I bring you news of Denmark. Okay, not Denmark but I am not Shakespeare so this news comes from Nottingham. I am reliably informed that there is a two handed VHCC listed there in April. This is not the news. I am also reliably informed that both Silks and the junior for one defendant have returned the brief once the fees were unilaterally altered by the Government. Again, probably not news.
What is news is that the case has been recently listed to update the court as to representation. The court were told that, in the 72 hours preceding the mention, the LAA had been frequently contacting the solicitors to offer the services of the latest QC recruits to the PDS. One of the Silks being offered does not start his employment until February. The trial date has been vacated and refixed for September as everyone accepted that new counsel would not be ready in time. It would appear that there is the potential for real conflict in this case (I rely upon others for this information) which could cause difficulties in relation to Part 7 of the PDS Code of Conduct (which can be found here).
So what does this mean? As I have said elsewhere the PDS is being artificially bolstered as a sticking plaster for the ills of the new fee regime. It also amply demonstrates it is no sort of fix. The Bar should not throw their hands up in despair and say it has all been for nothing. This is a desperate last gasp attempt to avoid the flood. But it is only a Dutch finger in a very leaky dam.
Another lesson for the Bar to learn is that the fight has to continue on all fronts. Simply relying upon a refusal to work at VHCC rates is not enough on its own. There will be every tactic used to get the CJS to limp on. Reclassifying VHCCs as grad fee cases. Reclassifying Silks at Public Defenders. Reclassifying lies as truth. All of it will be used to allow the farce to go on.
So in order to save the independent Bar, preserve quality representation of individuals, to rescue the Criminal Justice System from the quagmire in to which it has been sinking for years and to do what we all know is right we have to take all forms of action open to us. It is a fight for all of us, by all of us.
It was always going to be this way. Always going to be a twisting road. If we travel it together we stand a much better chance of getting where we want to be.