An entirely imagined conversation that could become all too real, all too soon:
Solicitor: Good evening Mr Snargs, my name is Jane Bloggs. I am your solicitor.
Accused: Thank God you are here, my life is failing apart by the second.
S: I understand from the Custody Sargeant that you have been arrested on suspicion of terrorism.
A: Yes. I am devastated. Armed police kicked in my door. I have never even been inside a police station before. I am petrified.
S: I am not surprised. Sounds scary.
A: When they asked if I wanted a solicitor I immediately said “Yes, can you get me someone with experience in this kind of thing”. And here you are.
S: Well yes, I am here.
A: And they called you because you do this sort of thing?
S: Well I do this sort of thing in as much as I come to the police station quite a lot…..
A: But terrorism offences, I mean you are experienced in terrorist offences.
S: Well, not so much. Pub fights, drugs, shoplifters, rape, murder, all of those but not terrorism. Not before now anyway!
A: But how did they police call you for me?
S: Because you are a Capricorn…..
S: I am only joking. It isn’t on the basis of your star sign. It is also because you are a rat.
A: You’ve lost me now.
S: The Chinese year of the Rat…… You are allocated your solicitor on the basis of the month and year of your birth. And here I am.
A: But you have no experience of this sort of thing.
S: No. I don’t.
A: Can you recommend someone who does?
S: Yeah, John Doe. Really good. Was in that big case last year. Did a lot of good work in relation to control orders too.
A: Great. No offence, but can I have him instead.
A: Oh. Can I ask why?
S: Well first of all you have me. And the rules say you can’t change. It is me and you all the way to sentence……errr…..for as long as it takes. And anyway John doesn’t do this anymore, his firm didn’t get a contract so he had to take a job in conveyancing.
A: I am sorry. It’s been a long day. What contract? I don’t have a contract with anyone.
S: I know you don’t. The government do.
A: But you are my lawyer?
S: Oh yes. Just not one you have any choice over.
A: Oh. Well, you are here now. The police officers told me that they have a probe….
S: Goodness me, a probe, that’s barbaric. I will not let them torture you, not on my watch. Don’t worry.
A: No, no, no. They were talking about the evidence they had. Something from a listening probe. Do you have any experience of those?
S: Not yet….but I do know that it is the sort of thing that can be objected to by your advocate.
S: Yes, if you get charged the case will go to the Crown Court where you will be represented by an advocate.
A: Right. Phew. Do we get to choose who that is?
S: Sort of…..
A: What do you mean sort of?
S: Well my boss will probably want you to be represented by the chap from my firm for your earlier hearings and then we might see about getting someone else if it’s a trial.
A: Well this is going to be a trial.
S: You say that now, don’t be too hasty…..
A: Look I am innocent. This will be a trial. I want the best advocate I can get with lots of experience in this sort of thing.
S: OK. We’ll look in to it for you.
A: I mean the advocate is bound to have lots of experience in this sort of thing and we can choose one who has done lots of these trials before. Such advocates surely must exist?
S: Well they did…..
A: What do you mean they did?
S: Well there used to be. But you see your case is going to be complicated and last quite a few weeks, if not months in the Crown Court. And either the advocate will be on less each day they are there or will be paid at an hourly rate which has been reduced so many times I have lost count. Now only an idiot would work in those circumstances, so….
S: Well you can only get idiots to do that sort of case these days. All the good ones don’t work at those sort of rates. On the plus side they don’t prosecute these type of cases any more either. I remember the man from the MOJ saying the changes would lead to a different level of quality and he got that bit right.
A: Look, my parents’ have some savings and my fiancée and I have been saving for a house so can we pay to get some proper specialist help?
S: Oh yes, my boss would love that. He is sick of getting paid the same for someone to plead guilty as he does when they have a trial.
A: Hang on, you don’t get paid more if I have a trial?
S: No. Not in every case.
A: You don’t get paid more for the work you put in?
A: So what incentive do you have to put the graft in?
S: Because I’m nice.
A: Right. Well this is my whole life we are talking about here so we’ll have to pay.
S: That’s fine.
A: And getting the best lawyers on the job will improve my chances of winning so we’ll just have to hope that justice is done, I am acquitted and we can get our life savings back.
S: Right…… something else I need to tell you…. It doesn’t work like that.
A: Yes it does.
S: No it doesn’t.
A: Yes it does. My dad got sued a while ago by someone who slipped in his shop. He won and got his costs back.
S: Crime is different.
A: No it isn’t. That politician bloke that tried to avoid his speeding points was asked to pay thousands of pounds of prosecution costs.
S: You are quite right. I should have said its different if you are accused of crime. You can’t get a penny back.
A: So if I am convicted I am left with nothing, and if I want proper representation I am left with nothing.
S: Pretty much.
A: This is Kafka – esque.
A: What are you laughing for? This isn’t funny. I am facing my life being ruined.
S: I am sorry. It just amused me, the head guy at the ministry once said that clients were not connoisseurs of legal services and here you are talking about Kafka.
A: I am a f@@king English lecturer at the University.
S: Really? Had a company director in last week. Business went wrong and he was accused of fraud. It’s not all heroin junkies, I can tell you. But it’s the same for the druggie as it is for you. A lawyer of acceptable quality chosen by lottery organised for those who will do it cheaply. Unless you are rich of course. Where you do get to choose.
A: I may as well just plead now.
S: That is more convenient.
A: I remember a while back seeing something on Twitter about an e-petition….
S: Well it’s too late now. All the solicitors have closed down. So you are stuck with me. Right, let’s pop along to this interview. Everything will be alright. I hope.
Please go on and sign the petition http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/48628
Think that the proposals will not have an impact upon you? Please read http://jaimerhblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/it-could-be-you-the-diary-of-an-ordinary-man/