Category Archives: Featured

Freelance Advocacy Services: News and Advocacy Availability


COURT AVAILABILITY– I am fully booked for remainder of this month and most of next, but good availability moving forward. See here for detail: http://www.freelanceadvocacyservices.uk/Book: gregfoxsmith@msn.com  

News

Criminal Law Update- Legal Conference, London, October https://lawfriendssociety.com/criminal-law/london-conference/

 Criminal Exploitation of children and vulnerable adults: County Lines guidance. Be aware of this updated guidance document and this Youth Justice Legal Centre document,

ID Cards From this month LCCSA ID cards which have long been used for access to police stations,  will authorise search-free entry to all courts and additionally fast-track entry at some courts including Wood Green,     Southwark and Maidstone Crown Courts.

Defence Engagement Meeting With CPS  on 11 October 2018 from 17:30-19:00. The meeting is at 102 Petty France, London SW1H 9AJ. Let me know if interested in attending.

The Charter for Justice-Next Steps

The Charter for Justice-Next Steps

The following text was initially presented at the CLFS Spring Conference on 11 May 2018

What is the Charter 4 Justice and what happens next?

The charter came about as a way of highlighting to the public the crisis in the criminal justice system, and offering proposals to address that crisis by adopting some key principles that everyone should be able to unite behind and we can campaign for.

We ended up with 5 key principles, and those became the Charter:-

1 Access to Justice

2 Prompt and Adequate Disclosure of Prosecution case

3 A Fair and non-discriminatory Criminal Justice System

4 A properly funded prison and probation service

5 Open and transparent justice

Next steps

Collect signatories to the Charter, and the letter to broadsheet newspapers

Meeting with Lord Chancellor to present the Charter.

Please contact Jon Black jonathanb@bsbsolicitors.co.uk if you would like to help us use the Charter for positive campaigning, or be a signatory.

Justice needs a Minister who will stand up to the Treasury and restore the funding of a decade ago . Lets hope the current Minister will respond positively to the Charter.

Crisis? What crisis?

The recent book by the Secret Barrister which so brilliantly identifies the numerous and cumulative failings in the current system, is called

“THE LAW IS BROKEN”. And it is.

The author lays bare the results of the drive to prosecute and defend on the cheap, and warns that “we are moving from a criminal justice system to simply a criminal system”.

The book recounts everyday tales of injustice with which criminal lawyers are already familiar.

Who cares?

But the secret barrister’s rage is equalled only by astonishment at the “wall of silence” and “collective indifference” of the public to the parlous state of affairs.

“What astounds me most is that people don’t seem to care. Or even know… If the criminal justice system were the NHS, it would never be off the front page.”

It is not enough to say the law is broken without adding “but we can fix it”

We know that the broken justice system can be fixed, but we also know that to fix it involves hard expenditure of cash.

And yet MoJ projections currently show further proposed cuts to the budget,

Just a reminder the Ministry of Justice still claims that it needs to reduce spending by around £500m per year from 2015-16 levels by 2019-20. If anything it’s likely to get worse, not better, and only this month we learn of huge proposed job losses to court staff.

Well if it is hard to get the public interested in the problem, it will be impossible to get support for the solution.

Raising Awareness

But maybe the tide is turning in terms of media coverage and public awareness

The prison crisis become (and remains) a newsworthy story.

David Lammy’s report came out last year, and the anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence last month highlighted that issues of racism ands discrimination have not gone away.

Then we have had the recent disclosure stories. Nothing new to us, but amazing that suddenly the right case hit the headlines leading to media attention and a flurry similar scandalous stories.

And even the current action by the bar is gaining media attention.

The charter aims to join all this up, by helping people outside the system see that this is all part of the same problem- chronic underfunding of the justice system.

Previous campaigns

The charter redresses 2 failures of some previous campaigns by legal aid lawyers:-

1 complaining about legal aid cuts in terms of our pay rather than broader consequences

2 reactive or isolated campaigns on isolated issues, rather than focus on bigger picture.

The first one self evidently fails. We are unlikely to shift the perception of fat-cat lawyers, but even if we do, then I am afraid nobody cares, and why should they.

Arguing for reasonable remuneration needs to focus on the consequences of poorly paid lawyers: – inadequate investigation by the police, inadequate review by CPS, cutting corners by prosecution and defence, factory-firms, increasingly inadequate advice and/or representation, a recruitment crisis in an already greying profession, and ultimately miscarriages of justice.

The second is that we have tended to be re-active rather than pro-active. We have been focussed on the day job, responding to MoJ consultations in the misguided belief that the ministry would listen rather than just go ahead with their latest cut, and reacting belatedly to the issue of the day- court closures, extended hours, price tendering, duty compliance etc.

None of these excite the public, and whilst each on their own was iniquitous but survivable we now are at rock bottom after cumulative cuts.

Moving forward with the Charter for Justice

So the Charter sets out 5 principles that are broader, understandable, and if adopted and properly funded would restore faith in the justice system and fix what is now broken.

The text of the charter is here(or scroll down to appendix below)

The Charter is something that we hope legal affairs or justice commentators show interest in, that the public would support, that campaigners can argue for, and that parties and politicians can sign up to.

It offers unity in that all lawyers can support the aims, whereas previously there have been differing interests and factional differences (bar vs solicitors, big firms group vs small, etc) We need a united approach -no back- door meetings with the MoJ by the bar or solicitors alone.

It is backed by initial sponsor signatories including the LCCSA, CBA, Howard League, Transform Justice, CLSA and Jengba.

Launch

The charter was launched on 26th March (summary here)

Angela Rafferty QC (CBA) spoke on funding issues and ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Laura Jane (Howard League) spoke on the Prison and probation crisis (her speech here)

Raj Chada on tackling discrimination, prejudice and the Lammy report. (speech here)

Jerry Hayes spoke on the DISCLOSURE crisis.

Penelope Gibbs (Transform Justice) talked about Open Justice

LCCSA President Greg Powell spoke of the need for Unity (his comments here)

Speaker clips here

With everyone’s attention focussed on the current dispute, we have temporarily placed the Charter on the back-burner, but have planned the next steps as below. Now is the time to let us know if you want as an individual or institution (including law firms and chambers) to back the Charter as a signatory

Next steps

Collect signatories to the Charter, and the letter to broadsheet newspapers

Meeting with Lord Chancellor to present the Charter.

Please contact Jon Black jonathanb@bsbsolicitors.co.uk if you would like to help us use the Charter for positive campaigning, or be a signatory.

Justice needs a Minister who will stand up to the Treasury and restore the funding of a decade ago . Lets hope the current Minister will respond positively to the Charter.

Appendix- the Charter for Justice

Preamble

For too many years those who are close to the criminal justice system have observed the impact of funding restraints and cuts which have led to dilapidated buildings, reduced access to Justice, and a prison service on the point of collapse. The Lammy report has highlighted inequality of outcomes, and recently highlighted disclosure problems have shown systemic failures in the system.
This charter seeks to set the standards for a justice system that is sustainable, workable and fair.

1 Equal Access to Justice

Publicly funded representation is essential for defence and prosecution.

The CPS needs to be properly funded to properly present cases, and legal aid sufficiently available and remunerated to ensure equality of arms in an adversarial justice system, and to allow everyone access to legal advice and representation irrespective of means.

2 Disclosure

There should be full and fair disclosure of the Prosecution case to a suspect at the police station and defendant at court. Criminal justice is not a game, and proper disclosure needs to be made in a timely fashion so that those accused by the state can fully understand what they are accused of, and respond accordingly. Failures in the disclosure process waste huge resources throughout the system and result in wrongful convictions, avoidable appeals and abandoned trials, damaging both the accused and victims of crime and undermining public confidence. There is an urgent need to increase fairness, effectiveness and accountability within the disclosure process.

3 Open Justice.

There should be no further court closures, and court buildings and their fabric should be maintained to an acceptable standard. The latest initiative of online pleas is a dangerous development that will remove the direct engagement that a defendant has with the court and legal representatives. Every defendant or witness or member of the public should have a right to attend a court hearing in person.

The recent change to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act allowing the police to video-interview people wherever they choose without legal advice undermines vital protections for those suspected of crime and should be prohibited. This is especially dangerous for the young, those with mental health issues or learning disabilities, or for whom English is not a first language.

4 A humane and effective prison and probation service

Urgent action is required to upgrade and maintain the quality of prison buildings and facilities. There are too many people in prison and at risk of being sent to prison for failing to comply with conditions and urgent action is required to reduce the number of people in prison. We must learn from other countries where prisons are more forward thinking and humane and reoffending rates are lower. There must be recruitment and retention of sufficient prison officers, and access to properly funded rehabilitation and education courses within the prison system. The part privatisation of the probation service is a costly failure which should be reversed.

5 A Fair Justice system

Urgent action is needed to achieve equality of justice and eradicate the discrimination identified in the Lammy Report. Unless all have faith in the processes as well as the outcomes of our justice system, trust in the system will ebb away. We need to work to eliminate unconscious bias amongst all those involved in the system through diverse recruitment, better training and rigorous monitoring.

Justice cannot be seen to be done when there are the clear differences in treatment and outcome identified in the Lammy Report, or arising through use of the legal concept of Joint Enterprise.

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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Charter for Justice -prison and probation reform

On a humane and effective prison and probation service

Guest Blog by Dr Laura Janes, (Legal Director of the Howard League)

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This is the text of a speech that Dr Laura Janes gave at the launch of the Charter for Justice on 25th March 2018 

The Howard League for Penal Reform was founded in Charles Dickens’ Britain in 1866 – over 150 years ago.

How fitting then, if utterly depressing, that we are now dealing with a prison system that retains Dickensian features.

Dickens describes the children in the jail that backed onto the Old Bailey as “hopeless creatures of neglect”, children without a childhood.

Every day, at the Howard League, we provide legal support to children and young adults in prison through our free advice line.

There are fewer children and young adults in prison today than there were 10 years ago – one piece of good news.

But that is where the good news ends.

• 45 per cent of children in prison are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds– even though this group accounts for just 18 per cent of the general population.

• One third of all children in prison can expect to spend time in isolation, sometimes for prolonged periods, such as AB, who I represent – a 15 year old child who spent over 23 hours a day locked in his room for 55 days, solid. The High Court ruled that was unlawful but fell short of inhuman and degrading treatment – a point we are appealing to the Court of Appeal.

• The recent snow inexcusably led to many children being locked up in solitary confinement for days on end – due to staff shortages. We heard of one child who was allowed out of his cell once in a two week period for a visit with his foster mother. He reported that on the way to the hall, he reached out to touch the snow but was sharply told not to by the guard.

• Violence and harm is rife. In the five years leading up to 2016 the Youth Justice Board says that

o The use of force increased by 36%

o Assaults increased by 95%

o Self harm increased by a staggering 120%

• Exposure to, let alone experience of these things, would give rise to a child protection referral in the community

• It is not surprising then that Chief Inspector said last year that no prison he inspected was safe for children and young people

• Since legal aid cuts for prisoners in 2013, calls to our specialist legal advice line have increased by 62 per cent.

Sadly, the reduction in numbers for children and young adults have not been mirrored among the adult population.

At any one time we have over 80,000 men, women and children in prison. The prison population has more than doubled since the mid-1990s. We lock up more people than any other nation in Western Europe.

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No public service in England and Wales has deteriorated more dramatically and more profoundly in recent years than our prison system.

Someone takes their own life in prison once every five days. Over 2000 people have taken their own lives in prison since 1990.

Three in four men’s prisons are holding more people than they are designed to accommodate.

Wandsworth prison, for example, is designed to hold no more than 943 men. But it currently holds 1,564 men.

On top of that, our prisons are reeling from poor upkeep, after Chris Grayling handed the £200 million pound maintenance contract to Carillion in 2014.

This situation is inhumane for the prisoners and unmanageable for those charged with their care. Staff numbers have been reduced since 2012 by up to 40 per cent, making the so-called transforming rehabilitation agenda impossible to achieve.

Nor is it effective. One third of prisoners reoffend on release,

Turning to our probation service. It has been split in two. The national probation service has been absorbed into the failing prison service. Pressures on probation officers are unsustainable. The “less serious” cases have been farmed out to private Community Rehabilitation Companies, who in the words of the Public Accounts Committee last week, “the Ministry accepts … were plainly not working as intended”. The Ministry has agreed to pay them up to £342 million pounds more of taxpayers’ money but can’t explain what it is getting back for its money. Pausing for a moment, that figure is around ten times the amount the Ministry hopes to save from this latest round of criminal legal aid cuts.

With David Gauke, we have our sixth Lord Chancellor in as many years.

That fact in itself suggests a contempt for justice and total disregard for the importance of the justice system. Yet, the notion that the way we treat our prisoners is a measure of the strength and virtue of the nation is as true today as it was at the turn of the century.

I am glad that we have moved from the deplorable ideological attack on prisoners, spearheaded by Mr Grayling in the form of cuts to legal aid for prisoners.  Those cuts were an affront to the rule of law. The whole point of the rule of law is that “everybody matters”.  Legal aid was designed as an equalising measure to allow everyone to access justice. The lawlessness within our prisons today is unacceptable. How can we possibly hope to instil respect for the law in prisoners if we exclude them from its protection?

I am proud that, along with the Prisoners’ Advice Service and over a five year period, our successful challenge to the Court of Appeal has seen the first areas of legal aid brought back into scope since LASPO – even though prisoners are still effectively denied access to justice in some important areas. It is also good that in Rory Stewart we have a Prison’s Minister who is taking the crisis in our prisons seriously. But they need more than just a jolly good clean.

I delighted to be here today at the launch of a Charter for Justice calling for:-

Less people in prison

– A humane and effective prison system and

– An end to the two tier failing semi privatised probation service

Laura Janes, 25 March 2018

Note- the charter for Justice is here

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Prison Mutiny

Three defendants were today sentenced at Winchester Crown Court to 3 years immediate custody, for taking part in a “prison mutiny” in June 2016 at HMP Erlestoke as reported here

A fourth defendant had been acquitted.

Numerous other prisoners who had participated in the disturbance had been dealt with administratively, or were charged with lesser offences.

This disturbance was one of a number of similar episodes in recent years, which many commentators have contributed to a hugely reduced prison budget, which has led to a shortage of experienced prison officers, and raised tensions for prisoners.

These recent disturbances have followed a long and predictable pattern.

The most infamous British prison riot in recent history was at Strangeways in April 1990 (One prisoner killed, and 147 prison officers and 47 prisoners injured. Much of the prison was damaged or destroyed with cost of repairs coming to £50 million)

The resulting Woolf Report found “Prisoners felt their complaints about conditions were being ignored. Remand prisoners were only allowed out of their cells for 18 hours per week, and Category A prisoners were locked in their cells for 22 hours a day, and rarely left their cells except for “slopping out“, a one-hour exercise period each day or a weekly shower”

Lord Woolf concluded that conditions in the prison had been intolerable, and recommended major reform of the prison system.

“Slopping out” has ended, but many of the other recommendations were never implemented, subsequently abandoned or now ignored. So much so, that 25 years later in 2015 Lord Woolfe warned that prisons are again at Crisis point (as reported here) and as evidenced in numerous Prison Inspectorate reports, and the annual Inspectorate report.

The IMB (Independent Monitoring Board) reports which visited Erlestoke gave an insight of the dire situation there before the disturbance. (Most recent report here)

(Erlestoke is a medium secure all-male prison with over 500 prisoners including violent offenders, sex offenders, and “lifers”. A number were “IPP” prisoners who had served longer than their sentence but with no indication as to when may be released.)

The IMB reports showed:-

-Drugs were rampant in the prison, particularly SPICE

-smuggling of tobacco

-smuggling and useage of mobile phones

-a culture of bullying

-property going “missing”

-high levels of self-harm

– a “self-inflicted death” (2015)

-high levels of mental-health issues, many unaddressed and/or untreated

-chronic staff shortages.

On the 11 June there were only 17 members of staff on duty.

As a result, there was a lock-down.

Despite what was said by the Prosecution at the outset of the trial, and then reported in local media, this was never about a “smoking ban” which had been introduced that year.

The trigger for the disturbances was the lamentable staff-shortages which caused the prison to have another unannounced lock-down, a decision that was communicated to prisoners by a note pushed under their cell doors, and communicated to staff with a note pinned to the notice-board wishing them “good luck”.

The consequences that flowed from the lock-down included:-

– being locked in cell all day, (in some cases shared cells with an open-toilet)

– no hot meals,

– no association,

– no showers

– and no calls to friends or family (one of the prisoners on trial had promised he would call his daughter. it was her birthday)

That was a systemic failure, and not the fault of the hard-working prison officers on duty.

If it does not excuse prisoner’s conduct, it does at least explain it.

Prisoners kicked off, and some broke through their doors, which were wooden.

Two ended up on the roof.

So far as the damage is concerned, it is hard to establish an accurate valuation as much of what was repaired was badly in need of repair or refurbishment anyway, including:-

-some of the showers and boilers that didn’t work,

-the huge backlog of maintenance which should have been but was not completed by Carillion,

-wooden doors on the cells which are usually seen in a prison museum rather than an operating prison.

The prison service conducted a review into the disturbance, and produced a report which they have not published and declined to provide to the Prosecution.

The two wings which were damaged are back in operation.

It will however take more than a lick of paint and new cell doors to repair what is broken in the prison system.

The real damage inflicted on the prison system is not broken windows and roof tiles, but the savage cuts to the prison budget by forever “Justice Secretary” Chris Grayling, which has left prison buildings to decay, slashed numbers of prison officers, and cut back on education and rehabilitation for those locked up.

When people , whether prisoners serving their time or sailors at sea, are treated unfairly and subjected to intolerable conditions, it will (as Captain William Bligh discovered) lead to mutiny.

Prisoners convicted of prison mutiny pay a price for their participation in disorder, and those sentenced today will now serve an additional three years to their current sentences.

But as a society we all pay the price of Government failure to tackle the prison crisis that shames this Country.

As Winston Churchill once said: “The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country. A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights of convicted criminals against the state, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment, a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate, and an unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if only you can find it in the heart of every person – these are the symbols which in the treatment of crime and criminals mark and measure the stored up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue in it.

William Foxsmith Obituary

Obituary for My Father

Dad (known by almost everyone as Bill) was born in Hinckley, Leicestershire on 04 February 1939 and was christened William Ernest FOX (his father’s name)

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When Dad was two his father drowned, and so was brought up my his Mum Hilda (known as “H”) in rural poverty, initially staying in an alms house, for which privilege his mother had to scrub the stone floors of the church on her hands and knees. Dad was no fan of the church or organised religion. The family had moved to Dorset, and Dad with his younger brother Dick went to school in Lyme Regis. He was a fast runner, running the mile for the County and setting a school record.
He acquired a stepfather, Jack SMITH, and then another brother (Nick). Dad later combined the names FOX and SMITH and the FOX-SMITH family name was created.
Aged 16, Dad left home and went to Navigation school in Plymouth, and then joined the merchant Navy:-

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For six years he travelled the World visiting the US, China, Japan and Cuba amongst other Countries. In Cuba, he was arrested and spent a night in prison. It’s a bit unclear what offence he had allegedly committed, or how he came to be released, but it was a typical escapade for Dad who loved adventure. Dad’s brother Nick has a memory of watching their mother putting pins in a world map on the kitchen wall every time they received a card from a country Dad visited when at sea.
Dad’s Mum died when he was still at sea. He was not able to return for the funeral. Over 30 years later he found a “memory box” with some keepsakes and mementoes from his sea-faring days. Not realising what it was, he began reading aloud the letter he had received from his brother Dick which broke the news of their mother’s death,and it moved him to tears. It was the only time I ever saw him cry.

Dad met Mum (Sylvia) in July 1964 and they were married in Wembury Church on 05/10/1966.

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His first “land” job was selling encyclopaedias, and then he worked with Mintex (a Company selling brake and clutch linings) as a salesman and later as manager of the Plymouth depot.
He had been framing pictures- self taught – as a hobby, and now became self-employed doing that professionally.
He had also formed an interest in silhouettes, which he began collecting and became something of an expert. (He later became involved in the Silhouette Club)
Eventually he opened his shop on Southside Street, The Barbican, selling antique maps and prints. The shop “Foxsmith Galleries” was open for 20 years, and eventually closed in 2006.

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Dad was renowned for his honesty and good business ethics, never broke his word or a contract, and had great integrity. His word was his bond, and most deals were done on a handshake. He disliked debt, and was beholden to nobody. He worked hard, and in order to provide for his family, put business before pleasure.
Dad loved antiques and fine art, good company and good wine.
He enjoyed classical music, which could always be heard in the basement at home where he was framing pictures, or in the shop.
He had a great sense of humour, and a good sense of adventure. He loved sailing and wind-surfing, but was equally happy to try his hand at anything adventurous from para-gliding to stock car racing to bungee-jumping.
Dad didn’t tolerate fools gladly, and disliked snobbery and pretentiousness.
He hated hypocrisy. He had no airs and graces and could mix easily in any company.
He had a wide circle of friends. Most of all he loved his family. There were three children- myself Mark and Naomi.

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Mum and Dad first lived in a small bungalow in Staddiscombe (near Plymstock) and then moved to Alfred Street on Plymouth Hoe.
We holidayed as children in Butlins, and many years later in France,catching the ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff and driving to a campsite.

Sadness at Dads death is tempered by the happiness that he was released from the hell of his last few years. Sadly, in truth we lost Dad a few years before his passing to the cruel disease of Alzheimer’s, the early onset of which robbed him of a peaceful retirement.

Dad was a towering figure for me, and an important influence on my life.
He was there for my significant birthdays, my graduation, was a witness at my wedding, and once came to see me advocating in Court. I inherited or learned from him some qualities that have stood me in good stead as a defence lawyer-a sense of fairness, and an innate sympathy for the underdog.
I admired him very much, and am sorry that his early departure deprived his grandchildren of spending time with him, and he with them.

Dad had a great love of board games.
He taught me chess. We played for years and years before I won a game. Dad wasn’t one to let you win. But at least when I eventually did, I knew it was on merit. Winning at chess was a major surprise to me. Like many boys, I believed my father invincible, and not just in chess.

As a family we also enjoyed board  games, particularly Monopoly and Risk, which were extremely competitive but riotous fun.
I played as a child , but was aware if friends or family were staying that games would continue after I was dispatched to bed
Then the drinks would come out, and the games were a backdrop to anecdotes, stories and jokes, with the roar of raucous laughter. These are amongst the memories that we will cherish.

Cheers Dad!

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A poem for my father

In Memory of William Foxsmith RIP (04.02.41- 10.03.14)

 

Memories
The family were grateful for the many condolence cards, supportive messages, anecdotes and photos sent to the family.
“A vibrant and infectious zest for life (Nigel F.)
entertaining, knowledgable and fun to be around” (Matt Tiller)
He ran his business so well,always kind and courteous”(Jenni)
“No-one will forget Bill” (Vanessa J)
“Our hearts are sore at the passing of our dear friend Bill. We will always value our friendship” (Gerry and Malcolm)
I held the most tremendous admiration for Bill,his humour, stories, knowledge and skills….” (Simon B.)
we are surrounded by memories of Bill as there isn’t a room in the house that hasn’t either a picture from the Gallery or framed by Bill” (Jane and John Green)

“This card (pictured below) shows one of the many precious prints which adorn my walls and which Bill found for me”

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a wonderful entertaining host!” (Viv and Brian)
A lovely human being, a delightful neighbour and friend with a great sense of fun and generosity of spirit” (Elaine and Adrian)
Bill was a fantastic man.” (Sarah and Tony)
“Bill was a delight to work for” 
“The spirit which he evoked-one of friendship, challenge and investigation” (John Pickles)

Ros offered these lines from Shakespeare (Anthony to Cleopatra):-
the miserable change now at my end
Lament nor sorrow at,
But please your thoughts
In feeding them with these my former fortunes

An anecdote from Malcolm and Gerry:- “Bill loved sailing in Plymouth Sound after work. One evening the tide and wind took him into Mountbatten Pier, and as he had stayed out until the last minute, it had become dark and he had no choice but to land. At that time it was private, R.A.F. property, with landing prohibited. He somehow found the Officer’s Mess and entered in his wet suit [just like James Bond] and persuaded them he was not a spy. He finished at the bar with a pint telling them of his adventures!”

“We are both very sad to hear of the death of your Dad, a great friend of mine and someone I admired very much.” (Richard Walker)

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Lord Chancellor David Lidington-a review

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 replaced the hapless Liz Truss,  who had herself been appointed by May in a post-election re-shuffle less than a year before. Lidington was himself replaced as Lord Chancellor in Theresa May’s botched reshuffle on January 8th 2018. Lidington was the fourth consecutive non-lawyer appointment- his predecessors were Liz Truss, Michael  Gove and Grayling (widely regarded as the worst Lord Chancellor ever).

This blog reviews Lidington’s performance over his brief 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.

IMG_0622Expenses 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.

First six months

The new Lord Chancellor was sworn in on 19 June.  In the in-tray? Read anopen 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)

There was then a period of calm, in a political period dominated by Brexit, we heard very little from or about the Lord Chancellor until the Party Conference in October when there were apparently conciliatory noises on LASPO reform

Prisons

The crisis within the prison service has shown no signs of improvement under Lidington. The shocking number of suicides by vulnerable prisoners, murder and violent assaults by against prisoners and staff remains at high levels in crumbling, under-staffed, unsafe failing prisons. The extent of this is too great to record in this blog, and can be charted elsewhere (see eg Howard League) but of the many scathing, shameful reports I include this one from the Independent Monitoring Board into Aylesbury Prison -it is in Lidingtons constituency, so the shameful record has happened “on his watch” as local MP and Justice Sec.

The treatment of young people in custody has also remained dire and dangerous under Lidington’s watch – see this report of November 2017 

Legal Aid and funding

Under this Lord Chancellor, there was no improvement in funding for the MoJ in general or legal aid in particular, as it was revealed the department will have suffered a 40% cut in budget by 2020 (as reported in Gazette in November here)

Conclusion- a summary of Lidington’s tenure

Lidington has been the silent chancellor- we heard very little from or about him. In a Government divided by over but dominated by Brexit issues, this Lord Chancellor kept his head down. There is much to be said for that, preferable at least to failing Grayling or hapless Truss, but a failure nonetheless to tackle the big issues in his department- the chronic underfunding of the Justice system, and in particular legal aid and the prison estate. He left everything without comment to MoJ apparatchiks, who have continued with their pet projects including pilot projects on extended Court hours. He remained silent on the “disclosure scandals” that have thrown a spotlight on the sorry state of our justice system, and prisons and young offender institutions remain as overcrowded, dirty and dangerous as when he took over.

His department did however find the money to pay fat-cat consultants to advise on “digital transformation”, leaving solicitor Matt Foot to assess his legacy with this tweet “Justice Minister Lidington’s only contribution was to cut criminal legal aid by £30 mn, given to PricewaterhouseCoopers (650k profit per partner) instead

No fireworks in Islington

Remember, remember, the 5th of November,

Labour losing the plot.

Prior to the 2006 local elections, a promise was made by Islington Labour to restore the bonfire night firework display to Highbury Fields. Councillor Convery made the pledge, which was an unqualified promise, not hedged with “subject to finances”.
Post election, no fireworks.
Like fellow 2006 election promise-breaker Lib Dem Nick Clegg and his infamous reneging of the tuition fee pledge, it later turns out that this, if not a blatant lie, was more of a wish than a promise.

The Islington Gazette reported the original broken pledge back in 2010 here
Each subsequent year the promise remains unfulfilled.
And alas, in Islington there are no fireworks once again this year, just the traditional annual disappointment of another broken promise.
So the  whizz-bang election pledges by Islington Labour turned out to be no more than a damp squib, and a bonfire of the vanities.
They say it can’t be done for budgetary reasons, ignoring the fact that a properly organised display is self-financing. Other London Labour Boroughs  host successful events, and unsurprisingly the Ally Pally event in neighbouring Haringey is once again sold out.

A Playlist of songs about Islington’s firework flop here

Updated article in Gazette here

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

Lammy Review-We lawyers must NOT be silent

Colour-blind justice? – the long-awaited review by David Lammy MP on race and the criminal justice system released in September 2017 concluded that the system discriminates against black, Asian and minority ethnic people.

We already knew that. The disproportionality in outcome between different ethnic groups in the Criminal Justice system been known of and remarked on for as long as I can remember. Nothing meaningful has been done.

Young black people are nine times more likely to be locked up in England and Wales than their white peers, The report delivers some recommendations on how to fix this, some better than others. (See this Summary in the Law Soc Gazette)

The report also noted  that because black defendants distrust the system, they tend to plead not guilty in court – disqualifying themselves from the reduced sentences that can come with an early guilty plea. Lammy calls for deferred prosecutions where suspects can have charges dropped by completing rehabilitation; basing criminal responsibility on a suspect’s maturity rather than age; and wiping the slate clean earlier for young offenders who rehabilitate, so they can get on with finding employment. Lammy, writing in the Guardian, calls for urgent action to implement his recommendations which require political support and legislative action.

But what can lawyers do within the system to combat the ongoing systemic imbalance? The discrimination which underlies these stark statistics is institutionalised, but covert, and as it is never openly expressed remains unchallenged.
We all know what the problem is, but what  are we going to do about it?

Usually, the answer do the question “what can we do?” is “nothing”.
We need new answers.

There is already a “trust deficit”. To win back trust, we need to deserve that trust. #WeMustNotStaySilent

We have to talk about Discrimination. Prejudice. Racism.

We have to challenge why some parts of our profession have race inequality https://www.thetimesbrief.co.uk/users/39175-the-brief-team/posts/28590-white-students-dominate-bar-pupillage-intake

We have to challenge the Police about their charging decisions.

We need to raise the issue of sentencing disparity in Court. The  Magistrates need to hear it, and our clients need to hear it.

We have become complicit in an unfair Justice system.

To stay silent is no longer good enough.

There was an event for Lawyers to discuss his report on 2 October 2017 at Kings College which David Lammy attended and I chaired. (Panel: Sir Anthony Hooper, DPP Policy Advisor Sara Carnegie, Sandra Paul of KN, Courtney Griffiths QC of 25 Bedford Row and Judy Khan QC of Garden Court)

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A review of the event is here or you can watch a video of  whole thing here

The Lammy Review equips us with the evidence and the stats to challenge injustice, particularly prevalent in the Youth Court.

When appearing in the Youth or Magistrates Court representing a young black defendant, dare we say to the bench in our closing submissions “my client is worried that statistically he is more likely to be convicted, and when convicted sentenced higher, than his white contemporary”? 

Traditionally we would not raise that directly, for fear that we may be thought to be accusing the bench of bias. It is time to stop being afraid. if we don’t call it out, if we ignore the problem, we are part of the problem.