Category Archives: Politics

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.

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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The Justice Charter and why we need one

The Justice system is in crisis.

Recent disclosure scandals have only brought to public attention what we as lawyers already knew about problems with timely and adequate disclosure of a prosecution case.

But disclosure problems are only part of the problem with the current state of British Justice.

Open Justice is under threat, from an accelerated programme of digitalisation and court closures (and now we find out that Courts have been flogged off on the cheap)
The part-privatised probation service is failing, and the prison service at breaking point.

Underpinning this, and all the issues within the criminal justice system, is the chronic underfunding of a legal system which has seen cuts year on year.

Criminal lawyers and Justice campaigners have been campaigning on single issues or acting reactively to the latest catastrophe or cut, rather than focussing on the bigger picture.

It is time to proactively set out the case for the properly funded efficient Justice system that we all deserve.

I have, with the LCCSA, been devising a CHARTER FOR JUSTICE which we hope will encapsulate in a short and simple way some key principles that anyone who cares about justice can unite behind and campaign for, and politicians can act on.

The LCCSA are engaging with their members and other practitioner groups, as well as working with the Howard League for Penal Reform, and will jointly launch the CHARTER FOR JUSTICE at the Law Society, at 6pm on 26th March. This free but ticket-only event will hear from key-note speakers, but all who attend are invited to participate.

https://www.lccsa.org.uk/events/lccsa-launch-of-charter-for-justice-on-26th-march-at-6pm-at-the-law-society-charter4justice/

#Charter4Justice

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

This blog reviews Truss’  time in office.

Background-Pre-Justice Secretary

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

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

Critics who have attempted to engage with her, (according to George Monbiot in The Guardian) have said she is “indissolubly wedded to a set of theories about how the world should be, that are impervious to argument, facts or experience.”

Background

Born: 26 July 1975, in Paisley, Renfrewshire
Constituency: MP for South West Norfolk since 2010
University: read PPE at Merton
Before politics: 10 years as a management accountant, economics director at Cable & Wireless; deputy director of Reform (education think tank)

Truss and Criminal Justice (pre-appointment)

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

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

Comments and initial reaction on her Appointment 

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

Lord Faulks,  justice minister under her two predecessors, resigned his post because he felt that the inexperience of Truss  could  put at risk the standing of the judiciary and courts.  Anna Soubry QC turned down post of No. 2 to Truss (according to this piece in Legal Cheek)

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

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

The CLSA released a statement welcoming her appointment.

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

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

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

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

First days in post

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



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

 

 

First Three  Months

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

Truss also indicated the Government would not be proceeding with “Problem Solving Courts” (previously announced by Gove) although it was later clarified she actually meant they were still considering them, and a week later confirmed the Government were in fact proceeding with them.

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

image

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

On 04 October Truss gave her first Conference speech as Lord Chancellor. It was a more assured performance than the infamous “cheese speech” (see above) but failed to mention Legal Aid or Access to Justice. She spoke of prison reform, announcing £14 million additional investment (although it turned out this was funding already announced by Gove). She did not acknowledge the then topical high suicide rate in prisons, but promised that “ex-soldiers” would be recruited as prison officers.  The rest of the speech was a series of platitudes. In. Very. Short. Sentences. Text  here.  Quentin Letts’ summary “How could so jellyfish and unformed a political personality have been made lord chancellor? I have known ping-pong  bats less wooden, CBeebies presenters more statesmanlike.”

November-Failure to Defend the Judiciary

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

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

Prisons Crisis

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

PI Reform

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

Six months In 

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

Happy Christmas!

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

2017

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

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

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

The bill has not yet been enacted.

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

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

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

Goodbye Truss, hello David Lidington 

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

Conclusion

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

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

Michael GOVE -Justice Secretary

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

Pre Justice Secretary

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

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

 Comments on his appointment 

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

An assessment and initial analysis in this article in Legal Voice

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

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

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

First speech

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

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

Gove and Prison Reform

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

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

After several weeks of the Criminal Lawyer’s strike, the representative bodies (LCCSA and CLSA) were invited to meet Gove- a step forward from Grayling who would not engage. Further talks with MoJ were offered, and action was suspended as a “goodwill gesture”. Finally, the offer from Gove was communicated in September- a suspension of the latest 8.75% cut for three months, from January 2016. Tendering proceeded for “two-tier” contracts, and contract awards were made -but on a flawed basis. Unsuccessful bidders launched legal actions (for outcome, see “ending two-tier” below)

In the meantime….

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

MOJ and the Saudi contract

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

Poetry

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

Gove’s Visit to Highbury Court

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

We were advised that Mr Gove was indeed willing to meet a representative of the London Defence Community, for an informal constructive chat, and his advisers would set up a meeting as soon as possible. That was confirmed in several emails, but never happened. Gove was invited to the LCCSA Summer Party, but failed to attend and was replaced with a G(l)ove puppet.

Ending Two-tier contracting!

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

Gove and Grayling

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

Missing in Action: Gove and Brexit

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

Gove and Human Rights

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

The Gove Committee

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

Personal Life

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

Tory Leadership bid

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

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

Sacked

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Gove-Post Justice Secretary

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

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

More GOVE

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

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

An unfortunate encounter with salt here

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

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Mayor of London’s housing chief James Murray: it’s just not cricket

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

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

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

His quote in full:-

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

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

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

The James Murray cricketing playlist

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Speech at CLFS Conference, May 13 2016

Intro



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So unsuccessful firms took legal action against the MOJ….

Take the example of EFBW:-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WE COULD HAVE TOLD THEM THAT!

(WE DID TELL THEM THAT!!)



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

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

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

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

big firms and small, private and legal aid, 

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

History of Campaign



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

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

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

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

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

We lost.

And it was expensive.

We campaigned and fundraised.

Many of you contributed – thank you.

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

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

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

For example:-

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

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

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

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

We had No Returns.

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

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

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

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

To be perfectly blunt, he was a bit of a

difficult man to engage with.

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

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

The New Legal Aid Landscape



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

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

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

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

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

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

At least until the next row! 

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

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

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

United we stand, divided we fall.
Current Campaigns



There is always some horror lurking around the corner.

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

If not before.
BCM/ DCS/ PTPH/CJSM 


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

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

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

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

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

Gove didn’t just abandon two-tier tendering.

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

-the ban on prisoners receiving books from their families 

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

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

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

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

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


We are still waiting.

But perhaps no news is good news.

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

 We cannot take any more.

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

We all play our parts- barristers and solicitors.

Brothers and sisters in arms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Greg Foxsmith

President, LCCSA