A supermarket Car Park in Innercity Town, Votershire. In a quiet and secluded corner of the car park John Everyman approaches the rear passenger door of a vehicle. He opens the door and looks in.
JE: Mr Measures?
AM: That’s me. Alfred Measures, at your service. Alf to my friends. Come in and shut the door, the breeze will mess up my files.
Everyman gets into the backseat of the car alongside Alf Measures and closes the door.
JE: Well, I never thought that, if I needed a lawyer, I would have to meet them in the back of their car. Its a bit less glamourous than it looks on the telly.
AM: Think of me a bit like Matthew McConaughey.
JE: But you’re bald and fat.
AM: Well, I did say a bit. But I meant like that film, The Lincoln Lawyer? The film about the lawyer that has his office in his car to keep costs down? Well that’s me.
JE: But this is a Renault Laguna….
AM: You are a “take everything literally kind” of guy aren’t you? Anyway, Svetlana tells me you need a lawyer so here I am.
JE: Did she tell you why?
AM: Not exactly. She can be a bit difficult to understand sometimes.
JE: I noticed that. I wasn’t sure she got everything I had to say and well, I couldn’t really follow what she said, other than to meet you here.
AM: We have to make allowances for her. Ukrainian you see? Her English isn’t very good. And she isn’t really a receptionist. She just has a mobile and a diary to book the appointments. Cheap though. She juggles it with her main job.
JE: What’s her main job?
AM: Court interpreter. That’s how we met. She was at court, doing the interpreting in a gangland killing and was having a bit of difficulty making herself understood when paying for a coffee so I stepped in, helped her out and we got talking. After a fashion. A mixture of hand signals, smiling and a few words of Russian I picked up once all helped. Was able to offer her the job.
JE: Right. Anyway, I am here to get advice from you, not chat about your linguistically challenged receptionist. As I tried to tell her, I have been charged with a section 47 and am due my first appearance at the mags. I need your advice. I have never been in this situation before.
AM: You’re in the right place. “ABH Alfie” they call me. I’m your man.
AM: Oh yes. Here’s my business card. Reccomend me to all your friends. No matter what it is. They also call me “Ancill Alfie”, “Affidavit Alfie”, “Adverse Possession Alfie” and even, for a hefty fee, “Admiralty Alfie”. No area of law left unturned by me. So pop along and tell all your friends, you got top notch legal advice from Measures.
JE: You haven’t given it to me yet. Your advice. You’ve not given me any.
AM: Good point. Right well let’s first of all talk about venue….
JE: Its a Tesco’s car park.
AM: There you go again, getting all literal on me. Although there is an irony in that. When the Government introduced the new legal aid regime we all feared Tesco Law would move in and pile ’em high and sell him cheap, but at 1% profit even they couldn’t do it. So it is left to the likes of me and the trusty Renault, doing the rounds like a Lone Ranger of the Law. “Mobile Measures” they call me….
JE: You were telling me about venue.
AM: Yes, sorry, well section 47 ABH is an either way offence so you can either choose to have the case dealt with in the magistrate’s or you can elect a trial by jury.
JE: And because I have got legal aid, that trial is free?
AM: Very astute of you, if I may so. Yes, because you are on legal aid, I do the case virtually for free…..
JE: No, I meant it doesn’t cost me anything. I lost my job, you see? Got made redundant. And I have maintenance to pay for my daughter. I have no money.
AM: Right. Well I am technically free. But if you get convicted, you have to pay a Criminal Courts Charge.
JE: Well I guess I can understand that. I’ll have to pay the proseuction’s costs. But the court take into account your personal circumstances when assessing that sort of thing, don’t they? So if I lose, the Judge decides how much I have to pay? Like they do with fines and compensation? I can understand that, its fair enough.
AM: Yes. And that’s not what it is. And a little bit of no as well.
JE: I’m sorry? You’re sounding a bit like Svetlana now….
AM: Yes you do have to pay the prosecution costs. But that’s not what this is. This is the charge you pay for the privilege of using the courtroom to test the evidence against you. This you have to pay as well as the costs. And a little bit of no as well because, although you are right about the Judge taking into account your ability to pay the other financial matters, not this one. These are set fees.
JE: How much?
AM: Well if you have a mags trial, its a £1,000 and if you have a Crown Court trial its £1,200. Its much cheaper if you plead though.
JE: But that’s a tax on my right to a trial….
AM: Yes it is. Thems are the rules.
JE: But what about that Magna Carta thingy? To no man will we deny justice or sell justice? Well I can’t bloody well afford to buy my justice, in case I lose.
AM: No need to swear at me. I don’t make the rules, I just apply the rules. “Rules Reggie” they call me.
JE: No they don’t. Your names Alf.
AM: Middle name, matey, Reggie is my middle name.
JE: I just can’t afford that risk. I could never pay a grand. Not even if they gave me years and years to pay. I only get £72 a week as it is. I couldn’t afford to pay that off if they gave me more than two years to pay.
AM: I know that. I am not one of these ivory towers lawyers. “Real World Reggie” they call me. Everyman thinks of interrupting but decides against it. But it’s not only me who knows that. The Government do too. If you haven’t been able to pay it, after two years you can go back before the Magistrates and ask for it to be remitted.
JE: Who pays for that?
AM: Good question.
JE: What’s the answer?
AM: Haven’t got a clue.
JE: We’ll just have to fight it and if we lose, we’ll appeal. If I am over a grand down, it can’t hurt to try to overturn a miscarriage of justice.
AM: When it comes to appeals, I would have to pass you on to our Appeals Department. This is strictly first instance stuff in this department.
JE: Right, well how do I speak to someone in the Appeals Department.
Alf Measures nods towards the front seats of the car. Everyman looks quizzically at him. Measures gets out and walks to the front of the car, opens the door and sits in the driver’s seat. Measures nods at the passenger seat.
JE: You’ve got to be kidding….
Measures clears his throat and nods once again at the seat next to him. Reluctantly Everyman exits the rear of the car and joins the lawyer in the front.
AM: Good afternoon, Mr Everyman, you have been referred to me by our Crown Court department, my name is Alf Measures, aka “Appellate Alfie”…..
JE: Oh for Christ’s sake…..
AM: Now what can I help you with?
JE: As I have just explained, if I lose my trial it will be a miscarriage of justice and I want to appeal. Plus I will be over a grand down, so will need your help.
AM: Well the first stage would be I would look at your case and then give you written advice about whether I thought you had good grounds of appeal. They call me “Advis……” Everyman silences the lawyer with a look that shows he is ,at the very least ,capable of acts of violence. And if I advise you have good grounds then I draft them and send them off to London.
JE: And is all that free?
AM: Oh yes, I don’t get paid a penny for all that work…..
JE: Not for you, for me…..
AM: If the first Judge that looks at it down in London doesn’t agree with me and refuses permission to appeal, that’ll cost you £150.
JE: What? Even if I am just following your advice?
AM: Oh yes, thems are the rules, I don’t make the rules, I just…… All it takes is a glance and the lawyer trails off in mid sentence.
JE: But if I get permission then I can appeal without worrying about the cost right? I mean at that stage you’ve advised me its the right thing to do and I am kind of guessing that the first Judge must think it is at least arguable so I guess they can’t try to blame me if I lose the actual appeal.
AM: You’d think so wouldn’t you? But no. That’s gonna cost you £200. Its a bit like charging patients for NHS treatments that don’t actually cure them.
JE: That’s a very good way of putting it.
AM: There is a reason they call me “Analogy Alfie”……
JE: Right, that’s it, I’m off. You’re mental.
Everyman exits the car and slams the door. As he walks off, the lawyer winds down the window and shouts after him….
AM: BUT THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT. THE SUPERMARKET CAR PARK. THE BATTERED OLD CAR. THEY DON’T CALL ME “METAPHOR MEASURES” FOR NOTHING YOU KNOW? GIVE SVETLANA A CALL. WE CAN SET UP A MEETING WITH OUR ADVOCATE…….