Monthly Archives: March 2018


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Strike? Garden Court chambers announces action

Recorder competition- 133 new appointments here.

Charter for Justice launch- More detail, and confirmation of speakers here I have agreed to chair the event, and look forward to seeing many of you there. 150 booked already!

Tuesday Truth- blog by Raj Chada (HJA) here.

Secret barrister Publication of new book “blows whistle on broken legal system brought to it’s knees by cuts” according to this review.

100 miles. I will be attempting to cycle the Surrey 100 in July, and attempting to raise money-please consider sponsoring me 🚲 👍

Prison riot- cuts are to blame

Prison mutiny- I have blogged about my recent experience defending in a mutiny trial HERE

Blog: why we need a Justice charter

Barristers consider action against fee cut

Petition on 28 day limit for Immigration detainees If you haven’t already, please sign our petition demanding a 28-day time limit on immigration detention. If you have, please share it far and wide.

Petition on IPP

Courts flogged off on the cheap by bungling MOJ as reported here in the Guardian. Meanwhile plans to extend court sitting in what’s left continue with the “flexible operating hours” pilot. I will attend the next user group meeting and report back.

Charter for Justice.Parts of our Justice system are broken, the rest is falling apart. Let’s try and fix it. #Charter4Justice   BOOK here

The London Advocate (LCCSA newsletter) March 2018 edition 

Nicola Hill (Kingsley Napley/LCCSA ex-Pres) runs her first marathon for a great cause. Please sponsor her here

LASPO review kicked into the long grass

Google reviews for British Courts (including Highbury) here

Music  Ignore “beast from the East 2” and Check out this SPRING playlist

Lawyer of the month: Peter Csemiczky

Peter , outstanding lawyer and member of the LCCDSA committee, has been promoted to the partnership at Hickman Rose 👍

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.


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.

A year in the Life of the British Justice system

LASPO review kicked into the long grass

Google reviews (aka condemnation) for British Courts

Knee-jerk reaction-proposed new law to tackle the scourge of killer cyclists–report.html

Two former lord chancellors are at loggerheads over an animal welfare issue, according to the Times. Dog owner Michael Gove wants to ban collars that deliver an electric shock to pets. However, transport secretary and dimwit Chris Grayling, the worst lord Chancellor in history, reportedly relies on them to prevent his two cats from straying.

Justice Committee Disclosure Survey Results

AGFS reform and comment from The Law society

Another very rude and ignorant solicitor bullying staff

And corrupt and greedy solicitor Phil Shyster manages to further damage the reputation of human rights and legal aid lawyers with more shenanigans

More shame for our beleaguered Prison system

And the MoJ find money for PWC

New Sentencing guideline for blades and weapons published here (in force from 1st June)

(It also lists acid as a “highly dangerous weapon”, in case anyone wasn’t sure..)

HMCTS struggles desperately on with their pet ‘flexible hours” pilot project, here is another extract of illegible and incomprehensible jargon from their most recent “stakeholder newsletter”

Meanwhile, court chaos and Camberwell closed

Meanwhile, Chris Grayling, worst Lord Chancellor in history, has a different portfolio but is still incompetent thankfully those rumours of him becoming Tory Party chairman in January were inaccurate…

Another useless ex Lord Chancellor popped up this week, the lamentable Liz Trussdescribing lawyers as part of a ” blob like elite” as described inthis article.


Check out this snowy playlist ❄️☃️


Check-mate. A poem in memory of my father

Check Mate: A Poem for my Father

My father was the one who taught me chess.
Then, each game he held out two closed hands,
Each hiding a pawn, one white, one black.
I made my selection and prepared for attack.

We played in silent concentration,
His only words “check!” (and, later, “check-mate”)
Fragrant pipe-smoke trailed around the pieces
As I learned the bitter taste of defeat.

Later: Monopoly, and he was always the ship
Sailing round the the board as though still at sea
In Cuba he had played a GET OUT OF GAIL FREE card
Long before he passed Go and then bought his first house.

The family played a board game called Risk
The so-called “Game of Global Domination”
Only much later did I realise
He had already conquered my world.

When I left home I too travelled the globe
With a back-pack and portable chess set.
Only now do I realise what ha had taught me
Not just the rules. I had learned Values.

Now I am the one to teach my sons chess.
I hold out my closed hands
Each with a pawn, one white, one black.
The King is dead: Long Live the King.

Later: Monopoly, and lessons in life
Try not to Go Back 3 Spaces.
So boys, choose a token, roll the dice but remember
Your Grandfather was always the ship.

In Memory of William Foxsmith RIP (04.02.41- 10.03.14)


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.

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 the memories that we will cherish.

Cheers Dad!


A poem for my father

In Memory of William Foxsmith RIP (04.02.41- 10.03.14)

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”


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)

…the road from the beach (pictured below) where Bill and I walked up from the boat on so many happy occasions” (Tad)


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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