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)

82C4B04A-0999-4D75-B8C8-068BFF0CF6FD

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.

7688F631-E0EF-45C5-AA7F-ED8A08D4170C

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

CCDD89B0-5994-48A6-AC45-93B6B67D1F89

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

Check-mate. A poem in memory of my father

Check Mate: A Poem for my Father

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2DFF9E49-9F28-49DC-8CCD-AC80991440B5
In Memory of William Foxsmith RIP (04.02.41- 10.03.14)

William Foxsmith Obituary

Obituary for My Father

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

William Fox senior was a bit of a character. He had served in the Royal Navy (pictured below) He was already married and living with his wife and family on the Isle of Wight when he left his wife and children and eloped with another woman- Bill was one of the children from the new relationship, out of wedlock (as they would have said at that time)

EA0641CE-8FBA-427E-85CA-BDE3D932A7B4
When Dad was two his father drowned, and so was brought up my his Mum Hilda (known as “H”)

M y father never knew of his siblings from his father’s marriage, and I only found out when the first version of this obituary was published, and surviving family members got in touch. As a result I have met family members that I never knew of growing up. They are wonderful, and I have learned much about them and my grandfather who abandoned them-but that is another story.

Hilda left Leicester to return South to Dorset, and dad was brought up in rural poverty. At one point they were 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.

Dad with his younger brother Dick went to school in Lyme Regis. Dad was a fast runner, running the mile for the County and setting a school record.
when H. Remarried 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:-

A5543F99-CB94-4DAE-AF41-881FDB789726 F8346B30-F21D-4B17-A24F-67E118789C7C

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

625C8F53-311B-4B8B-A6A6-DFEFB2ED21BC    20558BE4-DD82-4E2F-9950-93B7CFB85F8C
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.

4D520682-4EB2-46E1-8C0E-90B5BD88E792
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)

7DB06CF2-EF13-4605-86D6-C2FD7C82EA6F DD08BDFA-4EA1-4C50-A16B-D93AC4DF5B81
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!

20140410-225257.jpg

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”

20140417-222942.jpg

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)

24CD2B75-B3FC-491F-A8F6-08AD95919118 149E33DC-0C8A-45D9-94A2-5430BF15E1F0

Lord Chancellor David Lidington-a review

On 11 June 2017 PM Theresa May in a post-election re-shuffle appointed David Lidington as Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor. He replaced the hapless Liz Truss,  who had herself been appointed by May in a post-election re-shuffle less than a year before. Lidington was himself replaced as Lord Chancellor in Theresa May’s botched reshuffle on January 8th 2018. Lidington was the fourth consecutive non-lawyer appointment- his predecessors were Liz Truss, Michael  Gove and Grayling (widely regarded as the worst Lord Chancellor ever).

This blog reviews Lidington’s performance over his brief term of office.

Background

David Roy Lidington CBE PC (born 30 June 1956) has been MP for Aylesbury since 1992. He was Minister of State for Europe from May 2010 to July 2016, and Leader of the House of Commons.

He was educated at a public school, before studying history at Cambridge (appearing on University Challenge)

He was given a CBE in Cameron’s widely criticised resignation honours list.

IMG_0622Expenses scandal In May 2009, it was revealed Lidington had claimed £1,300 on expenses for dry cleaning. He also claimed for toothpaste, shower gel, body spray, vitamin supplements and a second home allowance. He repaid the claims for toiletries, saying: “I accept that many people would see them as over-generous.”  So although he eventually came clean you paid for his soap 

Record in Parliament pre-appointment  (Justice issues)

Lidington voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act,  restricting the scope of legal aid and limiting fees paid to solicitors in no-win no-fee cases. The “they-work-for-you” website says Lidington generally voted against equal gay rights, and his record on cutting legal aid is here.

First six months

The new Lord Chancellor was sworn in on 19 June.  In the in-tray? Read anopen letter to Lord Chancellor from Joshua Rozenberg

Sort out the prison crisis! read these recommendations from the Howard League

His first official pronouncement, following the Grenfell tragedy, was on availability of legal aid in housing cases- and he got it wrong (see here)

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

Prisons

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

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

Legal Aid and funding

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

Conclusion- a summary of Lidington’s tenure

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

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

Name, Number and Nationality

This blog has also been published by the JUSTICE GAP here

Excerpts were quoted in a Law Society Gazette article here: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/defendant-nationality-declarations-offensive/5063715.article  (see also the lively comments thread)

A new requirement is in force (with effect from Monday 13th November) that requires every defendant appearing before a Criminal Court to confirm their nationality, or risk a prosecution and imprisonment.

The provisions are as follows:-
Section 162 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 provides as follows:

162.         Requirement to give information in criminal proceedings
In the Courts Act 2003, after section 86 (alteration of place fixed for Crown Court trial) insert—

86A         Requirement to give information in criminal proceedings
(1)          A person who is a defendant in proceedings in a criminal court must provide his or her name, date of birth and nationality if required to do so at any stage of proceedings by the court.

(2)          Criminal Procedure Rules must specify the stages of proceedings at which requirements are to be imposed by virtue of subsection (1) (and may specify other stages of proceedings when such requirements may be imposed).
(3)           A person commits an offence if, without reasonable excuse, the person fails to comply with a requirement imposed by virtue of subsection (1), whether by providing false or incomplete information or by providing no information.
(4)            Information provided by a person in response to a requirement imposed by virtue of subsection (1) is not admissible in evidence in criminal proceedings against that person other than proceedings for an offence under this section.
(5)           A person guilty of an offence under subsection (3) is liable on summary conviction to either or both of the following—
(a)     imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks (or 6 months if the offence was committed before the commencement of section 281(5) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003), or
(b)     a fine.
(6)          The criminal court before which a person is required to provide his or her name, date of birth and nationality may deal with any suspected offence under subsection (3) at the same time as dealing with the offence for which the person was already before the court.
(7)          In this section a “criminal court” is, when dealing with any criminal cause or matter—
(a)     the Crown Court;
(b)     a magistrates’ court.”

The provision is offensive and objectionable, and introduced without justification or consultation. Why nationality? Why not require confirmation of ethnicity or of religion? Perhaps instead of requiring a question and answer routine, the Court could just write down the defendant’s skin colour.

It is presumed by some the legislation is to assist with the speedy deportation of “foreign” criminals. But how to monitor them once identified? Well lock them up obviously – something that is 9 times more likely to happen if the foreign national is non-white, as evidenced in the Lammy report.

But after that?  It is a only a short step from obtaining verification of nationality to requiring the foreign defendant to be tagged , a digital equivalent of being forced to display a star or triangle.

Enforcement

How are the provisions to be policed? If a defendant fails to answer, it presumably falls on the Prosecutor to lay a charge, yet the CPS have had no training or guidance in respect of this legislation.

How will the charge be proved? The prosecutor presumably cannot be a witness in their own case. Will the Judge be required to give evidence, or treat it as they would a contempt? (See para 6 above)  Is the defence Advocate professionally embarrassed in the substantive proceedings as well as the nationality offence?

There may well be a temptation for a foreign national appearing in Court to keep their head down and answer “British”, to avoid some unspecified future sanction.

But perversely, as a British born citizen ashamed of this legislation and outraged at it’s purpose, the temptation for me were I appearing as a defendant would be to refuse to answer out of sheer bloody-mindedness (“don’t tell em Pike!”) or to say something flippant (European? Independent republic of ISLINGTON?) That is probably the British in me coming out.

Answering questions in these circumstances (rather than sticking up two fingers)  would feel “un-British” – as alien as compulsory ID cards.

Absurdities

Is it permissible to answer “none” if the defendant is stateless, the refugee without a Nation home?

What of the defendant who answers one nationality, but is believed to be of another (the first limb of the s3 offence?) How is the “true” nationality to be proven?

Is there a defence if the defendant genuinely believes they have acquired British nationality and answers accordingly but in fact has a status still undetermined, or is it a strict liability offence?

What is the penalty for the prankster who answers “Vulcan” or “Jedi”?

Do they get a second chance, or like the drink-driver at the police station who doesn’t blow into the tube hard enough, is it a one-off opportunity?

Which nationalities are recognised? The 193 currently recognised by the UN, or a broader definition? There are said to be 270 nationalities (and 300 different languages) in London alone.

What of dependent territories, or those are on the verge of becoming sovereign nations? What of autonomous regions of different nations? Can a resident from Barcelona answer “Catalan”?

Are fat-cat tax avoiders to say “British”, or name their off-shore domiciled Nationality?

What of those with joint or dual nationality- do they get to choose?

How about somebody with mental health issues who is unfit to plead-are they also unfit to confirm Nationality?

What about a defendant who is silent throughout the proceedings? Mute by malice, or by visitation of God?

Conclusion

At this post-Brexit time of national discourse leading to discontent, with the issues of prejudice and discrimination in the criminal justice system to the fore after publication of David Lammy’s report, the timing of this rushed and  ill-judged legislation is unfortunate.

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.

B4280BA7-7348-4909-862F-7AD32A184A8A

Speech at CLFS Autumn Confrence, London, 2017

I was invited (jointly with Greg Powell) to speak at this CLFS conference in the final speaker slot, on the topic of “unity, and changes ahead”

Greg Powell spoke first, lambasting the MoJ for their announcement earlier in the week that following their LGFS consultation (and despite 97% opposition) they would cap payment at 6k pages of PPE. (For non criminal legal aid lawyers, this basically is yet another cut in legal aid payments) 

The text of my speech is below:

I am now all that stands between you and the Friday evening drink, and all that stands between you and the weekend. I therefore hope to be brief.
Although probably not as much as you hope that I will be brief.

Anyway, once again I have been asked to speak on unity in the profession. This year, clearly not to be trusted I am sharing with Greg Powell,  a hard act to follow.
In the programme we are billed as the “two Gregs” – like the three amigos but less fun and without the sombreros.
Or perhaps when you think of “Greggs” plural  you have an image of a couple of sausage rolls.

I am no more qualified than anyone else to speak on the topic of unity.
But I suppose being involved in a rep body- in my case the LCCSA-has given me some small insight into where we, as a profession, have successfully united, and where we have not, as well as whether it matters.

I am also going to touch on breakfast Courts and the 14 hour rule for duty solicitors in the current LAA contract.
And there will be a thinly veiled appeal to join and support the LCCSA.
And in case none of that appeals I will have a go at Grayling.

Unity

Can we achieve it even between ourselves as criminal lawyers?
It’s a good topic because we have much that divides us, not least healthy competition, but it seems to me that in recent years there has been an increase in shabby gamesmanship by unscrupulous client-chasers posturing as reputable lawyers but lacking integrity.

A 1/4 century or so ago, when I was first attending courts and police stations, (back in the days when we were paid travel, waiting and a London allowance) other solicitor firms were rivals, but also friends and colleagues.
people I could approach for advice, and who would gladly provide it.
Nobody interfered with client choice or objected to a LA transfer.

Now you can go to some Courts (one in North London comes to mind) and find an army of solicitors from a rival firm armed with clipboards hovering by the door of the court or by the notice-board with list of cases, tapping up all the clients and diverting first appearances from the duty.
These are rivals but neither friends or colleagues.They are touts.

These sharp practices, whilst deplorable, probably arise from the ceaseless cuts which lead to a race to the bottom, and the less scrupulous fighting like rats in a  barrel.
But ignoring that debased minority, criminal lawyers nonetheless have much in common.
The work we do, undervalued and underfunded though it is, is not merely a job, it is a profession and a vocation.
We have, I think, uniting us, an overarching interest in justice.

Of course we all have a degree of self interest, and we all would like to be well paid.
Or at least properly paid
Or sometimes even paid at all

So we are united in wanting better, and fairer, rates of pay.

We are also, I imagine,  united in wanting, amongst other things:-

-Properly equipped courts with an adequate advocates room, and maybe even a cafe

-List officers that take into account advocates availability

-video-links that work,

-prisoners to arrive on time,

-competent interpreters to be booked,

-timely and adequate disclosure

and an opportunity to properly assess the evidence, give proper advice, and where appropriate prepare properly for trial including the right to challenge prosecution evidence and put forward a defence case.

We want a level playing field, we want a fair hearing.

But we also have different interests.
Big firms vs small, legal aid v private, generalist v specialist, own client vs duty, etc.

And then within law firms there are divergent interests, typically between employers (partners or co directors, firm owners) and salaried staff, or “overheads” as the former sometimes think of them.
If only there were an organisation that strives to represent all those interests, not just one vested interest group….

So what is left that may unite us?
A desire for better rates of pay
A desire that the Government may just leave us alone for a while
A wish that the LAA would go and f, f, f, fade away

Can we unite around our common interests?

How do we unite?

Firstly you need strong and accountable representative organisations.
We don’t have a trades union.
We have the Law Society, but….

Here in London you have the LCCSA .

We respond to the consultations.
We lobby.
And we reluctantly became an effective campaigning organisation

How do the LCCSA and other representative bodies work together?

Easy enough when campaigning against cuts or a Lord Chancellor so universally hated that all are joined in opposition

Remember Grayling?  Whatever happened to him?
Grayling as Transport secretary
In October Grayling attending the launch of the new hybrid train between Bristol and London. A service that not only arrived into Paddington 45 minutes late after the train broke down while switching from diesel to electricity, but whose air conditioning had failed, drenching dozens of passengers with water.
As for Brexit, he says that everything will be fine because “British farmers will grow more”, a comment so facile it is beautifully eviscerated in this must-read demolition of Grayling’s ignorance  which describes him as “the wilfully ignorant, insouciantly callous former Justice Secretary who took a sledgehammer to the legal aid and prison systems” (independent)
He also appeared before the Transport Select Committee, in a shambolic performance that was beautifully captured in this sketch  (worth reading in full) which concludes with “while there was a refreshing honesty to his incompetence, there really didn’t seem to be any part of his brief that Grayling fully grasped. He was dangerously deluded about what had gone on on his watch and complacent about the here and now

After CG , we had Gove, we liked him, but he didn’t last.

He did give us the Bell Committee- anyone remember that?
Gary Bell QC, the HCA hating barrister, who was to report on the CJS
His self appointed committee appears to have died a natural death
That has certainly helped unity 🙂

A year ago we had Liz Truss, lover of cheese and pork markets, who failed to stand up for the judiciary when they were attacked by the tabloids.

Now we have Lidington, beneath the radar. Not very high profile – perhaps this week’s announcement mean he is a silent assassin.
Anyway, irrespective of which Lord Chancellor we have, there are always

topics we can unite on by opposing:-
1 The announcement this week of the LGFS “restructure” (cut) which 97% of those consulted were against. Greg Powell has dealt with the absurdity of the MOJ response and this uneccessary cut. LCCSA Statement here

The Criminal Bar Association have put out a statement which “reminds the legal community and the MOJ that the system is at breaking point. There should be investment in Criminal legal aid, not cuts or reductions of any kind. We are unified with our solicitor colleagues in our aim to ensure that legal aid survives, and thrives.”
So that is unity with our friends at the bar and we thank them for it.

2 Flexible Operating Hours

The proposal came from nowhere, no consultation.
Promised it would have robust evaluation.
That evaluation went to Tender, they got that wrong, so proposals were deferred or, we hoped, died, but now they have revived the corpse.
The Breakfast court at HCMC seems to have gone, but they will be listing CPS bail trials from 5.30 pm to 8:30 pm Mon-Thursday.

Perhaps they don’t realise that Court sometimes sits that late already, with trials listed from 2-4pm. With these plans you could be there to midnight,   So be ready to resist when handing in your PET forms…
Blackfriars will piloting 2 four-hour CC sessions and a half CC /half MC session (as before.)
Make sure the obvious objections are made at each stage, and this pilot will inevitably show the failings inherent in this half baked scheme.
3.  14 hours term in the new duty contracts 

The duty solicitor rotas were bloated
There was a desire to remove ghosts
But what are ghosts?
We thought they were the ones on the rota who were dead retired or abroad
I’m which case a requirement to do a min amount of ps work or duty compliance would suffice
So why 14 hours p/w?!

Two examples of why this is crazy:-

1 HCAs for example do considerably more than 14 hours per week, the vast majority of which is Crown Court preparation or advocacy paid on a legal aid account under the AF1.

This is not “Contract Work” and does not therefore count. Sitting behind that advocate unpaid while they undertook the advocacy on a case would count.
The absurdity of this situation is obvious.

Equally obvious is that neither of them is remotely ghost-like. I can see no logical reason why “Contract Work” is the defining element for hours worked for the firm.
Nobody is begging to be woken up at 4am to undertake duty work but it provides clients with good quality legal advice to have people like this on the rota – this is after all the point of the duty solicitor scheme.

I cannot see the justification for disallowing this work from the 14 hours. It goes way beyond the purpose of the rule and is completely unacceptable to anyone with an ounce of common sense.

2.       Child care

A DS (over 20 years call) is also a consultant and has child care responsibilities for two young but school age children. Duty work suits her well as she knows in advance when she has to be available for work and she undertakes her duty work.
She undertakes more than 14 hours a week if you do not count the weeks that she has had to be unavailable for work due to child care responsibilities, namely the school holidays. The period of review includes both Easter and the summer holidays when she was unavailable for any work at all.

When you add in those 0 hour weeks, she falls below the 14 hours and likely to be removed. Madness. And discriminatory.

It also begs the question as to how the 14 hours is calculated. Is it 14 x 52 per year – no one works 52 weeks a year – apart from probably Greg Powell. So is it 14 x 48 (4 weeks holiday) or 14 x 46 (6 weeks civil service holiday allowance)? In which case it averages over a year at less than 14 hours a week?

How did we get into this mess?
It was an LAA idea, but when canvassing representative bodies only the LCCSA objected.

For others, ghosts were not just those on the rota who never went to PS or court or undertook their duties, ghosts also included freelancers. So they supported, and still do, a requirement that solicitors work 14 hours a week and just for one firm.

The LCCSA position on 14 hours is consistent:-

In The past we have been driven into a contracting supplier base and pessimism by relentless cuts , unnecessary bureaucracy , and too often by overly hostile stances by assessors , auditors and managers .
The collapse of the scheme to contract duties passed without apology .
The LCCSA argued in relation to rules for Duty Solicitors for simplicity and an acceptable minimum standard , namely a mix of actual duties completed in court and police stations with some minimum number of overall attendances.
We argued against any hours requirement as unnecessary , bureaucratic and against the interests of working parents and especially that it offended the principles of simplicity and ease of checking .

The Present
Predictably “the Hours” will now consume much energy .All its limitations and difficulties are thrown into sharp relief as reports of overzealous interventions by account managers filter through while confusion over aspects of the schemes detail spreads .
As a membership organisation we have always fought to protect individual ownership of scheme membership .
Similarly we have favoured the widest interpretation of qualifying work and terms that allow our diverse membership to properly contribute through duty solicitor work whilst maintaining a wide variety of working lives .
The future
We will be informed by our members response .Some argue that the future should involve consolidation of the supplier Base and the concentration of ownership of duties in the hands of fewer powerful owners .This would devalue the economic positions of members of the LCCSA . It is not a position we will adopt. It is sometimes disguised as concern for the future stability of supply when it really reflects a desire to gain economic advantage.
What we always need is unity around the political issue which has been the Government desire to restrict scope and impose austerity. The hours issue is a battle for a settlement in the widest interests of members but the great issues are restoring value and scope

Well we are where we are.
What do we do about it?
Can we bring a JR ?
Well Legal Action being a last resort, we are first making representations to the LAA to soften the harsh interpretation.

We want HCA Advocacy to Count, as well as file reviews and supervision. Also:-
-Pro-rata reduction for part time workers, and for absence through illness,
-VHCC work to Count
-Hours to count whichever firm or office carried out for

Who makes these reps?
The Law Society leads.
They have a group called the ”Practitioner Group”
That includes elected bodies such as the LCCSA and CLSA
Also it includes the “Big Firms Group”

Who are the BFG ?

Nobody really knows
They don’t have a constitution
Or a website
If they have aims they are not made public
If they have a committee, we don’t know who is on it , how they were elected or even if they were elected.
They are not accountable.
We know they supported breaking the link between indiv Duty sols and their slots, putting duties in the name of the firms to distribute as they wish.

And their name suggests they focus on the interests of Big Firms, or more accurately over those that own and run them (their employee base are not consulted and do not participate)

And yet they- this self appointed group- sit at the table seeking to influence the decision makers. The two-tier contracting proposals arose from their wish to restrict the supplier base.
It is a matter of regret, that we have allowed this body to fracture Big Firms from small.
Perhaps there should also be a “Small  Firms Group”  and a “medium Firms Group”. There was a freelancers group, but the BFG and CLSA objected to them participating at meetings of the Practitioner Group.

Or perhaps we could just tell TLS and the MoJ to ignore the BFG, and we could all unite behind an organisation that represents big firms and small, owners, the employed and the self employed.

The LCCSA is that organisation.

The LCCSA have the following objectives,

The objects of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association are to:
▪ Encourage and maintain the highest standards of advocacy and practice in the Criminal Courts in and around London;
▪ To participate in discussions on developments in the criminal process;
▪ To represent and further the interests of the Members on any matters which may affect Solicitors who practise in the Criminal Courts; and
▪ To improve, develop and maintain the education and knowledge of those actively concerned with the Criminal Courts, including those who are in the course of their training.

So to conclude:-
The LCCSA had virtually -and by necessity- re-invented ourselves as a campaigning organisation.
We are if necessary prepared to fight again against cuts and to protect the interests of all who practice in criminal law.

Are you up for that fight?
Any representative bodies is only as strong as our membership.
We can only campaign, take legal action, put on events if our membership is strong, and we are funded by our membership fees.
If you join, or retain a membership, we are stronger.
My plea to you is, if you are not already signed up, is to join your representative body the LCCSA.
If you are a member already-thank you- and remember membership renewals are due on 1st November
Please come to our AGM Dinner on November 13th
Please consider joining the committee.

Thank you for your support.
We don’t want to do this without you, and tbh we can’t do it without you.
Join up, and we are united together.
United we stand, divided we fall.
That is the true message of Unity.

And now, time to unite and join friends and colleagues in the pub.
I hope you will raise a glass to justice, celebrate solidarity, drink to the health of legal aid, and share a toast -to Unity.

Cheers

Lammy Review-We lawyers must NOT be silent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have to talk about Discrimination. Prejudice. Racism.

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

We have to challenge the Police about their charging decisions.

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

We have become complicit in an unfair Justice system.

To stay silent is no longer good enough.

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

IMG_0842

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.