That Was The Year That Was

This is the time of year for nostalgia. Channel Four will show top 100 hundred countdowns of all sorts of nonsense as presented by Jonathan Ross with Gail Porter giving us her views. BBC 1 reviews the year from Sports Personalities to the Breakfast Sofa.

So I have indulged in a little retrospective and read again three blogs from the last eighteen months or so. These are not blogs that I have written. These are blogs that really mean something.

The first that I invite you to read (you can find it here) is entitled Life at the Thin Edge of the Wedge and details the struggles of the most junior in the profession. It details the stresses and the strains. It gives the perfect antidote to the fatcat myth. It shows why remuneration is wrapped up with the future. It shows why diversity is under threat.

The next I suggest you read is by the wife of a barrister. It shows that the struggles can last beyond the first years. It shows that the cuts are impacting on the whole profession. It demonstrates that there is no room for further cuts. You can read the post here. A direct plea to Chris Grayling that fell on deaf ears.

The final post I suggest you read or read again is a visceral account of what has happened in the life of one junior criminal barrister. We can only hope that they have successfully transferred out of crime and have found greater financial security and peace of mind.

Now I invite you to read these posts not out of a sense of nostalgia. I ask you this question – has the position described by any of them improved in the last 12 months?

The answer is – not if they have stayed doing crime.

Yes we have managed to dodge the latest round of cuts. Yes we managed to give the Government a bloody nose. Yet have things improved?

Not one bit.

Most public service remuneration is struggling to keep apace with inflation. Criminal fees are the asthmatic kid with a club foot who comes last in every running race where inflation crests the finishing tape far ahead of him. (Before anyone complains, I am the asthmatic kid with a club foot who has never won a sprint race in his life).

Year on year the remuneration for criminal cases becomes worth less and less in real terms. Meanwhile the work expected from those undertaking criminal cases increases with every practice direction, knee jerk and window dressing initiative.

If you are someone who relies upon criminal legal aid for their income you should make 2015 the year we take the fight onwards. The fight for remuneration equal to and commensurate with the work and responsibility involved.

And if you are someone who cares about justice for victims, about access to justice for the man/woman in the street and if you care about a state becoming increasingly powerful as the individual becomes weaker then the fight has never been more important than it is now.

In a time when the “apolitical” stance of sections of the judiciary makes them appear more puppets than sentinels it is the role…. no, let me correct that…. it is the responsibility of the professions to oppose every destructive change and policy with every weapon we have. Intellect. Integrity. Persuasion. Action.

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