The last two years have been remarkable. There was much talk from the MoJ of Transforming this and Transforming that with next steps and all that jazz. It has certainly transformed my professional life from one where I went about my everyday business, meeting clients, irritating Judges and wondering when the next brief would land. A professional life where I thought the robing room at Minshull Street was my patch. A piece of the court building forever for the advocates.
Now I spend my holiday scouring Twitter and absorbing emails to try to ascertain the latest development. I wake in the morning with a thought to write something comparing the Lord Chancellor to Dr Who or Game of Thrones or something even more ridiculous, like the last Lord Chancellor. Hoping that a gentle dig in the ribs from my iPad will suddenly make everything okay again.
But it never does.
So here we are, like the drug addicted client, standing at yet another crossroads. Which way should we go?
And whilst the Bar has two choices to make – take the path of engagement and try to secure a legal landscape which would be fertile ground for our strengths to prosper or the path of taking action to stop the Government grinding us down to no more than mouthpieces for an imitation of a free and fair society – these two choices do not a war make.
We are not at war with each other.
This is not “Hotheads v Appeasers”. It is not “The Must Do Somethings v The Don’t Do Anythings”. It is not “The Rash” scrapping it out with “The Wise”. It is not even “The Brave” against “The Scabs”. Dare I whisper it? Well, it ain’t “The Noisy Minority” trying to stick it to “The Silent Majority”. It is a body of professionals who face some very real difficulties trying to come up with some very real answers.
Acuusations fly around. From both camps about the other. “He is just a leftwing hothead, hellbent on fighting the Government, any Government,” is often just as daft as “She is just a non-boat-rocking conservative with one foot already in the pension”. Yes there may be elements of truth in some individuals and their motives but the truth is people advocate for one way or the other because they have analysed the situation and believe it to be the best way. That is to be respected and acknowledged.
No one should look down at those that hold a different view. Those views need airing to assist those who have yet to come to a view to reach their decision. When we had the vote over “the deal” the CBA hosted a blog for the arguments to be raised by proponents of both sides. It is a shame the same is not being done now. In fact it is such a shame that I’ll offer to host it. Anyone who wants their say should feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will post your blog for you.
Any regular reader will know that I favour taking direct action now. I favour it for many reasons. I hope in favouring it I set out my reasons for doing so. Whilst I am not courteous to or about the politicians, and may even tread on a few judicial toes, I like to think I am always courteous and reasonable about differently held views.
I repeat, this it not two tribes going to war, but one tribe who both want the tribe to survive. We just have different ways of going about it.
Ultimately we both may be right. Both approaches may have the chance to succeed. The biggest fear I have is that if the engagement route is taken and fails, it will be too late to save us. Our fate will be sealed and that is a fate none of us want.
No matter what, this is you and me against the damage being caused to the criminal justice system.