Category Archives: Featured

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. 

Volunteering in the time of Coronavirus

My employers at Kingsley Napley have a strong ethos within the firm of supporting fundraising and volunteering and have continued helping charities and the local community during the COVID-19 crisis (see here for detail). My role as an advocate has understandably been affected by the CRISIS, given the lack of hearings taken place, as was my planned Easter break, so with permission of the firm I took some time out to do some volunteering. How did I get on?

1 NHS “responder” volunteer

Responder!

Like so many others I signed up as a volunteer “responder” to help, if and when I could, those in need during the coronavirus #COVID19 crisis.
The app looks great! I tested the alarm-sounds like an air-raid warning! And waited…

..and waited. I completed my “profile”. I went out and acquired a mask, hand-gel, gloves. I have no symptoms or underlying health conditions. I am DBS checked. I have a car, a bike, live near a hospital, and flexible working hours. 300 hours passed…The app is clever in that you enable the maps so they can pinpoint your location and match you to somebody nearby in need. I live in Central London, and there is plenty in that category! And still I waited…AND THEN… it finally happened! The alerts sounded! 👏

I was cycling at the time (as permitted exercise) and nearly fell off my bike! 🚲 I pulled over, and accepted the call. Details followed…

And then I looked at the address, and the postcode was LS12 …that’s in LEEDS! 😳
I mean don’t get me wrong, I love Leeds. I studied at Leeds Uni and was sad when our annual reunion last month was cancelled due to #COVID19.
But travel 🚂 to Leeds to answer this call would hardly be lockdown compliant!

2 Food bank

Since #coronavirus closed the schools, my 16 year old son (GCSEs cancelled) has been doing some volunteering. So I joined him for a day at the foodbank at “brickworks” Community Centre, Hanley Crouch. To our surprise, Jeremy Corbyn was also volunteering there!

The surprising thing was that Corbyn stayed for the full 3 hour session at the food bank. We sorted food🥖 packed bags, distributed, did all the mundane stuff that goes on- running a food-bank isn’t glamorous. And then he left.

3 Other volunteering

I am grateful to have the opportunity to help out with a local mentoring charity of which I am a trustee -“Bridging the Gap Islington” -which KN have also supported, including a recent grant that allowed us to enable mentors to meet those they are helping “virtually” , and holding our trustee meeting by zoom.

I’ve also been working on the Jack Leslie Campaign – to recognise the achievements of a legendary footballer who 100 years ago should have been the first black footballer to play for England. The aims and objectives:

1 To raise the funding for a statue of Jack Leslie in Plymouth, where he played as a professional footballer for Plymouth Argyle. 

2 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. 

4 Pro-bono work

The COVID-19 crisis and the government response and regulations has created a number of challenges for all of us, and injustices for a few. We all understood that funerals had to limit the number of mourners, but Islington Council closed their cemetery (a vast site) to all, including those who used it for their daily walk and to visit loved ones. I was contacted by a grieving parent whose 17 year old son had recently died in tragic circumstances, and was now unable to undertake her visits to tend to his resting place. This interruption to the grieving process was highly traumatic, and I helped take up the case, as reported here , eventually (with the help of Cllr Caroline Russell) persuading the Council to allow the cemetery to reopen with new social distancing measures in place.

I also challenging the bizarre decision of the Council to close fruit and veg stalls, rather than assisting traders to managing social distancing in selling their wares. This time I was able to deploy the assistance of the local MP – having raised the issue with him at the food-bank (see above)

CONCLUSION

The much-flaunted Responder App was a disappointment and remains so, and appears to have been deployed as part of the Government’s media strategy deploying “we are all in this together” war-time rhetoric. I did enjoy however having the chance to do some voluntary work locally. I have to be honest- it was good for me personally, as I like to keep busy and was struggling to adapt to “lock-down” and having no work. But it also good to help out the incredible voluntary sector, a part of a diverse community that feels like a family, and where others far more worthy than me give their time commitment and resources regularly. It was a humbling experience.

Medieval Animal Trials

In medieval times, animals who had been accused of committing crimes were brought to court, provided defence counsel and prosecuted in full hearings before a judge.

For the Compass Festival 2018, artist Jack Tan created a fictional “Department of Animal Justice”, and staged a series of live ‘moot’ (or should that be “MOO-T”?!) animal trials before a judge and jury at the old Victorian courtroom in Leeds Town Hall (detail here)

I was the Judge for the first trial, a Jack Russell on trial for sheep-worrying, a potential death penalty case, but thankfully on this occasion the only thing hung were the jury (unable to reach a decision)

In a later trial I successfully defended a Staffordshire Bull Terrier accused of being a “dangerous dog”, after being provided with prosecution witness statements and a defence proof of evidence, just as I would in a contemporary criminal case. One difference here was that the dog appeared in the dock, rather than the owner. I have defended in real dangerous dog cases where of course the owner is the defendant, but in either case it is the animal that faces the ultimate penalty (a “destruction order”).

Jack Tan is an artist with a legal background, his attention to detail meant that the proceedings were as faithful a representation of an actual case as could be imagined, albeit with a curtailment of jury deliberation time, compensated by the added interest that the audience could discretely “listen-in” to the deliberations, which were amplified. One juror went on to review the event here.

The event was a huge success, and enormous fun. Jack Tan intends to bring the event to London- definitely one to look out for.

The Charter for Justice.

What is the Charter for Justice?

The charter was launched in 2018 as a way of highlighting to the public the crisis in the criminal justice system, and offering proposals to address that crisis by adopting some key principles that everyone should be able to unite behind and we can campaign for.

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

1 Access to Justice

2 Prompt and Adequate Disclosure of Prosecution case

3 A Fair and non-discriminatory Criminal Justice System

4 A properly funded prison and probation service

5 Open and transparent justice

Crisis? What crisis?

The 2018 book by the “Secret Barrister” which identifies some of the numerous and cumulative failings in the current system, is called “THE LAW IS BROKEN”. And it is.

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

Who cares?

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

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

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

We know that the broken justice system can be fixed, but we also know that to fix it involves hard expenditure of cash. And yet the MoJ continued with further cuts to the budget, reducing spending by around another £500m per year from 2015-16 levels.

If it is hard to get the public interested in the problem, it will be impossible to get support -and the necessary cash- for the solution.

Raising Awareness

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

The prison crisis is ongoing and remains a newsworthy story.

David Lammy’s report came out last year, and highlighted that issues of racism and discrimination have not gone away.

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

And even the action by the bar gained media attention.

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

Previous campaigns

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

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

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

Arguing for reasonable remuneration needs to focus on the consequences of Inadequate funding: – inadequate investigation by the police, inadequate review by CPS, cutting corners by prosecution and defence, increasingly inadequate advice and/or representation, a recruitment crisis and ultimately miscarriages of justice.

Charter for Justice Principles

So the Charter set out 5 principles that are easy to understand and support, and if adopted and properly funded would restore faith in the justice system and fix what is now broken.

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

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

It offers unity in that all lawyers can support the aims, whereas previously there have been differing interests and factional differences (bar vs solicitors, big firms group vs small, etc)

The charter was launched on 26th March 2018 (summary of launch event here) -see clips (filmed and edited by our friends at the Law Friends Society) here,

What happened next?

The campaign fell away as other issues took primacy- from AGFS reform, Brexit and now the Corona-virus. We are in a new, and very challenging environment. Minds are focussed elsewhere. But when, hopefully, the current crises have ended, we will find that the systemic underfunding of the Justice system has not gone away. When the time comes to campaign for the properly funded and effective justice system that the public expects, the Charter for Justice remains as a declaration of the minimum standards that we all deserve.

Next steps if Charter is re-launched

Collect signatories to the Charter

Request a meeting with the Lord Chancellor and MoJ to present the Charter.

Use Charter for campaigning on Justice issues at next election.

Appendix- the Charter for Justice

Preamble

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

1 Equal Access to Justice

Publicly funded representation is essential for defence and prosecution.

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

2 Disclosure

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

3 Open Justice.

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

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

4 A humane and effective prison and probation service

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

5 A Fair Justice system

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

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

Charter for Justice- for a Fair Justice System

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

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

Justice on the cheap means no real justice for any community – but it will always, and indeed has, affect most those that are discriminated against , those with limited means , those with no voice at all.
That is who we must 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.

A snapshot of the Justice system, 2018

1 Prison riot- cuts are to blame http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-43441542  I have blogged about my recent experience defending in a mutiny trial HERE

Google reviews (aka condemnation) for British Courts https://www.theguardian.com/technology/shortcuts/2018/mar/04/guilty-uk-magistrates-courts-condemned-by-google-reviews

Knee-jerk reaction-proposed new law to tackle the scourge of “killer cyclists” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-5459411/Review-set-recommend-new-law-causing-death-dangerous-cycling–report.html

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

April

Wood Green: I successfully defended someone charged with sex assault, after he had allegedly grabbed a nurse on the breast in the secure unit of the mental health hospital where she worked, and had been detained under the Mental Health Act for 10 months.

Court of Appeal: I successfully appealed a sentence last month in a robbery case where the judge had misapplied the guidelines and failed to properly consider totality of sentence. It is important to be familiar with the “TIC and Totality” guideline , and to remind sentencing tribunals of the principle that “where consecutive sentences are passed to consider if the aggregate length is just and proportionate

Vigil for Justice -film Well done to the Justice Alliance for this event. Watch their short fact-filled films on Justice on their twitter feed or via film-maker Jason Parkinson’s website here https://jasonnparkinson.com/2018/04/19/the-justice-alliance-time4justice-campaign/

May

A “day at Highbury Court” as reported in the Gazette. A good account of a typical day, although no reference to the touting activities that Highbury Court is infamous for. Also mentions the lack of lock on the door of advocates room that Defence lawyers have been raising with the Court service without success for over 4 years…

Crack-down on homelessness. Windsor council “moved on” homeless people before the royal wedding, whilst allowing people with homes to pitch tents and camp along the route of the procession. The Courts are increasingly dealing with homeless and vulnerable people more harshly than our Victorian forebears, as reported in the Guardian.

As duty solicitor earlier this year I represented somebody at City of Westminster Magistrates Court for sitting on a pavement. They had a criminal behaviour order that prohibited them from sitting on a pavement. The Met arrested them and CPS prosecuted them for sitting on a pavement.

Court service job losses https://www.theguardian.com/law/2018/may/02/6500-jobs-to-be-lost-in-modernisation-of-uk-courts

Charter for Justice launch film here.

Strike. Almost all counsel’s chambers on the South Eastern continue to decline instructions in new legal aid cases. So do I. Full list here. Law Society guidance for solicitors in cases where Advocates have declined to act in Crown Court matters has been updated-here. Judicial guidance here

New changes to PACE Codes of Practice here

More FAILING GRAYLING shambles

Grayling was trending again on twitter (and not in a good way) this week 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”

(Read more about Grayling HERE )

June I had honoured my pledge to support the bar action, as a result of which was without work for a considerable period. I was bitterly disappointed at the conduct of the CBA, who met the MoJ alone (without solicitors, despite calls for unity and joint negotiations) and denying HCAs a vote in their ballot.

£200million wasted on Court digitalisation project https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/04/03/up_to_200m_wasted_on_court_digitisation_plans/

Memory Lane -and bridging the Gap

It was 15 years ago that I finished the mentoring project that ended up being broadcast as part of the BBC documentary series Make Me Honest. During that time, both the Court and my hair have gone, but both Carla and Michael are doing well.

Now I am part of a new mentoring project- Bridging the Gap Islington. Can you help?

We need individuals or firms to join as supporters, sponsors or patrons. For a relatively modest sum, you or your practice can be linked to this small, volunteer-run charity. Contact me to find out more!

Call to Arms? CBA consider resuming action on fees https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/practice/criminal-bar-lifts-lid-on-utterly-inadequate-fees/5068038.article

Judges got 2% https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/judges-to-get-2-annual-pay-rise/5068092.article

Tweet tweet! 🐦 The incoming DPP (Max Hill) will be the first in the job to have a Twitter account and says he will use it to build confidence in the CPS.

Hearsay in DV cases with Hostile witness: Griffiths v CPS.
The appellant appealed by way of case stated the decision of the Justices not to stay the action for an abuse of process. The submission was that the defence was unduly prejudiced by the refusal of the key witness to submit to cross-examination, depriving the appellant of a fair trial. The witness had commented “we both done wrong” but had also accepted in her initial statement that she had bitten and kicked the appellant during the incident. The Court were entitled to say, “it is open to us, properly directing ourselves, to treat Miss Smith as a truthful witness notwithstanding her behaviour in Court this morning”.
The Court held that the Justices were entitled to reach the conclusion that they did, and there was no error in failing to accede to the submission of no case to answer.
Full Transcript

 SENTENCE The Law Commission have published the draft Sentencing Code alongside an accompanying Report on 22/11. Full Report 

Medieval Animal Trial, Leeds. Delighted to have taken part in the Compass Festival in Leeds last month. My blog here

LCCSA 70. watch the film here https://youtu.be/oXvz9nVVA7A

 

Breakfast Court Victory. HMCTS have confirmed the proposed projects for “flexible” (aka extended) court sitting hours for criminal courts have finally been abandoned (detail here)

 

December

Naughty Court usher up North https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6465731/Court-usher-46-suspended-having-sex-video-link-room.html

And naughty police with naughty solicitor in Wales https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6511443/Detective-caught-having-loud-sex-married-female-lawyer-police-station-KEEPS-job.html

William Foxsmith Obituary

Obituary for My Father

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers Dad!

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A poem for my father

In Memory of William Foxsmith RIP (04.02.41- 10.03.14)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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