This is not the blog that I was going to write. Clearly it is the blog that I am writing so becomes the blog that I was going to write as it is the blog which got written and the blog I was going to write becomes the blog that will be written. I hope all that is clear. I was going to write a blog seeking to expose the lies and misdirection employed by the MoJ but that is so last week. And then along came the CBA announcing a consultation, a strike and a variety of online pronouncements.
I have seen it suggested that the CBA has no mandate for the decisions they have taken in recent weeks. Let us put that preposterous idea to bed by completing the consultation request and giving them unswerving support. Why do I say it is a preposterous idea? Firstly because their proposals have received widespread support. In Manchester a case was adjourned because no counsel was available from 48 chambers which were asked to take on the case. Additionally I have seen an email from a firm of solicitors who cannot find a barrister to take on a return, have asked the PDS who have no one and cannot find an HCA to do the case. If I were the CBA (and I’m not) I would feel mandated up to my eyeballs.
Secondly, if I were the CBA, I would bask in the mandate provided to me by democracy. Although I am not the CBA, I am a Circuiteer through and through. Former Junior, former Secretary and proud Circuit member. I have caused the blood of a Circuit Judge to be spilled in the name of the Circuit (that’s another and entirely true story). However the Circuits are not bastions of democracy. Some Circuit leaders are never voted in, some are the only candidate in an election process rarely called upon. Now they are good people who do well on our behalf, but they are no more possessed of a democratic mandate than I am. The Chairman of the Bar Council is elected not by the Bar but by Bar Council members. Again Nick Lavender is a master of his brief and doing a great job but he is not a leader endowed with the approval of a plebiscite. I was a Bar Council member, no barrister voted for me to be there and I got a say in who led us but my colleagues in chambers had no say at all. The officers of the CBA are voted for by the membership. The real membership. Actual jobbing barristers. In a way which is, well, kind of democratic. Tony Cross, next leader of the CBA, was elected by the ordinary membership when he had just organised a walkout by the Northern Circuit which had received universal support. When you voted for Tony you knew exactly what you were getting and you have got it. It was a real election with candidates standing against him. Any criminal Silk out there thinking they have a better way had the chance to stand in that election.
It is suggested that the Bar are not being consulted about strategy and tactics. It seems to be hinted at that the actions of the CBA are a series of haphazard and spontaneous reactions to emotion rather than to a plan. I am afraid that is the nature of this kind of situation. We cannot telegraph to the Government how we see this whole thing going. Letting them know how far we are prepared to go, how long we can last, where we go next etc. It is the basics of effective cross-examination. It is also the basics of an effective opposition to a Ministry which is so obviously intent in not playing fair.
I am someone who believes the Bar should be walking out on 31st and 1st. I actually believe we should walk out on the 31st and not come back until the MoJ stop the cuts, engage in an independent review and acknowledge our value. If the CBA does not call us to do that then I will not withdraw my support for them. Nor will I believe it undermines their mandate, notwithstanding the fact I believe the majority of the Junior bar share my view of it. We have cried out for dynamic leadership for years. Cool heads, wise heads, have got us to this point. And this is a pretty lousy point. If we had held firm before, if we had shown an appetite for fight then we would not be involved in such a desperate fight right now.
The only leaders at the Criminal Bar who have a mandate are Cross and Lithman.
Back them again.