was the same as a common intention to commit violence;

 R V Reid [1976] 62 Cr App R 109 – the appellant was correctly convicted of manslaughter – not murder – when he attended the home of an army colonel in the early hours of the morning with others who were carrying weapons including firearms as the common purpose was clearly to cause harm even though he did not intend death or grievous bodily harm (though he might have been said to foresee it).

 However, in Chang Wing-Siu [1985] AC 168 the Privy Council extended the doctrine beyond this – three appellants had gone to the flat of a prostitute to rob her husband carrying knives which were in fact used to slash her and kill him. They complained about a direction at trial that they would be guilty if they contemplated a knife might be used with intent to commit serious bodily harm. They said the level of contemplation had to be more than 50%. The PC rightly rejected that argument but then went on to create a new form of “parasitic accessory liability” where “it turns on contemplation or, putting the same idea in other words, authorization, which may be express but is more usually implied. It meets the case of a crime foreseen as a possible incident of the common unlawful enterprise. The criminal liability lies in participating in the venture with that foresight”.

 This novel development was confirmed by the House of Lords in R v Powell & English [1999] 1 AC 1 where Lord Hutton recognised the logical anomaly it created in that the principal who merely foresaw a possibility would not meet the mens rea of murder but the person who had not actually killed would. However, there were strong policy reasons in the area of criminal conduct for holding that to be the case. Lord Steyn agreed whilst Lord Mustill also did with more unease. In English’s case his appeal was successful as the knife produced by his co-accused was “fundamentally different” from the wooden post he had used in the joint attack on the police officer.

The Jogee Judgment

The Supreme Court acknowledged that the courts could make the doctrine more severe but only with caution especially for a secondary party. Five reasons swayed them: (1) they had the benefit of a much fuller analysis of important case law; (2) the common law is not working well in practice: (3) it is an important doctrine that has taken a wrong turn; (4) foresight is no more than evidence of intent and (5) it is not right that the liability of a secondary party is set lower than the principal. [paras 80-84]. From now on what matters is whether the accessory encouraged or assisted the crime committed by the principal. “Fundamental departure” is no longer a useful part of the doctrine but merely a consideration of what was foreseeable when weighing up evidential considerations.

Of course, the Supreme Court reminded us that a change in the law does not provide an automatic ground of appeal. And even where it can be argued that the doctrine was misapplied the Court of Appeal will only grant leave to appeal out of time if the applicant can demonstrate a “substantial injustice”. However, given the disparity between a determinate sentence for manslaughter and the mandatory sentence for murder that should not be an insurmountable obstacle – though it may result in a re-trial rather than an acquittal.          

 What stopped this injustice in the end was the relentless pushing of the lawyers. My client, 16 years old, of good character and 200 yards from the stabbing was refused a certified question by the Court of Appeal three years ago and after 18 months of waiting also denied admissibility by the European Court, so hats off to those who got there. But it would not have happened but for the irresistible weight of a liberal consensus that this was wrong. That consensus had built over the past 5 years thanks to interests groups. These were mainly the parents of young people serving life sentences. They found support from campaigners concerned with youth justice (JENGA and JFK being the most prominent) but it included many journalists (one being Melanie McFadyean at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism) and the media (Fran Robertson – who made Guilty by Association). Whilst there has been an important Law Commission report in 2007, it would have gathered dust, like most, but for the campaigning. That led to parliamentary engagement. In 2011 a Parliamentary Justice Committee started to take evidence from a wide spectrum of those involved including the victims’ families – and it was often the victims (or near victims) in the witness box and the “winning” group in the dock. A consensus grew that joint enterprise as applied to the accessories to a crime and especially murder, was a lottery which had to stop. (3) The lottery had many outlets. It often started with a wide prosecutorial discretion: what an individual lawyer considered foreseeable? Of course across the country different cultures developed and these would determine who got a ticket for this lottery or who got offered a public order charge or was not prosecuted at all. Once in court it depended on the discretion of the lawyers on both sides to advise defendants and victims to accept pleas or proceed with uncertain outcomes. Ultimately the judge was then left to tip toe through labyrinthine jury directions. Finally the burden on juries was huge – as was the consequences for those in the dock. Ultimately, it took our most senior lawyers to admit we had been getting it wrong (or had “taken a wrong turn”as they delicately put it)  In fact, it had been a devastating lurch to the right in the criminal law. It’s always political.

Who would have foreseen all this during the depressing days of January?!

Blog by Greg Stewart of GT Stewart, February 2016   

  
Editor’s Notes

1 Civil Rights Editor endured dry January to raise money for cancer relief and can be sponsored here!

2 The celebrations by criminal legal aid lawyers throughout February arose from this statement by Lord Chancellor Michael Gove, over-turning the disastrous, unfair contract tendering scheme introduced by his appallingly inept and hated predecessor Chris Grayling. Leading  law firm GT Stewart were one of the firms  taking legal action against the MoJ over the botched procurement, and welcomed the climbdown.

3 There were numerous calls for reform by lawyers for years (see eg this recent blog by Ronnie Manek)

Duty Solicitors Unite-don’t break the link! Guest Blog by Bev Hockley

Introduction by Greg Foxsmith

Criminal Legal Aid Lawyers of certain experience can apply to become duty solicitors. 

Duty Solicitors can represent people needing legal advice in criminal courts who have not instructed their own solicitors, and do so in rotation via a published rota administered via the Legal Aid Authority. 

The scheme was devised to provide solicitors for clients, not clients for solicitors, but in recent years the rotas became overloaded with providers, many of whom were not actually representing clients, but allowing their slots to be covered by others (sometimes for remuneration). These non-attendees have become known as “ghosts.”

The MoJ and LAA will soon be considering how to allocate duty “slots” when the new rotas are published, and how to tackle ghosts. 

In this blog freelance solicitor Bev Hockley says what she thinks  about long -standing proposals by the  “Big Firms Group*”   to “break the link”  between duty solicitors and the slots allocated to them on the duty rotas. (This proposal would mean that duty slots are allocated not to solicitors, but in blocks to firms.) The following is her answer:-

Ghosts’ have flourished in plain sight as named Duty Solicitors on rotas for years. 

 ‘Breaking the link’ by replacing Duty Solicitors slots in firms names will only serve to perpetuate this problem by providing ‘Ghosts’ with additional protection from detection.

 We have successfully challenged the implementation of Contracting Duty Solicitor work by asserting it would drive down the quality of fundamental front line services at the police station and magistrates court.

 ‘Breaking the link’ would rapidly evaporate this achievement and facilitate every ambition the Contracting proposals set out to accomplish. 

 The prestige of PIN numbers would become meaningless. 

 Every firm would have the tempting opportunity to replace highly experienced DS, employees and consultants alike, with inexperienced bargain-basement representation.

 The provision of quality services can only be preserved by maintaining the link between named and appointed DS on rotas.

 For those representing the profession in current crucial post Contract negotiations, the last bastion of guardianship must be to protect this link with the same tenacity which defeated the ill-fated Contracting proposals. 

Postscript

Keeping the link is important to all duty solicitors, not just freelancers! Solicitors in London who want to contribute to the debate should consider joining the LCCSA, a representative body with a democratically elected committee. In addition, Freelancers may want to attend a meeting for Freelance Solicitors at the Queens Head in Kings Cross on Monday 15th February at 6pm, or contact Theresa Hendrickx by texting  07949243949 for more information on the Freelancers Association mailing list. 

Bev Hockley, 12/02/2016

Bev Hockey trained at Hickman and Rose and has represented clients both as an employee and consultant at the police station and magistrate’s court for nearly 20 years. Bev is currently a consultant with Edward Fail Bradshaw and Waterson

Don’t break the chain



* The Big Firms Group” (or BFG) is an unelected body set up to represent the interests of “big firms” with a Criminal Legal Aid contract. There has been a doubt for some time as to whether they are a unified body and who exactly they speak for. It may only be a small number of firms with other firms historically under the BFG umbrella not wholly in support of recent positions. However, what is clear is that spokespeople for the BFG lobbied the MoJ in support of consolidation (and were supporters of the disastrous “two-tier” contracting) and appear to still be recognised as a “representative body” by the MoJ, despite apparently having no clear mandate or constitution. 

Community Advice Offer extended to More Courts

Guest blog by Joanne Thomas  (see author note below)

Introduction: “People in Court sometimes need more advice than just legal advice

Many of the people who come through magistrates’ court commit low-level offences and go on to commit them again and again without the underlying causes being tackled. Typically, the seriousness of offences means they receive fines or conditional discharges and therefore no support from statutory agencies. But very often they end up returning to court – 40% of fines go unpaid and a third of people receiving a conditional discharge reoffend within a year.

The South West model

In South West England, action is taken to stop this revolving door via CASS (http://cassplus.org/). CASS is a service that has been running for almost ten years and provides support to people coming to court in Plymouth, Truro and Bodmin. It is open to anyone – defendants, but also victims, witnesses and family members. There are very few limits on the kind of help that the service will provide. While there are some mainstays – namely drug and alcohol treatment referrals, information about community mental health care, practical support with debts or benefits – CASS has helped clients across with a huge range of issues. See our recent evaluation of this service here

The Community Advice Service at Highbury

Inspired by this work, we at the Centre for Justice Innovation worked with partners from the North London Local Justice Area over 18 months to see whether we could set up something similar at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court. The result is the Community Advice service, which has been delivered by RCJ Advice Bureau (http://www.rcjadvice.org.uk/) from the court since January 2015. Attending court can be confusing and intimidating, so the service works to identify those in need of immediate help, engaging the majority through proactive targeting in court rooms and public areas, as well as receiving referrals from solicitors, court staff and probation. The people seen present with a range of difficulties, with the most common being housing, benefits and debt, and mental health.  

Community Advice is currently delivered by a paid coordinator and team of CAB-trained volunteers. It provides immediate help and advice with practical issues such as benefit claims, debt and housing, as well as offering emotional support. It also helps people find out about and access long-term support services in the community such as alcohol treatment, mental health services and supported housing.

But most importantly of all, the service needs to know if it is making a difference to those using it. The team follows up with everyone who agrees to this for up to six months to check on their progress and see if they need any more support. The outcomes being reported are very positive, with 60% of people contacted at six months saying their issues have been resolved. Additionally, at two weeks, a third reported their issues were either resolved or better, rising to almost two thirds two months after using the service. A third of people using the service had visited the referrals that had been made by the service after two weeks, and this increased to 80% by two months. The majority of people at all stages of follow-up reported a high levels of helpfulness from the services to which they had been referred.  


Could More be Done?

With such positive outcomes, the question remains as to why this kind of service is not more prevalent. Pulling together the right partners and identifying funding can be challenging, but tackling the underlying problems that lead people to commit crime not only helps the individual but can also help the criminal justice system to meet its aims as well as being better for society overall. 

Conclusion

We remain keen to identify and work with other courts to recognise the benefits of services such as this and where appropriate to develop similar initiatives that respond to the needs of the people who continue to come through their courts time and again. 

The author

Joanne Thomas is Innovative Practice Manager at the Centre for Justice Innovation, a research and development charity which works towards a British justice system that reduces crime and in which all of our people can place their trust.

  
 

Prison Books: Helping to Turn over a New leaf

The decision earlier this year by Justice Secretary Michael Gove to lift the ban on family and friends sending books to prisoners was welcome

Anybody who describes prison as a “holiday camp” has either never been to prison, or never been on holiday- the reality of contemporary incarceration is boredom from enforced idleness, interspersed with occasional violence (assaults are rife) but little support for rehabilitation programmes or tackling prevalent issues of mental health. Cuts to staffing levels have overlapped with a rapidly rising prison population. Recent reports by the Prison Inspectorate have been damming.

Books do not in themselves provide a panacea, but they are a good start. They provide education, help literacy and personal development, and broaden the mind.

The book ban introduced by Gove’s predecessor Chris Grayling was a vindictive, unjustified act.

The purpose of prison is punishment and rehabilitation- the first is implicit in the removal of liberty by being locked up, the second currently not achieved by draconian policies that fail to tackle the root causes of offending behaviour. In Nelson Mandela’s moving autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom”, he writes of the value and importance of books to him through his long period of imprisonment. Everyone but Grayling could see the value of books within prison.

In March last year I joined a demonstration against the book ban outside Pentonville prison organised by the Howard League for Penal Reform, and supported by authors including the Poet Laureate. See a short video clip here.

The reversal came initially as a result of a successful Judicial Review brought by solicitor Samuel Genen and counsel (all acting pro-bono) -read more about that here. The High Court ruled the policy was unlawful. Gove then confirmed in July the complete relaxation of the unfair and arbitrary rules Grayling introduced. That is a victory- unlawful policies do not always lead to policy reversal -look at the vexed issue of prisoner voting.

Now we no longer have a book ban, and we now longer have Grayling despoiling the office of Lord Chancellor. So what of his successor?

Gove has said that “the most useful thing we can do is make sure prisoners are usefully employed, and improve literacy, numeracy and work skills”. Will he act or are these just “words”?

I would suggest the most useful thing Gove could do would be to reduce the prison population by crime prevention and successful rehabilitation, and reducing the numbers imprisoned for pointless short sentences for non-violent crime.  This in turn would save money, which could be redeployed to properly fund the Justice system. Government cuts to Legal aid have put our Justice system at risk. The spending cuts were ideological, deferring costs elsewhere in the system.

Grayling was a wrecker, who for what he hoped would gain him short term popularity damaged both the Criminal Justice system and an effective penal system.

Gove has a long way to go to fix these problems, but reversing the book ban was a good start.

Published on International Literacy Day, 08 september 2015

An earlier version of this article was published here in the Islington Tribune in July this year