An imagined conference in an imaginary prison between people in my imagination….
Mr Public-Defender Good morning Mr Snargs, I am the barrister representing you in your case.
Mr Snargs Hi. Sorry, where are you from?
P-D I have been sent from PDS.
S The firm Peters, Davies and Smethurst?
S Of course, you’re a barrister. You must be from that new set, Peterborough Doughty Street?
P-D No I am from the Public Defender Service.
S Oh. OK. You don’t sound American……
P-D Why should I sound American?
S Because Public Defenders are American aren’t they? I saw a documentary about them on TV. It was about how many defendants on Death Row were represented badly by Public Defenders and there were all these law students helping them from a British charity. It was all about lack of money leading to injustice.
P-D Well I can assure you this is very different.
P-D We don’t have the death penalty….
S And there aren’t American based charities coming over here to help the victims of miscarriages of justice due to under-funded representation are there?
P-D Ha ha ha. No, no. Not yet anyway.
S Have you had the chance to read my case papers yet?
P-D Of course. The office had to give me a day out of court yesterday to read them.
S Things have changed.
P-D They have to give me plenty of time to prepare out of court. You are not the only one with Human Rights you know? Working Time Directive. I am making the most of it before they realise how much it costs….
S So having read my case you’ll see that I am saying that the Government have planted the evidence against me. It is a fit up. MI5 and MI6 are involved. So you are going to have to be up for the fight.
P-D Oh I am Mr Snargs. I’ll just have to run it by my Line Manager…..
S Who is that?
P-D Good question. My last Line Manager took early retirement last week. And who can blame him? Cracking pay-off and a pension rolling in. So I’ll check who is acting-up as my Line Manager this week and check your defence isn’t a problem.
S Why do you have to run it by your Line Manager? You’re my brief and its my defence.
P-D I may be your brief but I am also a civil servant. And the Civil Service Code requires that I, and I quote here,
“must – serve the Government, whatever its political persuasion, to the best of your ability in a way which maintains political impartiality and is in line with the requirements of this Code, no matter what your own political beliefs are and act in a way which deserves and retains the confidence of Ministers, while at the same time ensuring that you will be able to establish the same relationship with those whom you may be required to serve in some future Government.”
P-D So I will just have to check with my Line Manager, as the code also requires, that there is not any problem with that. I am sure it will be fine.
S Right. Are all barristers civil servants?
P-D No. Just the ones employed by the Government directly.
S Are Judges civil servants?
P-D Certainly not. They have to be allowed to be completely independent.
S I am struggling to understand this Public Defender Service thing.
P-D Well, you know the Crown Prosecution Service thing?
S Yes I do. They are the ones who have delayed service of vital information in my case because there isn’t anyone allocated to look after it. They are the ones who have served vital information on disc in an attempt to save money. They are the ones the Judge constantly shouts at.
P-D Right. Well I was going to say that the PDS are just like the CPS but working for you but I am not sure that’s going to help…..
S Too bloody right it does not help. Tell me if I get this wrong, I have been locked up by the State, prosecuted by the State and now defended by the State.
P-D Oh you do totally get it. Well done you!
S How can I have any confidence in this representation?
P-D I assure you I am a decent advocate
S I am sure you are personally but it all looks a bit odd.
P-D And as well as a decent advocate I have great eyesight. I know because I got a free eye test through work last week….
S Well that makes everything ok then!!!
P-D And I do gets lots of support. We have this room called the Continuous Improvement Hub back at the office.
S So what?
P-D Well I am sure that having that means I will continuously improve. By osmosis. And I hear rumour that we are going to have one of those sport day things.
S A sports day?
P-D Oh yeah. CPS in Yorkshire had one a few years ago. Helps with team building. And…err….continuing improvement. Of my egg and spoon skills.
S What happened to good old fashioned legal aid?
P-D That proved way too expensive. Had to cut millions out of that budget. By creating the budget for this. Which works out hugely more expensive but we had to do something about Legal Aid you see? Nobody raised any concerns about the Public Defender budget so we managed to shovel loads of money in to this to back up the situation when people stopped doing Legal Aid work and the State had to help out those charged with a crime….. Oh look at me saying “we”. I should have said them. Meaning my boss at the MoJ but not meaning “us” because I am independent.
S Come to think of it, I remember that the lawyers went on strike a while ago….
P-D Yes they did. Ironically now I am a civil servant I am a member of a Union so can go on strike with impunity if it is all done correctly. We just have to have a ballot when we do not get a pay rise.
S What are you smirking about now?
P-D Sorry. It is just the mention I made there of a pay rise. I was at the Bar for fifteen years. Never had a pay rise at all. It’s quite exciting really.
S I am very pleased for you, perhaps we can get back to talking about my case…..