Category Archives: Civil Rights

Guest blog: Jack Leslie-a history (by Bill Hern)

Jack Leslie: the full storyguest blog by Bill Hern

Introduction:- Jack Leslie was a footballer of exceptional talent who played for Plymouth Argyle in the 1920-1930s, and was selected for England in 1925 but denied his place because he was black. In 2020 two Argyle fans launched the JACK LESLIE CAMPAIGN, and authors Bill HERN and David Gleave published FOOTBALL’S BLACK PIONEERS. Jack Leslie features as a chapter in that excellent book, and Bill wrote a longer version of Jack’s story for the Campaign website here. Jack’s story is not just a football story- it is a history story, a family story, and a civil rights story. The full story is published here, as a guest blog by Bill Hern (who retains copyright-see notes below)

The Jack Leslie story – by Bill Hern

If you’ve heard of Plymouth Argyle’s first black player, John (known as Jack) Francis Leslie, it is almost certainly because you are either an Argyle fanatic or possibly vaguely recall Jack as the man who was selected for England in 1925 but then ‘dropped’ when it was discovered he was black.

That was the opening paragraph when I first began writing about Jack Leslie in Autumn 2017. Within three years, thanks almost solely to the efforts of the Jack Leslie Campaign, Jack is now the best known black footballer in Britain. He is about to have a square in Plymouth named in his honour and a statue erected outside Plymouth’s ground, Home Park. 

No longer a hero only in the eyes of Plymouth supporters with a keen and proud sense of history, Jack is now a public figure. 

His place in history is cemented not by the loyal service he gave to Plymouth,playing 400 games and scoring 137 goals over14 seasons, nor the fact that he was for many years the only black player in the Football League or the first to be appointed a club captain, but as the player who was selected for England and then dropped because of the colour of his skin.

The England FA- an amateur affair

The story of Jack’s selection for England began on the afternoon of Monday 5thOctober 1925 at White Hart Lane, venue of that year’s Charity Shield match. The FA decreed that the Shield that year would be contested between the Amateurs and the Professionals. The Amateurs won comfortably, by six goals to one. This was the first time since 1886 that the Amateurs had defeated the Professionals. 

Amongst the crowd of almost 5,000 were the 14 FA Committee members who had selected the Amateurs team. The Professionals comprised players who had taken part in an FA tour of Australia the previous summer. 

This was all very convenient as, that very evening, a dinner was being held at Fracati’s in Oxford Street in honour of the touring squad. The FA Committee men and the Professionals were all, of course, invited and no doubt looking forward to the fine food and wine.

The tourists were each to receive a gold medal and what was described as an ‘England international cap’ although the games in Australia did not attract full international status.

Before the Committee members could leave White Hart Lane and get back to their hotels in order to change and head off to the festivities at Fracati’s they had the task of selecting the FA Amateur team to play the RAF and the full England team to take on Northern Ireland later that month. 

No doubt impressed and influenced by what they had just observed on the White Hart Lane pitch they selected no less than three members of the Amateurs side. Indeed, Claude Ashton, who scored four goals that day, was named as captain. Quite remarkable for a man who was winning his first and, as it transpired, only cap. Ashton was undoubtedly a fine player but his football was played with the famous Corinthians and he never appeared in a single Football League game in his career.

An all-round sportsman, Ashton also played cricket for Cambridge University and Essex. When he played football for Cambridge University along with his brothers Hubert and Gilbert the team were given the title of ‘Ashton Villa.’ Ashton was killed in a flying accident in 1942 while serving with the RAF.

The other amateurs selected for the England side were goalkeeper Howard Baker of Chelsea and Third Division Charlton Athletic’s centre half, George Armitage. 

Baker, another great all-round sportsman, had competed for Great Britain in the high jump and triple jump at the 1912 and 1920 Olympics and was a former team-mate of Ashton’s at Corinthians. 

The third of the amateurs chosen that day, George Armitage, would meet a tragic end in August 1936 when he was found dead on a railway line at Aylesford in Kent. He was only 38 years old and had been a patient at the nearby Preston Hall Sanatorium where he was being treated for Tuberculosis.

The Committee ended its deliberations by naming a squad of 13; 11 starters plus two travelling reserves, one of whom was Jack Leslie of Plymouth Argyle. Jack was on the verge of playing for the country of his birth.

But before we go on to look into the circumstances that followed Jack’s selection let us look at who Jack Leslie was.

Jack Leslie-origins

Jack’s father, also John Francis Leslie, was born in Hope Bay, Jamaica on 17th December 1863. John became a mariner and travelled the world. It seems that one route he commonly took was between London and Sydney, Australia. It was while he was in London that he met Anne Regler a young lady from Islington, London. The pair married on 22nd August 1891 and went on to have two daughters Edithe and Letitia Georgina and, on 17th August 1901, a son, Jack Leslie.

We know that John continued going to sea after his marriage. Indeed, he spent his first Christmas and New Year as a married man on the ship “the Salvera” en route from London to Sydney. However, by April 1901 he had settled in 60, Clifton Road, Canning Town with his wife Anne, their two daughters and Anne’s mother. John had found work as a general labourer and Anne, who was pregnant with Jack, worked as a tailoress. 

By the time of the 1911 census Jack’s sister, Edithe, had died and the family, including the now 83-year-old mother-in-law Catherine Ann Regler, had moved to 12, Gerald Road, Canning Town. This would remain the family home for many years.

John now described himself as a gas fitter’s labourer, Anne was still a tailoress and 18-year-old Letitia was a dressmaker. The house only had 4 rooms for 5 occupants, so conditions would have been cramped but no doubt Jack spent most of his time outdoors playing football. 

After leaving school Jack worked as a boilermaker and joined the United Society of Boilermakers and Iron Shipbuilders Trades Union East Ham Branch on 21st October 1920. It was an occupation he was to return to after his football career was over. 

Barking FC

Jack’s first club was London League side, Barking Town. During his time at Barking the club won the Essex Senior Cup in 1919/20 and the Premier Division of the London League and the London Senior Cup the following season.

Still in his teens, Jack was selected to play for Essex on eight occasions and represented both Essex and the London League in international competitions in Paris.

Jack’s prolific scoring record attracted the attention of Plymouth who had entered the newly created Third Division of the Football League in 1920/21 finishing in mid-table. Jack signed for the Pilgrims on 21st June 1921 in advance of the 1921/22 season when a further change had resulted in the creation of Divisions Three North and South. Plymouth, of course, competed in Division Three (South). Barking Town were left rather depleted as, in addition to Jack, Plymouth signed Frank Richardson and Alf Rowe from the non-league side. At least Jack would have company down in Devon.

Jack Leslie at Argyle-the only black footballer in the English league

Jack made his first appearance on 19th November 1921 in a goalless draw at home to Merthyr Tydfil in front of a crowd of 14,000. Jack kept his place in the first team for the next six games until he was dropped after the home derby with Exeter City on 27th December 1921. 

Jack was the only black player in the Football League at that time. It would not be until Eddie Parris arrived on the scene in 1929 that he was joined by another blackfootballer. The chances of Jack and Eddie meeting up seemed slim as Eddie’s club, Bradford Park Avenue, were a leading Second Division side at the time.

In a strange quirk of fate Bradford Park Avenue were drawn against Plymouth in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup in January 1929. The press regarded this as quite an event and the headline “Coloured Cup-Tie Rivals,” alongside large photographs of Jack and Eddie was carried by several newspapers. In the event Eddie missed the game so the clash of the two ‘coloured’ players was delayed.

It was 19th December 1931 before Jack and Eddie faced one another on the football pitch, Bradford running out 2-0 winners. Ironically only two weeks earlier Eddie had become Wales’ first black player in a 4-0 defeat in Belfast against Northern Ireland. 

Chelsea manager Leslie Knighton’s column in the Daily Mirror of 4th November 1933 reminded readers that there were only “two men of colour” in the Football League – Jack and Eddie. Jack is referred to as “the famous Frank Leslie” and his wing partnership with Plymouth colleague Sam Black was described as “one of the most famous of post-war football.”

Knighton went on to make the prophesy that while “foreigners, Colonials and men from the dominions” add a touch of variety to football he doubts we shall see foreigners imported into the country in the future. Notwithstanding that Jack was born in England and Eddie in Wales, Knighton could not have been more wrong. I wonder what he would think if he walked into the Chelsea dressing room in the modern era when it is not unusual for the entire team to have no home grown players. 

As one of the only two black players in the 1920s, Jack did suffer racist abuse both on and off the pitch. He said “I used to get a lot of abuse in matches. “Here darkie, I’m going to break your leg” they’d shout.” Jack chose to regard it as players just trying to get under his skin. Today such comments would lead to a lengthy ban but in the 1920s it was perfectly common to refer to black people as ‘darkie’ or even worse.  

Plymouth went from strength to strength during the course of the season and going into the last game at Queens Park Rangers they needed only a single point to guarantee promotion to Division Two. They were top of the League, hadn’t lost in the 16 games they had played since 21st January 1922 and had beaten Queens Park Rangers 4-0 the previous week, what could possibly go wrong? Jack regained his place for this crucial fixture after being out of first team action for over four months. Plymouth lost 2-0 and Southampton, who defeated Newport County 5-0, pipped them on goal average. In those days only the winners of Divisions Three North and South were promoted. Jack ended his first season in the Football League with nine appearances and not a single goal.

The following season was again one of disappointment for Jack. He didn’t make a first team appearance until the First Round of the FA Cup at Notts County on 17th January 1923. Plymouth won 1-0 but again Jack didn’t score, nor did he score threedays later in a 1-1 home draw with Norwich City.  

Once again, he lost his place having to wait until 18th April 1923 when he was recalled for a home game against Gillingham. At last Jack broke his scoring duck hitting the second goal in a 2-0 win. This was his 12th appearance for Plymouth and came one day short of 17 months since his debut. 

Of the three players Plymouth recruited from Barking in the summer of 1921, Frank Richardson had far the greatest and speediest impact. He could not have got off to a better start scoring a hat trick on his debut, a 3-1 win at Bristol Rovers on 27th August 1921. This was the first ever hat trick scored by a Plymouth player in the Football League. Richardson ended the season with 31 goals from 41 League appearances. 

He also became the first Plymouth player to hit a hat trick in the FA Cup when he scored four against Bradford Park Avenue in February 1923. He joined Division One side Stoke City the following month.

Like Jack, Alf Rowe got off to a slow start at Plymouth. Over four seasons from and including 1921/22 he played 41 League games for Argyle without finding the net. He then joined Queens Park Rangers and promptly scored on his debut! But he did have the distinction of scoring the only goal of the game as Plymouth beat Argentina on 13th July 1924 during the club’s tour of South America.

Jack hit a further two goals on 2nd May 1923 in a 3-0 home victory against Brentford. Once again Plymouth ended the season in second place but this time they were six points behind champions Bristol City. In seven appearances in 1922/23 Jack scored three goals.

Bob Jack, a Scot, was the manager who had signed Jack for Plymouth. Bob Jack was a Plymouth legend and as well as playing for them, managed the club for 29 years. It is no wonder his ashes were spread on Plymouth’s Home Park ground when he died. He could be forgiven however, if his mind wasn’t 100% on Plymouth when they played at home to Newport County on 28th April 1923. On that same day, 220 miles or so from Plymouth, Bob’s son the famous David Jack was playing for Bolton in the first ever FA Cup Final to be played at what was then the ‘new’ Wembley Stadium. It became known as the White Horse Final as a policeman on a white horse called Billy struggled to contain the 120,000 crowd that had crammedinto the new stadium. 

That day David Jack scored the first ever goal at Wembley after only two minutes as Bolton overcame Second Division West Ham, a club Jack Leslie would one day be employed by. David Jack had previously played for Plymouth, including appearing in their first ever League game, before moving to Bolton. He went on to become the first player in the world to be transferred for a fee of more than £10,000 when he moved from Bolton to Arsenal in 1928. He played for and captained England, scored the only goal in the 1925/26 FA Cup Final when Bolton beat Manchester City and in 1929/30 became the first player to play for two different FA Cup winning sides at Wembley. 

Meanwhile Jack Leslie could only dream of Wembley and hope that in 1923/24 he could gain a regular place in the Plymouth team. 

It wasn’t to be however. Playing in the inside-left position, Jack scored only two goals in the first 15 games he played that season. Three goals in his last two games bolstered his statistics to five goals in 17 games as Plymouth once again finished runners-up in Division Three (South), four points behind Portsmouth. 

At this stage of his career there were few signs that Jack would go on to become a Plymouth legend let alone be chosen for England. 
Jack Leslie’s Argyle tour South America

In the Summer of 1924 Plymouth went on a five-week tour of Argentina and Uruguay. That was not however, the first time Jack had travelled abroad as he had played representative football in France while he was with Barking. 

The team and officials travelled to South America by boat and played nine games between 22nd June and 20th July beating Argentina twice and Uruguay once. Jack was a regular in the side and scored twice against Uruguay; the first in a 4-0 victory over the South Americans and the second, a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw.

The return journey on the Steam Ship Andes was lengthy and made even longer by stops in Brazil, Uruguay, Portugal and Spain. The players all travelled in Second Class (imagine that happening today!) but manager Bob Jack was housed in the luxury of First Class. There were 226 people on board the ship when it docked at Southampton on 11th August 1924. This was cutting things a bit fine as Argyle’s first League match at Norwich was scheduled for 30th August.

Jack at last became a regular in the Plymouth side in 1924/25 playing in 40 League games and one FA Cup tie. He scored 14 goals including his first ever hat trick in a 7-1 home massacre of Bristol City on 10th April 1925. However, Jack had gone 23 games without a goal prior to the Bristol City game. He needed to start scoring on a more consistent basis. 

There were no obvious signs of long-term fatigue from the South American trip as Plymouth played their 42nd and final League match on 29th April 1925 beating Southend 6-0. Jack was on the score sheet. This victory left Plymouth at the top of the League, three points ahead of Swansea who had two games remaining. Plymouth had a superior goal average so Swansea had to win both their remaining games to pip Argyle to the title and promotion to Division Two.

The following day Swansea scraped a 1-0 win at home to Reading, the winner coming late in the game. 

Everything rested on the Swansea’s final game of the season two days after the Reading game, at home to Plymouth’s Devon rivals Exeter City. The Grecians had nothing to play for but could they do their neighbours a favour? Swansea raced into a two-goal lead by half-time their first goal coming from former Argyle centre-forward Jack Fowler who had made his Plymouth debut just one month after Jack played his first game for the club. Exeter pulled one back in the second half but couldn’t snatch an equaliser. Swansea were promoted and Plymouth for the fourth season in succession finished runners-up.  

In many ways the crunch clash had been Plymouth’s penultimate game of the season on 25th April 1925, when a crowd of 30,000 saw Argyle draw 1-1 at home to their promotion rivals Swansea. A win for Plymouth would have seen them take the title. 

Jack returned to London in the close season to marry East-London girl Lavinia Emma Garland on 27th June 1925. The couple had a daughter, Evelyn, in 1927 and settled in Glendower Road, Plymouth. 

While at Plymouth Jack earned only £8 a week during the football season and £6 a week in the close season. There was a bonus of £2 for a win and £1 for a draw. Fortunately for Jack and his team mates, Plymouth won more games than they lost.

Jack’s family

While Jack’s childhood was not a bed of roses, Lavinia had an even tougher upbringing. Born on 21st November 1899 (although she was not baptised until 3rdNovember 1907) in 1901 she was living at 25, Welstead Road, East Ham along with her father William Alfred and mother Emma plus the couple’s six children; Florence Edith (born 1888-died 1944); William Edward Rockliffe (born 2nd June 1891-died 1957); Sarah Ann (born 20th February 1893-died 23rd October 1950); Frances Lydia (born 20th March 1895-died 1976); Annie (born 14th June 1897-died 1978) and finally baby Lavinia. 

William senior was born in Gravesend and Emma hailed from Bedfordshire. The saddest entry on the 1901 census is the description of Lavinia’s father as a ‘lunatic.’ This is a term repeated on the 1911 census yet only four years later William was cleared as fit to serve in World War 1. It appears, judging from the 1891 census, that far from being a ‘lunatic’ William was simply deaf. 

The Garland family were living at 198, Queen’s Road, Plaistow in 1911. William senior and his son William junior although both recorded as general labourers wereout of work. 

Eleven people were living in the house which had only five rooms. Sarah, now 18 was working as a laundress and Frances was a duty girl. Annie and Lavinia wereboth still at school and the family has been supplemented by two sons -Thomas (born 24th July 1902-died 29th July 1937) and Richard Alfred Rockliffe (born 14thOctober 1907-died 1953).

Making up the 11 inhabitants were Albert and Edward Cross both in their 20s and brothers of Emma. Albert was an unemployed general labourer and Edward a coal hawker.

William states very clearly on the 1911 census form that he and Emma had eight children all of whom were still living. He seems to have overlooked Maud Lily (born 25th June 1904-died 6th October 1958).Maud wasn’t living with her parents when the 1911 census was completed but she is cited, a few years later, as a dependent child on William’s Army records. Maud was in fact living at 34, Landsdown Road, Tidal Basin with her aunt, Annie Maria Cross. 

Despite the poverty, poor conditions and overcrowding, all nine of William and Emma’s children survived childhood.

Remarkably, given his age and classification as a lunatic, William senior enlisted in the Army on 13th April 1915 and served in France with the Army Service Corps for a year before being medically discharged. He was 43 years of age at a time when the upper age limit for new recruits was 41. Recruiting officers often accepted people who, strictly speaking, should not have been taken on, such was the desperation to get men out onto the Western Front. We learn from his attestation form that William was a diminutive figure standing 5 feet 2 and three-quarter inches tall. He had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. 

William sailed for Le Havre from Southampton on 24th September 1915. He was very quickly in trouble with the authorities as on 24th October he was punished because of ‘drunkenness on active service.’

As might have been anticipated, William was not suited to the rigours of War and he was discharged as medically unfit on 9th August 1916. His character was described as ‘good.’ This is perhaps surprising given that in addition to his drunken escapade in October 1915, in June 1916 he was deprived of seven days’ pay for being absent from roll call. 

His attestation papers show his address as 111, Queen’s Road, Plaistow, having previously lived at number 198. It wasn’t unusual for families to remain in the same area and move only very short distances when they changed homes. As of August 1916 he had three dependent children. 

Strangely William’s medical records show that his discharge was due to ‘indigestion.’ The Army Medical Board noted that William had suffered from this since 1901 and it was neither caused nor aggravated by his military service. This of course meant William would not get a disability pension or gratuity as he returned to East London with its poor employment prospects, overcrowding and abject poverty.

One wonders if William enlisted because of patriotism or simply the lack of employment at that time. Perhaps he felt by leaving home there would be one less mouth for his wife Emma to feed? We shall never know. 

William junior also served in and survived World War 1 but was clearly not a man with a great deal of respect for authority. His Army records show a whole list of transgressions; not complying with orders (he had dirty boots on parade); neglect of duty; absent for adjutant’s parade; gambling in a tent; not complying with an officer’s orders; absence from parade; and finally, two offences of absence without leave. Despite this his military character was assessed as ‘fair’ and his general character ‘good.’

After marrying Jack, Lavinia must have found the peace and quiet of Plymouth a total change from the hustle and bustle of East London. One hopes she quickly adapted to married life and savoured the changes to her living conditions. It certainly seemed to be a happy marriage and the couple remained together for almost 63 years until Lavinia’s death in 1988.

Jack had left London in the summer of 1921 and it is presumed he had met Lavinia before leaving the East End. Quite why the pair waited four years before marrying is not known. There is however, evidence that Jack spent time in London even after his transfer to Plymouth and he almost certainly returned to London every summer during the close season. Although that would not be the case in 1924 when he spent a large chunk of the summer in South America. 

When Jack returned from South America the passenger list for the Andes records his address as the Leslie family’s home at 12, Gerald Road, Canning Town. The majority of the other team members showed addresses in Plymouth. Alf Rowe lived at 94, Trelawney Road and Frank Sloan and Patrick Corcoran lodged together at 34, Onslow Road. Manager Bob Jack’s home at that time was at 146, Peverell Park Road in Plymouth.  
1925- Jack hit’s peak form

Plymouth started the 1925/26 season like a house on fire winning ten of their first 12 games, scoring 44 goals in the process.  Married life obviously suited Jack who scored eight of those goals. However, he scored only a further nine in the next 29 games. 

This avalanche of goals was probably aided by a change to the offside rule in 1925/26. Only two, rather than three, players were now required to be between the attacking player and the goal. This resulted in almost 30% more goals being scored in the Football League compared to the previous season. 

As of 9th November 1925, Plymouth had three of the top nine goal scorers in Division Three (South). Jack Cock topped the list with 15, Sammy Black had ten, closely followed by Jack with nine goals.

The England selection committee look at Jack

However, rewinding a little, when the FA Committee met after the Charity Shield on 5th October they perhaps unfurled their newspapers and turned to the sports section to see which clubs were doing well and who their best players were. 

They were obviously conscious that the leading sides would not release players for a mid-season international – no international breaks in those days. They were forced to turn to players from the lower divisions and certainly selecting three of the Amateurs team that had performed that day was a good start in filling the 13 places that were available for the upcoming match in Belfast.

Turning to Division Three (South) they will have seen Plymouth Argyle riding high in the League. Their record was an almost perfect one – played 8 won 7 lost one. They had scored 31 goals and conceded only nine. They stood top of the League ahead of Reading on goal average but already with two games in hand of the Berkshire club.  

They had won their first two games of the season by six goals to two against Southend and Crystal Palace. In September they went one better and beat Aberdare Athletic 7-2. The previous week they had hammered Brentford by four goals to nil.

Jack had played a leading role and scored six goals so far that season. The selectors perhaps considered the merits of Jack Cock and Sammy Black but it was Jack they picked for the squad naming him as travelling reserve.

We will probably never know just how much time the Committee spent in considering the squad. Perhaps they were overly keen to get off to Oxford Street and begin the evening’s celebrations? Whatever, Jack was in the squad and the details were passed to the Press Association.

Jack Leslie selected for England!

The following day manager Bob Jack called Jack into his office to tell him he’d been picked for England. Whether Bob Jack specified that Jack was named as travelling reserve is almost irrelevant – Jack Leslie of Plymouth Argyle had been picked for England!

The local and national press that day carried the story of the England squad. All showed Jack as travelling reserve. 

The Western Morning News of 6th October 1925 was one of many newspapers that published the squad, proudly headlining it with “Argyle Player Reserve Against Ireland.”

There was some muted press criticism of the team the selectors had chosen. The choice of three amateur players was questioned in some quarters and ‘Argus Junior’ writing in the Sports Argus of 10th October 1925 pretty much summed things up when he said “I hope England’s eleven will be more convincing on the field than they are on paper.” Argus’ only direct criticism was aimed at the choice of goalkeeper and half backs. Jack’s place in the squad would appear to have been accepted without attracting comment. 

Yet when the squad travelled to the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle, County Down on Wednesday 21st October Jack was not with them. His place as travelling reserve had been taken by Stan Earle of West Ham United. The first indication we can find of Earle replacing Jack is in an article in the Athletic News dated 19th October. Jack’s name is simply replaced by that of Earle – no explanation is offered. 

Why was Jack “de-selected” for England?

Jack was not injured or suspended. Indeed he played at Home Park on the day of the international, scoring twice as Plymouth hammered Bournemouth 7-2, while England laboured to a goalless draw in Belfast. The only logical conclusion was that Jack had been dropped because he was black. The question is, did the selectors suddenly discover Jack was black and change their minds or were they perhaps overruled by a superior body?

There is no disputing that Plymouth is geographically remote in terms of League football. Given that football at Third Division level was regionalised it is perfectly possible that the majority of the FA Committee members may never have seen Jack or Plymouth Argyle play. 

The 14 were Charles Wreford-Brown (Oxford University), S R B Cowles (Norfolk), Arthur Joshua Dickinson (Sheffield Wednesday), B A Glandell (Amateur Association), Henry J Huband (London FA), Harry Keys (West Bromwich Albion), Arthur Kingscott (Derbyshire FA), John Lewis (Lancashire FA), John McKenna (Liverpool FC), H A Porter (Kent County FA), George Wagstaffe Simmons (Hertfordshire FA), James Alfred Tayler (Gloucestershire FA), Tom Thorne (Millwall FC) and Harry Walker (North Riding County FA). 

Wreford-Brown had played for and captained England as an amateur. He was also a talented cricketer having played for Gloucestershire. He had been on the council of the FA since 1892. He was born in Bristol and still had family there. Indeed his cousin Richard Wreford-Brown had shot and killed his father-in-law (an inhabitant of Bristol) in Ross-on-Wye on 14th August 1925. On 5th November 1925 Wreford-Brown was found guilty of murder but regarded as insane so as not to be responsible for his actions. 

Of all the selectors Charles Wreford-Brown seems one of the most likely to have been familiar with Jack and, of course, the colour of his skin.

However, it seems inconceivable that the Gloucestershire FA representative cannot have seen Jack play. J A Tayler had been elected President of the Gloucestershire FA in 1899 so definitely no ‘new kid on the block.’ Moreover he was President of the Western League, a competition which covered the entire south-west of England. Indeed the League had been won by Plymouth Argyle in 1905 a feat that would be repeated by Argyle’s reserve side in 1928 and 1932. Surely when Jack began to be discussed by the Committee on the early evening of 5th October the other 13 Committee members would turn to Mr Tayler for his thoughts on the Devon-based footballer?

We also know that the previous summer Bert Batten of Plymouth had been selected for the FA tour of Australia. He missed the Charity Shield game because of injury but would have been invited to the celebrations in London as he had a very successful tour, scoring 47 goals. That might seem like an unbelievable amount of goals but the team scored 139 goals in 25 matches and conceded only 13. Bert scored six goals in a single game – a 10-0 victory against South Australia. 

Selection for the tour was very much a double-edged sword. It was a great honour and quite an adventure, but it did suggest that your club was happy for you to exhaust yourself making the arduous journey to and from Australia and playing football from May until August when the English season resumed. Clubs would not allow their most valuable players to take on such a burden. 

In the 1923/24 season leading up to his selection, Batten had scored ten goals in 17 League games for Plymouth. Jack was only marginally more prolific with 14 goals but he was very much a mainstay of the team making 40 appearances. One can only conjecture why Jack wasn’t included in the FA party but it is reasonable to suppose that, even if approached, Plymouth would have argued that they needed to keep their star forward fit for the season ahead. One might also presume that if the FA selectors had watched Batten prior to picking him for the tour, they must have seen Jack play and be aware that he was black.  

Fine player though Batten was there is plenty of evidence that he was very much in the shadow of Jack. His preferred position was inside left but Jack had made that position his own forcing Batten out wide to play on the left wing.

The second question that doubters raise is ‘was Jack, as a Third Division player, good enough?’ We have already seen that three of the team were amateurs, one of whom never played a single League game in his career. One of the amateurs, George Armitage played for Charlton Athletic who would end the season second from bottom of Division Three (South) and be forced to apply for re-election. 

At the time of Jack’s selection he was in his fifth season of League football and had played almost 100 games for Plymouth who were a top notch Division Three (South) side who had only missed out on promotion by the slimmest of margins in the previous four seasons. 

Nor did his selection raise any eye brows at the time. The Westminster Gazette of 7thOctober simply remarked that his selection was “interesting.” This is more likely to relate to his footballing ability than the colour of his skin. The Gazette also referred to Jack as “a man of colour.” If a London newspaper journalist knew that Jack was black, surely at least one of the 14 Committee members must also have known? And if they didn’t know they would do after reading the Westminster Gazette! There was no reason to, as claimed, have one or more of the Committee go to Plymouth’s next game to check on his skin colour. 

Returning to the question of was Jack good enough, of the team that would take the field in Belfast on 24th October, five players were making their debut, four of whom would never play internationally again. Of the starting 11 no fewer than seven never played for England again and two only played once more. Billy Walker of Aston Villa was far and away the star player going on to play for England 18 times, scoring nine goals. None of the other ten players got into double figures in terms of international caps. In short, apart perhaps from Walker, Jack was at least the equal of every member of that, albeit weakened, England squad. 

On the morning of the match, the Northern Whig of 24th October 1925 in providing a pen picture of each member of the squad and totally oblivious of the fact that Jack had been discarded, noted that Jack was a non-playing reserve but said “Leslie who has scored plenty of goals for the Argyle, is an inside forward of great ability and will soon work his way into representative matches.”

There is no evidence whatsoever that Jack was not good enough to represent the country of his birth.

So, the story is true. Jack was selected then dropped and we can think of no other reason than it was due to the colour of his skin. The Daily Herald of 28th October 1925 quoted a letter sent by a ‘London reader’ which asked why Jack had been announced in the squad but Earle of West Ham travelled instead? He went on to plead “Cannot you, in the columns of Labour’s only daily newspaper make a stand against the snobbery which is like a blight on first class football.” He added that it was nonsensical that Ashton of the Corinthians had been named as captain when he patently was not an international class footballer.

There is just a hint here that the reason for Jack’s exclusion was linked to class and perhaps the assumption that a black man must come from a very low class?

The Herald took the matter up with the FA who in a stubborn and illogical stance, denied that Jack had ever been chosen! An early example of fake news perhaps? The Herald then took the matter up with the Press Association, who, if the FA was telling the truth, had misreported Jack’s selection. The Press Association was adamant the FA had indeed announced Jack as a travelling reserve.

I think we have established beyond any doubt that Jack was indeed selected for England on the afternoon of 5th October and also that he was in the squad on merit. What is beyond dispute is that he was not invited to join the England squad that left for Belfast later that month.

Is it really conceivable that Jack was quietly dropped because of the colour of his skin? Was Jack really selected by 14 Committee members none of whom knew he was black, even though the Westminster Gazette, for example, readily recognised him as “a man of colour.”

As we have noted, Jack had played almost 100 League games over five seasons. It is unthinkable that not one of those games had been observed by an FA Committee member. 

We might never know what was discussed at that selection meeting at White Hart Lane on 5th October 1925 but surely someone must have spoken for Jack and put a case forward for his selection? If that was the case one can only suppose Jack’s benefactor(s) did not mention the colour of his skin, perhaps thinking it irrelevant. Nor could we expect the other Committee members to ask whether Jack was white. It was simply a question that did not arise, after all every player in the entire Football League was white…apart from Jack.

Is it really conceivable that a country’s football squad could be chosen by people who had not seen the individual players in action?

One school of thought is that one or more of the selectors went to watch Jack play between 5th October (the date of the selection Committee meeting) and 19th October, when the Athletic News quoted Stan Earle and Harry Nuttall as the travelling reserves and that it was while watching Jack that they became aware that he was black. 

The FA Council met on 19th October 1925 at Russell Square. When the England team for Northern Ireland was discussed it was to check on the fitness of Notts County full-back Horace Cope of Notts County and confirm that Nuttall who was named as a travelling reserve was unfit and his place would be taken by Alf Baker of Arsenal. Unlucky Cope was ruled out through injury and never won an England cap. His place was taken by Frank Hudspeth of Newcastle who aged 35 years 6 months and four days won his first and only  cap. Baker went on to make a solitary England appearance in 1927. No mention is made of Jack.

Plymouth played two games over this period; at home to Watford (a 2-1 victory) on 10th October and away to Reading the following Saturday in a top of the table battle that ended in a 1-1 draw.

This requires us to accept the bizarre theory that England had originally chosen a squad member without ever having seen him play. And why, having chosen the squad, would the selectors then want to take another look at the players they had selected? Did they carry out this ‘check’ on all 13 members of the squad? And if so, why was Jack the only player to then be ‘de-selected?’ The only thing different about Jack was, of course, the colour of his skin.

It seems unlikely the FA would send a Committee member all the way to Devon simply to check on Jack so, if this theory has any credence, Jack’s dark-skin was ‘discovered’ at Reading only a week before the Northern Ireland game and he was dropped that weekend as his name no longer appeared as travelling reserve in an article in the Athletic News the following Monday.

FACT: The FA dropped Jack Leslie because he was black

The facts are that Jack was selected for England on 5th October but by the time of the game he had been quietly de-selected. The only reason can be the colour of his skin. What changed between 5th and 19th October when his name disappeared from the squad? We don’t know what degree of consideration the FA Committee put in to selecting the 13-man squad but they selected Jack and were confident enough in their choice to hand the squad names to the Press Association. It seems highly unlikely they could be unaware of Jack’s heritage. So, were they over-ruled by an external body? 

The FA President Charles Clegg was at White Hart Lane when the selection Committee met so the squad effectively had the seal of approval of the most senior official in the FA. Clegg was a deeply religious and devout man but liberal minded. He was a straight talking northerner and a solicitor who didn’t always get along with some, what he considered ‘snobby’ solicitors from the south. 

All of this raises the question of whether the FA was told by another body to quietly drop Jack from the squad. But who was more powerful and influential than the FA? The Government perhaps? The recently elected Conservative Government under the leadership of Stanley Baldwin may have had in mind the 1919 Race Riots which took place in ports across the country where white men fought in protest against the perception that black men had taken their jobs and, in some cases, their women, while they were away fighting in the Great War.

Jack was never named in an England squad again despite hitting even higher levels of form later in his career. 

This must rank as one of the most shameful incidents in the long and far from blemish-free history of the FA. We may never know the truth. There are a number of possible scenarios the most unlikely of which by a distance is that put forward by the FA that they never selected Jack at any point despite what the Press Association was told. 

Jack expressed no bitterness. His version of events was that he “did hear, roundabout like, that the FA had come to have another look at me. Not at me football but at me face. They asked and found they’d made a ricket. Found out about me daddy and that was it.” 

“There was a bit of an uproar in the papers. Folks in the town were very upset. No one ever told me official like but that had to be the reason; me mum was English but me daddy was black as the ace of spades. There wasn’t any other reason for taking my cap away.”

What is strange is that, despite what Jack said, there seems to have been no comment in the press. Was the news and the reasons for Jack’s exclusion supressed? Certainly one local reporter claimed his “pen is under a ban in this matter.” What sort of body had such a hold over the press?

Apart from the ill-informed article in the Northern Whig on the morning of the Ireland match, the only known reference to Jack after 6th October is in the Western Daily Press on 12th October 1925 where it is suggested that “Leslie, the darkie forward of Plymouth Argyle” was likely to take the place of Sam Wadsworth of Huddersfield in the England team. Wadsworth had been named in the original starting eleven. This seems a remarkably ill-advised claim as Wadsworth was a full-back, a position Jack had never filled. But note that the Northern Whig was another paper that, albeit somewhat disrespectfully, recognised Jack as non-white. If they knew, then surely the selectors must also have known.

The press followed and reported on the battles Cope and Nuttall were having to get fit for the match. The latter was a ‘mere’ reserve, just like Jack. Yet Jack disappeared from the squad and his omission attracted no press coverage.  

Jack’s continuing success at Plymouth Argyle

But life went on and Plymouth continued to ride high in the League table vying with Reading for the coveted promotion slot.

On 24th April 1926 the Jack family had plenty to celebrate. David Jack had just scored the only goal of the game to win the FA Cup for Arsenal and dad Bob Jack had watched his Plymouth team beat Charlton at home by 1-0 while arch promotion rivals Reading had lost 3-0 at Crystal Palace. Plymouth stood top of the League on goal average ahead of Reading. Plymouth had two games to play whereas Reading only had one to go. Surely nothing would go wrong this time?

On Monday 26th April 1926 Plymouth played their game in hand and got a point in a 2-2 draw at Brentford. The last games of the season on 2nd May 1926 saw Plymouth travel to Gillingham and Reading host Brentford. A point would probably be enough to see Plymouth take the title but they succumbed 2-0 to Gillingham while Reading hammered Brentford 7-1. Yet again, Plymouth were runners-up. 

The following season Plymouth abandoned their habit of finishing the season badly and won their last six games only to finish second again, two points behind Bristol City who they had beaten 4-2 in the penultimate game of the season. In 33 League games and one FA Cup game Jack scored 14 goals including the second hat trick of his career in a 7-1 home victory over Crystal Palace on 12th February 1927.  

There was to be no near miss for Plymouth in 1927/28 as they slipped to third place,12 points behind champions Millwall. Jack scored 15 goals in 41 League games and didn’t score in his only FA Cup appearance.

The highlight of the 1928/29 season was a 3-0 Third Round FA Cup victory over Division Two side Blackpool thanks to a Sammy Black hat trick. Black and Jack formed a renowned left-wing partnership for Plymouth over several seasons playing together 327 times. 

Plymouth were knocked out at home to Bradford Park Avenue in the next round on 26th January 1929. This was the game the Leeds Mercury of 25th January 1929 tagged “Coloured Cup Tie Rivals” and under large photographs of Jack and Eddie Parris of Bradford commented “Bradford and Plymouth meet in tomorrow’s cup ties. Each club possesses a coloured player.” As stated earlier Eddie Parris did not play in this game. 

Plymouth didn’t win any of the next eight League games after beating Blackpool. A late surge, winning each of their last four League games, only took them from eighthto fourth place although a mere two points behind champions Charlton. Jack had his best season so far and scored 22 goals in 41 League games as well as scoring once in four FA Cup ties.

Promotion– and Jack Leslie as club captain!

Plymouth finally clinched the title in 1929/30 winning the League by seven points after amassing what was then a record for Division Three (South) of 68 points. They lost only four League games all season. 

Jack had a relatively disappointing season. He scored eight goals in 32 League games and once in four FA Cup matches but didn’t find the net in any of his last 14 games. Plymouth scored 98 League goals and Jack was only their fifth highest scorer.

Plymouth played their first ever Division Two game at home to Everton on 30th August 1930. Everton had just been relegated and were to win the League that season by seven points. Jack had a good start scoring in a 3-2 loss in front of a bumper crowd of 34,236. Plymouth lost the return game to Everton 9-1 in December 1929 with the great Dixie Dean scoring four of the goals. Dean scored 48 League and Cup goals that season but nowhere near the 63 he scored in 1927/28! 

Plymouth finished the season in 18th place six points clear of relegation. Jack scored eight goals in 39 League and FA Cup appearances making him the club’s fourth top scorer that season.

1931/32 was Jack and Plymouth’s best season to date. Plymouth finished fourth in Division Two and Jack, who was now club captain, scored 21 goals in 43 League and FA Cup games. This included a hat trick in a 3-3 home draw with Bradford City on 12th September 1931 and four goals in a 5-1 home rout of Nottingham Forest on 17th October 1931.

The significance of Jack being appointed club captain should not be under estimated. He was certainly the first black footballer to achieve that feat in the Football League, it would be 1969 before another such occurrence when Stan Horne was made captain of Fulham. Put bluntly white people were not used to taking orders from black men, there was also a perception amongst some, that black people were not natural leaders. 

Jack flying high

Jack’s status as captain did result in him making his first journey by air. In October 1932 Plymouth experimented with flying to away games. The first such venture was a trip to Stoke. The journey took only just over two hours by air compared to over ten hours by rail. Players were excluded from the outward journey which was limited to club officials and their friends. As captain, Jack was the only player allowed to join the return flight which included Bob Jack, his wife and their 31-year-old son Rollo. It was Jack’s first flight as it was for Mr and Mrs Jack. 

Sadly, Jack now in his 30s, never again showed the form he had in 1931/32. The following season he scored only five times in 33 appearances as Plymouth finished 14th in Division Two. 

His last two seasons were blighted by an injury he suffered when the lace on a ball went into his eye. He played 11 games in 1933/34 before the injury, which took place at Lincoln during a 1-1 draw. The damage was so serious it was thought he would not play again. 

When Plymouth announced their list of retained players at the end of the 1933/34 season Jack’s name was absent. Showing no sentiment whatsoever the club were unwilling to offer Jack a further contract until it could be shown that he had fully recovered from the injury that was now affecting both eyes. This must have been an incredibly worrying time for Jack and Lavinia not only in respect to the danger to his sight but also financially. Jack was in his early 30s, nearing the end of his football career and daughter Evelyn had recently started going to school in Plymouth.  

Fortunately Plymouth rather belatedly offered him a new contract in June 1934 when the specialist treating him gave an optimistic report about his recovery.

1933/34 was also Jack’s benefit year and at the end of the season he was presented in person with a cheque for 10 guineas on behalf of the club at the annual supper and social of the grandly named Ladies Auxiliary Committee of the Plymouth Argyle Supporters’ Club.  

Jack never regained his previous form and played only once in 1934/35. His last game was on 29th December 1934 when, wearing the number nine shirt, he scored the first goal in a 3-1 victory at home to Fulham. He was given a free transfer at the end of the season. 

Retirement-and return to London

Jack and Lavinia moved to Truro where they ran a pub. Jack even played a few games at centre half for Truro in the Plymouth and District League. By 1938 the Leslie family had returned to London and were living at 132, Wakefield Street, East Ham not far from Jack’s father who by then was a widower. Jack returned to his employment of boilermaker and Lavinia worked as a cardboard box maker. 

John Francis senior was still living at the old family home at 12, Gerald Road in Canning Town. With him was Jack’s sister Letitia and her second husband George Gillick and the couple’s children. Also in the household were Letitia’s children from her first marriage to Walter Henry Oxley who died age 43 on 4th August 1934.

In August 1938 Jack was appointed as Barking Town FC’s trainer. In reporting this, the Western News of 4th August 1938 described Jack as “one of the finest players ever to wear an Argyle jersey. He played at inside-left and was a tactician of outstanding quality.”

West Ham

Jack also worked as boot-boy for West Ham until he was 80 years of age. His retirement was celebrated on London Weekend Television’s ‘The Big Match’ which showed West Ham manager John Lyall giving a speech and thanking Jack for all his service.

Final Years

Jack and Lavinia lived their later years in Gravesend where Lavinia died on 10th April 1988 followed seven months later on 25th November by Jack at the age of 88. Jack’s death certificate shows him not as an ex-professional footballer but rather a “retired boilermaker.” He was a modest, unassuming man right up to the very end.

Bill Hern, December 2020

NOTES (Greg Foxsmith)

1 I am very grateful to Bill, for this article and allowing me to publish it on this site, and for the extensive research that underpins this endeavour. When I first corresponded with Bill, the Jack Leslie Campaign had launched (we had a website and twitter account) but the crowdfunder appeal had not, and his book (jointly written with David Gleave) had not yet gone to print. Bill was generous with his time and in sharing his research as we all learned more about Jack Leslie. He has become a friend, and I look forward to meeting him in person when circumstances allow.

2 “In 2020 two Argyle fans launched the JACK LESLIE CAMPAIGN,….” those two fans were myself and Matt Tiller, and like Bill we had only vague knowledge of Jack Leslie (and none of the England selection story) until a year ago. Matt’s journey of enlightenment is recounted here, and mine on an earlier blog here. The catalyst for all this was Matt meeting Tony, who became one of the Campaign Committee along with these great people (one of whom, cartoonist Rob Bullen, created the lead illustration for this blog)

3 Buy Bill and David’s book here: https://www.conkereditions.co.uk/product/footballs-black-pioneers-subscriber-copies-for-pre-order/

4 Support the Jack Leslie Campaign! https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/jack-leslie-campaign

5 About the author- Bill Hern is a life-long supporter of Sunderland FC. He is on twitter as @HernBill

6 COPYRIGHT- this article was researched and written by Bill, who retains copyright and IP rights over this material. That said, he is usually very amenable to agreeing reproduction of his work if properly credited to him, so do go ahead and give him a shout if you would like to publish all or some of this article, and he is very likely to grant permission.

Black Lives Matter-an open letter. (Guest blog by Mbombo Kaoma)

Reader beware – this is an open letter about race on both sides of the Atlantic. The truths expressed here make for uncomfortable reading, but I encourage you to read on: the time for sticking heads in the sand has long since passed.

Mbombo

We are all now familiar with the ongoing social unrest in the US and around the world.

Disgust and disbelief turned into anger, anger into protest, and peaceful protest morphed into disruptive civil disobedience. All in response to George Floyd’s killing in Minnesota on 25 May (and Amy Cooper’s abhorrent abuse of racial privilege in New York, and the modern-day lynching of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and [insert injustice of the reader’s choice…]).

For some, the knee-jerk reaction has been to ignore the peaceful protests and shift straight into condemnation of the mass disruption.

This open letter is addressed to those who continue to query why black people in the US/UK/elsewhere (and – very welcome – allies of all racial persuasions) may feel compelled to take to the streets and be (non-violently) disruptive right now; an effort to engage – respectfully and apolitically – with the ‘But why are they being so disruptive?’ brigade.

The short answer is that such disruption is the nature of protests, of civil disobedience. The very purpose is to upend the established, oppressive order; to effect change within the system being protested against.

That is said not to condone violence, but rather to justify (non-violent) acts of civil disobedience and disruption.

The factors which open the floodgates to waves of protestors, which cause them to abandon social norms and speak out, emanate from the perception that the status quo is in some way broken. That the way things have been is oppressive and must change. So protestors seek to disrupt; not with wanton abandon, nor with glee, but out of desperation to have voices heard which have for too long been passively forgotten or actively silenced.

And yes that sometimes spills over into disruption, into social unrest.

This is unfortunate, but often inevitable, and is the essence of taking to the streets to effect change. Keyboard warriors (this one included) can be ignored out of hand; marching masses cannot.

To paraphrase the stand-up comedian Kae Kurd (because dark humour gets us through dark times): ‘If the person you’re protesting against is happy with your means of protest…then that’s not really a protest, is it?’. An idea echoed by another comedian/political commentator, Trevor Noah, host of the Daily Show: ‘There is no “right way” [for the Have Nots] to protest because that’s what protest is’.

Such is the nature of every truly seismic act of civil disobedience, of every successful movement for the advancement of the underprivileged that there ever has been or ever will be.

From the 14th century English Peasants’ Revolt, to the Suffragettes sticking it to the patriarchy in the early 20th, to Martin Luther King proclaiming ‘I have a Dream’ in 1963, the story is the same. The Haves disregard the Have Nots until the downtrodden cause a sufficient nuisance that they can no longer be ignored.

So when a vocal minority of Haves chastise the Have Nots by saying ‘you’re being far too disruptive’, the response from protestors should simply be ‘thank you…that’s the point’.

(And for those who mistakenly believe ‘but it’s different in Britain’, remember that for better or worse what happens in the USA matters in every corner of the world in which American culture permeates. Regardless of whether we are speaking of economic shocks or social attitudes, it remains a truth universally acknowledged that ‘When America sneezes, the World catches a cold’.)

The essence of every well-functioning society is (enforced) consent to the system for the mutual benefit of all. Put philosophically, it’s the Social Contract. In today’s America we see that the Social Contract has been breached so flagrantly and so systemically for so long that portions of the body charged with policing it are now intrinsically part of the problem (but only portions; it’s important to remind ourselves that most police officers are fundamentally good people).

So the time has come to seek: a) justice (the belated charging of the other 3 George Floyd officers was a good start), and b) tangible change (at the very least, compulsory bodycams for all officers). And perhaps to seek change by means other than working within the formal institutions of the system (albeit non-violently). To March on Washington and Westminster, not to sit still and wait for yet another name to be added to the Wall of Unarmed Victims.

Perhaps more glaringly, that blight of institutional racism has become so endemic that the Amy Coopers of this world feel entitled to weaponise the To Kill a Mockingbird-style shameful truth that a white woman’s word will – no matter the circumstances – count for far more than that of a black man’s (unless someone happens to be filming). In the absence of indisputable video evidence clearing his name, I have no doubt that at this very moment there would be a man awaiting trial for the heinous ‘crime’ of Bird Watching While Black.

Bringing up the Amy Cooper example is in no way intended to diminish the suffering and anguish of the last moments of George Floyd’s life; a man has been murdered and nothing can return him to his family.

Rather, the Cooper episode highlights the uncomfortable fact that the minority of Haves who were so quick to jump on the condemnation bandwagon are – silently – well aware of the (unasked for, but nevertheless very real) privilege that they share with Ms Cooper. These people are not blind. They recognise that certain groups are marginalised and face prejudice; and yet these same people appear to expect those oppressed groups to simply weep a little, move on, and pretend that they See No Evil and Hear No Evil.

This inconsistency between outward expression of condemnation versus inward recognition of oppression faced by others was depressingly demonstrated by this YouTube clip where renowned anti-racism activist Jane Elliott (famed for her 1968 ‘Blue Eyes-Brown Eyes‘ classroom experiment) asked a predominantly white American audience in 1996: ‘I want every white person in this room who would be happy to…receive the same treatment as our black citizens do in this society…please stand’. Unsurprisingly, not one of those Americans stood (and I doubt any Brits would stand either).

Jane Elliott’s response to this inconvenient truth was incisive: ‘That says very plainly that you know what’s happening, you know you don’t want it for you. I want to know why you’re so willing to…allow it to happen for others.’

We are all fortunate that the world has – to a significant extent – moved on since those 1968 and 1996 video clips. However, the fact remains that no white American in 2020, nor in 1776, indeed no white American who has read a newspaper at any point in the last 250 years would have stood up in response to Jane Elliott’s question.

That is why, regardless of race, colour, or creed, we who believe in equality must continue to make our voices heard around the world in solidarity with the American marching masses and donate to equal rights causes where we can.

That is why we must continue to protest. That is why we must continue to disrupt.

Mbombo Kaoma, a black British lawyer at Hogan Lovells International LLP, who hopes that one day open letters such as this one will no longer be necessary, that they will have become mere footnotes to history.

NOTES

  1. This open letter was first published in the Law Society Gazette here , and republished on this site with kind permission of the author.
Jack Leslie

The Jack Leslie Campaign

This blog attempt to explain what the Jack Leslie Campaign is, and how I came to be involved. Hopefully it may even inspire you to show support or get involved in this campaign to properly recognise the achievements of: Jack Leslie- who should have been the first black footballer to play for England

When Matt Tiller recently told me that the first black footballer player to be selected to play for England was a chap called Jack Leslie, who at the time was playing for Plymouth Argyle, I was staggered. (1) I was even more amazed when I found that the year of selection was as long ago as 1925. What?! First black footballer for England was surely Viv Anderson, 1974, right?  Well maybe not. Although  Anderson played for the full English team,  Laurie Cunningham was the first black player to represent England at any level (having played at under 21 level) and in May 2013, The Football Association amended their records, so that now Benjamin Odeje holds this record, having represented England seven years earlier at schoolboy level.

All of this however was in the 1970s. So who was Jack Leslie and how is it that hardly anyone knows of his selection a half-Century earlier? (2)

Well Jack Leslie was selected, but then never got to play. It turns out that when the selection board took a look at Jack Leslie, there was an abrupt change of heart, and there is no avoiding the fact that it was the realisation that Jack Leslie was a “person of colour” that was the significant factor. You can understand why the FA are not keen to promote that fact, with the underlying prejudice that operated to Jack Leslie’s detriment at that time.

But a look at Jack’s career reveals an incredible story – how the boy from Canning Town, London ended up in Plymouth as part of an Argyle team that beat Man United and toured South America playing international sides.  His stats are phenomenal. Jack Leslie is not exactly a footballing legend, even in Plymouth. But he should be.

Plymouth Argyle and the new Jack Leslie boardroom

Matt and I decided that we should try and do something to raise awareness of Jack Leslie and get some recognition of his achievements, starting at his adopted home club of Plymouth Argyle. 

We managed to get in contact with club chairman Simon Hallett. To our surprise, and his credit, the club were already in the process of recognising Jack, by naming the board-room in the newly-completed grandstand after him. I’ve been to see it – it’s great, and a huge credit to the club and it’s chairman. However, rightly or wrongly despite the club’s efforts and press release which had local coverage there was little wider interest, and the Jack Leslie story remains largely unknown. There is still no publicly accessible acknowledgement of the Jack Leslie story. 

(pictured above -commemorative plaque in the new “Jack Leslie boardroom” at Home Park, l-r chairman Simon Hallett, Argyle manager Ryan Lowe and myself)

A statue for Jack 

So Matt and I decided to fundraise for a statue to Jack Leslie. In part we were inspired by the recently completed crowd-funded Nancy Astor statue campaign, also in Plymouth. We have since found out about other successful crowd-funded campaigns for football icons at other football grounds, so we know it can be done, although neither of us realised quite how much work would be involved.  There is currently no statue at Argyle’s football ground Home Park. It would be great if Jack’s were the first. 

Aims and Objectives- fighting racism and prejudice (3)

We soon realised that the campaign was about much more than just recognising Jack Leslie as a former player of Plymouth Argyle Football Club. The real significance is addressing the historical racism that denied a player of his opportunity to represent his Country. This is not just a campaign for a statue. This is a campaign that puts equalities at the front. (3)

There should be recognition for Jack Leslie from the FA to show that attitudes today are different. Jack Leslie’s family (Who are supporting this campaign) should be given the England cap that Jack should have been given back in 1925. There should be no place for racism in sport.

Kick it out? We cannot address the problems of today, if we do not recognise and correct the injustices of the past.

We cannot do it alone. We need help, advice, friends, and supporters.  Please join us, and support the #JackLeslieCampaign.

Sign up for email updates or to donate via website here

NOTES 

1 Matt has blogged about his own journey of discovery here 

2 There has been occasional commentary, some examples here ⬇️⬇️ (please tell me of you know of other source material) :-

Inside Out (BBC Southwest) here

Article by Martin Johnes,  Article on West Ham site here 

Phil Vasili http://www.vasili.co.uk/history-of-black-footballers.html 

3 Jack Leslie Campaign – Aims and Objectives 

To raise the funding for a statue of Jack Leslie in Plymouth, where he played as a professional footballer for Plymouth Argyle. To promote the story of Jack Leslie, the first black footballer to be selected for England way back in 1925, and to use Jack’s story positively to combat racism in football, supporting the aims of the “Kick It Out” campaign. 

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 consider 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 former 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.

Book Review: Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories

Title -Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories
Author-Thomas Grant QC
Publisher – Hodder and Stoughton

An earlier version of this review was published in The London Advocate here

As the title suggests , this book summarises some of the many illustrious cases in which Jeremy Hutchinson appeared. It is not a conventional biography, and all the better for it.
Hutchinson was defence counsel of choice in some of the greatest trials in the 1960s and 1970s. His roll-call of cases includes defending both Christine Keeler and Howard Marks, as well as appearing for Penguin Books in the “Lady Chatterly” trial.
He was always well prepared, speaking fearlessly to Judges and clearly to juries.
What is clear is that as much as highly regarded, he was also greatly liked, by colleagues, solicitors and clients alike. He is one of those characters about whom it is hard to find anyone having a bad word to say, and his natural modesty meant he never put pen to paper to set out an auto-biography, despite several invitations to do so.
Thankfully, Thomas Grant QC, who met Hutchinson (now over 100) a few years ago has performed a valuable service in penning this book, telling (thematically rather than chronologically) the stories of some of the best cases from Hutchinson’s career.
Each fascinates, and even those that are already familiar pieces of social history are brought vividly to life. Hutchinson is the “golden thread” that binds together the battles played out in the Old Bailey- defending alleged spies and traitors, peace protesters, art thieves, and battling against reactionary forces- from heavy handed Government to Mary Whitehouse. This is a book that is informative but also a pleasure to read, and should appeal equally to a wide readership, not just (as is often the case in legal biographies) lawyers.
Grant makes the case that Hutchinson represents the finest traditions of the Independent Bar.
He certainly had the right background (son of an eminent QC and Judge, public school education followed by Oxbridge, and an opportunity to be a Judge’s Marshall with a “family friend”). He bought his first home with the proceeds of a Monet painting that he had been gifted. That’s not the start that all of us enjoy.
Hutchinson was nonetheless happy to take on the establishment if that what was justice required, and did so defending without fear or favour.
Hutchinson also had an extraordinary upbringing- the family being connected with the Bloomsbury set. For this reviewer, the introductory chapter that charts the connections with numerous well known luminaries of the era was the least satisfactory. Of more interest are the wonderful portraits in the case histories of some of the legal characters of the day-an array of cantankerous opponents and eccentric Judges.
Reading about the trials is a reminder how much has changed from what was a truly adversarial system to the case managed process of today. Here you will be reminded of the days of contested committals with live witnesses, defences not disclosed until the start of the case, the right to jury challenge, and the absolute right to silence without adverse comment.
In one case, Hutchinson introduces without prior notice a defence witness who would only identify himself as “Agent X”, who purportedly worked for the Mexican Secret Service and gave evidence that the defendant had also done so. No “Notice of Defence Witnesses” required!
The longest case that Hutchinson ever conducted was a multi-handed drug importation which lasted two months. Now similar cases can last much longer, due to the modern tendency to “read” or play long passages of intercept transcripts, and lengthy mobile telephone and cell-site material. But it is not just trial length that has increased- so have the length of sentences, leading to a phenomenal rise in the prison population. Heavy sentencing and overcrowded prisons are matters that Hutchinson deprecates, and in his retirement from the bar he has, amongst many other worthwhile endeavours, supported Penal Reform and campaigned for the abolition of the “dock”.
We need advocates of his calibre and courage just as much today, to challenge the power of the State with it’s increased surveillance powers, and discrimination and prejudice that still exists in the CJS as the Lammy report has revealed.
The book concluded with a postscript from Jeremy Hutchinson himself, then a sprightly almost Centurion. He explains how when called to the bar there was no formal advocacy training, and he learned his trade by countless appearances in the Magistrates Court. This will strike a chord with many solicitor HCAs who trained in the same way, yet are criticised by some at the bar for “lack of training”. He laments Government cuts to Legal Aid, and lambasts a recent incumbent of the office of Lord Chancellor- the odious Chris Grayling. Still forthright, his views remained cogent to the end.
This book is an affectionate tribute to one of the greats of Adversarial Advocacy. Mr Grant clearly grew to like Jeremy Hutchinson very much. After reading this book so will you.

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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.

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

Chris Grayling- the worst Lord Chancellor in history

Who is Chris Grayling?

Born on April Fools Day, Christopher Grayling MP (Conservative MP for Epsom) was the Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor from October 2012 to May 2015.  He was the first non-lawyer to have served in that post.

This blog reviews Grayling’s tenure in office as Lord Chancellor.

Introduction and Overview

Overview  here (my TV interview about Grayling, Legal Aid and Magna Carta, via YouTube)

Joshua Rozenberg assessed Grayling’s likely legacy In the Law Society Gazette here (March 2015)

Grayling “just didn’t get it” – article in Gazette here  (November 2015)

Top ten things about which Grayling was wrong and why (Mirror, Nov 14)

Why “Failing Grayling” illustrates the worst aspects of Cameron’sGovernment  (by Nick Cohen in the Spectator, Dec 2014)
2014 review of a year in the life of Christopher Grayling (with links) as reported in the “Tuesday Truth” blog.

EXPENSES (pre-appointment)

Chris Grayling as an MP and certainly as Lord Chancellor purported to want to cut public expenditure. However, when it comes to his own public expenditure, Chris likes to get as much of it as he can. The extent of his guzzling was chronicled in the Telegraph expenses scandal  here (as shadow home secretary h3 claimed thousands of pounds to renovate a flat in central London – bought with a mortgage funded at taxpayers’ expense, even though his constituency home is less than 17 miles from the House of Commons)

Chris neeed a good secretary, so the taxpayer forked out for him to have a secretary (at an eye-watering 40k pa) . Luckily, someone was available for the job- no need to advertise! The ideal candidate? Step forward Mr Graylings wife- susan!

Years later, how Grayling get away with it, and whether he did in fact refund some of the money as he publicly pledged , remain shrouded in mystery (as explained by Ian Dunt in this article, Jan 2017)

Grayling and cuts to criminal legal aid

Grayling had supported, despite overwhelming opposition in the preceding “consultation, a new model for payment of criminal league aid solicitors known as Price Competitive Tendering, which was so flawed even the Mail on Sunday criticised it ( enjoy this  Downfall parody video with Grayling stabbed in back by MoS ) Legal Aid had already been cut to the bone, before Grayling set to work with cuts to all areas of legal aid.

Criminal Lawyers even went on “strike” (January 2014) Grayling did not back down, the LCCSA took legal action, and a year later (under Grayling’s successor) the Government caved in and the scheme was abandoned.

Government guidance in relation to the granting of legal aid for immigration cases was found to be unlawful (Dec 2014)

Meanwhile as more defendants were appearing unrepresented, even Magistrates started commenting on the “threat to Justice”   (full story and my quote in The Independent here) (January 2015) and more detail here (via the Bureau of Investigative Jouralism)

Grayling attracted criticism even on Tory blog  “Conservative Home”- see this demolition of Grayling’s Legal Aid Cuts (“damaging and unfair”,  Feb 2015)

Grayling and cuts to other areas of legal aid

The supposed “safety net” introduced for exceptional cases was revealed in this article  to be a failure (Daily Mirror 28/12/15)

Grayling repeatedly claimed that Legal Aid in the UK is “the most expensive in the World” -an inacuracy also repeated by the MoJ but demolished here

His LASPO Residency test was overturned in July 2016 (see here)

PRISONS CRISIS

Guardian article on rising suicide figures exposing prison crisis, and subsequent letters.

The Independent reports on Grayling callous indifference to rising suicide rate

An insider account of the “Highdown 11” (prison protesters against prison cuts all acquitted)

Lord Ramsbotham speaks out against Grayling over the prison suicide crisis.

Grayling makes Chief Prison Inspector reapply for his job.

Grayling dismisses huge increase in prison suicides as a “blip“.

Grayling’s legacy will be to have left prisons in a worse state than he found them.

After cancelling an effective rehabilitation course, Grayling was described as an “incompetent, short-sighted recidivist” (The Guardian, April 2015)

Grayling was criticised in a parting shot from the outgoing Prison Inspector here (the Indy, Jan 2016)
Prisoner Book Ban

Grayling’s book ban, and and the Howard League’s response

Authors use Chris Grayling as villain in response to the book ban.

“Strange and absurd” -Court Judgement on Grayling and the book ban.

Picture: demo against book ban outside Pentonville prison:


Having lost on his prison- book-ban, Grayling delays implementation and is described as “stealing Christmas“.

A short Video of the book ban demo outside Pentonville prison, March 2014

Grayling and Human Rights

The sad truth is, Grayling doesn’t actually understand Human Rights, and even the Daily Mail had to correct him- see this article.

Grayling’s views on workfare and making employees work for free here (New Statesman 2012)

GRAYLING AND THE MOJ
Man wrongly imprisoned for 17 years persued for costs by MOJ

Under Grayling’s tenure, there were record levels of absenteeism as MoJ staff were sick with stress and mental health issues (as reported here)

Grayling gets MOJ “flogging expertise to Saudi floggers” -selling legal services to Saudi Arabia and other repressive regimes. (As set out by David Hencke, Jan 2015)

The MOJ “deal” with the Saudi regime represents a clear conflict of intetest as set out by Jack of Kent in his informative argument. Gove has done his best to extricate the MOJ from Grayling’s toxic legacy -update here.

The commercial arm also managed to make a £1million loss! Detail here
Grayling and Magna Carta

BACKGROUND:- this website has info about Magna Carta, it’s historical significance then and now, why we should celebrate it and how the Government has hypocritically hijacked the anniversary.

Nothing but lip-service, is all we can expect from this Lord Chancellor

Grayling is a hypocrite with his MOJ event to commemorate Magna Carta (argues Peter Oborne) – don’t jump on the bandwagon!

Robin Murray spells out the hypocrisy and called for a boycott of Grayling’s Magna Carta event.

More here on why principled lawyers would not attend.

Frank Magennis in the Justice Gap described this as an unfolding of British Justice (published Feb 2015)

In the 800th anniversary of Magna Carts (see below) a RELAY FOR RIGHTS saw demonstrators walk from Runnymede to Westminster to protest against Christopher Grayling and his preposterous, hypocritical “Great” Legal Summit. This led to a public Impeachment for the man masquerading as Lord Chancellor.
See also this article on Grayling and Magna Carta in the New Statesman (Feb 2015) by Anthony Barnett.

Grayling and the Probation Service

Grayling was accused of no less than murdering the probation service

Grayling’s privatisation has led to job losses and failure (article in the Independent December 2015)

Grayling’s failings revealed Probation reforms deemed a costly disaster by NAO in this scathing report (2019)

Grayling and Judicial Review

JR bill falls apart after grayling admits misleading Commons

The Lord Chancellor lost yet another judicial review in October. This time it was over his decision to make mesothelioma sufferers pay up to 25 per cent of their compensation for legal and insurance costs should they win their case. Giving his judgment in the High Court, Mr Justice Williams said: “No reasonable Lord Chancellor faced with the duty imposed on him by section 48 of the Act would have considered that the exercise in fact carried out fulfilled that duty. This is not a case in which the procedural failure was minor or technical in nature.”

Grayling in his own words

in this article we find out what Grayling thinks , with critical analysis.

Grayling as Lord Chancellor

Former Tory MP, barrister and blogger Jerry Hayes described Grayling as “a shit that has to be flushed after the election”

Matthew Norman, writing in the Independent, (Jan 2015) asks “what in Sanity’s name is Chris Grayling doing in the job of Lord Chancellor?”

Minutes of Grayling’s appearance as Lord Chancellor before the Justice Select Committee here. Note the admission to Jeremy Corbyn that cuts are “ideological” (Q200)

Grayling on Twitter
You can find out more about Mr Grayling by searching #FailingGrayling

Musical Grayling

Check out the chris Grayling playlist

Freedom of Information

Naturally Grayling is not a fan (source:Guido)

Lord Chancellor Grayling In Retrospect

Has there ever been a more incompetent minister than Grayling? Answer in this article in Huffington Post

Unfavourable comparison with his successor here in the Spectator.

Lord Pannick described Grayling’s performance as “notable only for his attempts to restrict judicial reviews and human rights, his failure to protect the judiciary against criticism from his colleagues and the reduction of legal aid to a bare minimum.”

Grayling Brexit

After the May 2015 election, Grayling let it be known that he would be very happy to stay on as Lord Chancellor. He was promptly demoted by Cameron to “Leader of the House”. The New Statesman asked “Is Grayling the most incometent Minister?” (article December 2015) “It’s often said that all political careers end in failure, it just seems that Grayling’s seems to be failing before it has ended…”

For many months we heard nothing about Grayling. Then it emerged he had been granted permission to campaign in favour of Britain leaving the EU in the forthcoming referendum, and he became a self appointed leader of Brexit. Grayling’s support for “out” caused celebrations in the “in ” camp, as Grayling (a “sheep in sheep’s clothing”) proved that he has “yet to discover an argument he has consciously been on the right side of” (read the full sketch by John Crace 14/01/16) However, as we now know, the Country did vote to Brexit, although few have cited Grayling and his support as having been an influential factor in that.

One of his first speeches in the cause showed his “humorous side” as described in this article 50 shades of Grayling (Political sketch by Patrick Kidd, Times, January 2016)

Post MOJ: Grayling as Leader of the House

We didn’t hear much of or about Grayling after his demotion from Lord Chancellor, other than his legacy being unravelled and overturned by his successor, and his Brexit campaign (above). However, never one to be on the right side of an argument, he  sought to with-hold details of MPs dodgey expenses and arrests (as outlined here in the Daily Mirror (Feb 2016)

From Jail to Rail: Grayling as Transport Secretary

Grayling was appointed transport secretary in Theresa May’s new cabinet (July 2016)

Two weeks later there were 16 hour delays in traffic jams leading to Dover…

He combined his newfound interest in Brexiting and Transport with an important intervention in Public Life-railway platforms. Mr Grayling is however wrong even about the Brexit dividend to station platforms as explained here

Meanwhile, as controversy mounts over heathrow expansion and HS2, Chris struggles to find any relief for the long-suffering commuters reliant on failing Southern Rail. He is then “offered a new job by a Village without an idiot”, according the satirical website NewsThump here

in December 2016 there are calls for his resignation even from Tory MPs (see this BBC News item)

In 2017 Grayling supported Heathrow expansion, and Monarch Airways went bust.

In October 2017 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- 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

Grayling’s short tenure as Conservative party chair

On 08 January 2018 in Theresa May’s botched cabinet re-shuffle, Conservative HQ tweeted congratulations to Grayling on a post that he had not in fact been given, as described here https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/chris-grayling-named-as-new-tory-party-chairman-in-now-deleted-tweet-in-cabinet-reshuffle-blunder-a3734531.html

That it took nearly half a minute to realise the mistake was a surprise: most people don’t need nearly that much time to work out that Grayling is invariably the wrong person for any job.

More transport shambles

Grayling was trending again on twitter (and not in a good way) in June 2018 after ongoing train cancellations and timetable shambles. Chris was supposed to meet MPs but had to cancel some meetings after he didn’t timetable them properly (I’m not making this up) and then gave a statement in the house where he said that those responsible should resign.

“It’s completely unacceptable to have someone operationally in control and not taking responsibility,” Failing Grayling declared hysterically. At that moment, satire died. (Full sketch by John Grace here, and here is a further extract: If you were writing a new series of The Thick of It, you’d hesitate to create a character like Chris Grayling for fear no one would believe in him. Even in the current cabinet, a confederacy of dunces where the sole qualifications for membership are being a bit dim and entirely incompetent, the transport secretary is a class apart.

To say that Failing Grayling has more than his fair share of bad days is a category error. Because that implies he has the occasional good one. He doesn’t. Every day is a desperate, losing struggle against the chaos caused by his own hopelessness. But even for a man who has turned his failure into a monumental work of performance art, Monday hit a new low. Or, as Grayling might see it, a total triumph. The moment he formally achieved the coveted status of the idiot’s idiot.

The Times has this to say

Chris Grayling used the publicly owned French railway as an example of how bad a UK nationalised railway would be…yet we pay the French rail to run private UK services and UK fares can be 4x more expensive for similar journeys.