I have now been a barrister for twenty-two years. That is a frightening thing to see committed to writing. It is probably in my Top Three Worst Things To See In Writing alongside “Jaime is bald” and “you will never fulfill your dream of playing cricket for England”. The only comfort I have is that one of those things is not true.
Another comfort is that, in my twenty-two years as a bald, non-Test playing lawyer, I have never had to attend a Saturday court. For the uninitiated, the Magistrates’ Court sits on a Saturday morning to deal with those locked up in the previous 24 hours or so. The time limits that apply to the post arrest detention of suspects means the legal system cannot have a full weekend off.
So the courts sit, local justice applies and Bench, lawyers and staff give up their Saturdays to run a little corner of the justice system whilst the rest of us watch James Martin chat to Ken Hom.
I am told there has been a recent efficiency drive. That efficiency drive could be otherwise stylised as a “cutback”. Cutback is another word for “austerity mad bit of madness”. When I first wrote that sentence I finished it with the word “bollocks” but, on reflection, “madness” is more becoming of a bald, middle-aged, jurisprudential, right hand batsman, like myself.
This austerity mad bit of
bollocks, sorry, madness, means that each of the local courts no longer sit on a Saturday. Only one does. So last Saturday only Manchester sat, as opposed to Manchester and Bolton. So Bolton cases went to Manchester.
As luck would have it, I have been instructed in a Bolton case that appeared in Manchester Saturday court last weekend and was sent to Bolton Crown Court for this forthcoming Monday. And so that is what I am booked to do on Monday, go to Bolton and do his prelim.
Anyone that has ever tried to move a prelim to coincide with the availability of counsel will know that, once the Magistrates have sent the case, the date is set in stone. Particularly with a defendant in custody. It is something to do with the remand order. So if Manchester Mags send a case to Bolton Crown Court for this Monday, it happens this Monday.
Because, at the moment, it ain’t happening Monday. Because the papers have not travelled the ten and a half miles from Manchester to Bolton in the week since the case appeared in the Mags. Because that means the case isn’t listed. And because the case is not listed, as my clerk discovered this evening, I am not working on Monday.
This never happened when cases appeared in the court local to the Crown Court. But let us not allow efficiencies get in the way of efficiency. This is, yet again, an illustration of how cuts, in fact, slash. Yes money has been saved by not opening one building for half a day. But the efficient working of the system has been slashed by the Freddie Kruger-esque hand of an austerity mad Lord Chancellor.
And I am not in court on Monday because of it. Nor can I guarantee that I will be available to do the prelim when finally the papers arrive at the Crown Court. And will I be able to put the case back to when I can? Oh no, because that would be inefficient.
Oh well, at least there is still the outside chance I can play cricket for England.