Category Archives: Fiction

Gove-anomics 

Following the roaring success of Michael Gove’s “two nation justice system speech” to the Legatum Institute he has been asked to cast his eye over other areas of public life. He has considered how certain endeavours can be improved by applying his glorious logic. Below we publish the results.

The National Football Team

The Lord Chancellor has looked long and hard at sport and, in particular, football. He was at first a little confused as to how “one nation” was in fact divided into four nations with three lions. Once he had it explained that it was a form of devolution he kind of understood it and looked into the thorny problem as to why England have failed at winning the World Cup since 1966. At first he thought it must be the fault of the Human Rights Act. Then he realised we hadn’t just failed in Europe. It was a global problem. 

He looked around for inspiration. In other sports English participants win all the time. He looked at rowing, cycling and darts. The answer was obvious. Roy Hodgson is to be instructed from now on that England’s forward line should consist of Bradley Wiggins and Sir Steve Redgrave. From this day forth Wayne Rooney’s only involvement is to pay the appearance fee of Phil “The Power” Taylor who is to replace Joe Hart in goal. Job done. Football is coming home. 

Policing

At the heart of one nation has to be effective policing. The police service have not been immune to cuts. Numbers have had to fall. Those fatcat police officers just cost too much. Particularly the fatcat dog units. So Mr Gove spent minutes thinking long and hard for the solution. The answer was obvious. Crufts. Those pampered pooches put nothing back into society. So from this point on every best in breed from Crufts has to undertake at least 25 hours per month of pro bono police work. So we can expect “Debonaire’s Hold Me Now”, best of breed Yorkshire Terrier, to be conducting crowd control at a public order disturbance in the streets of London. 

That did not solve the staffing levels. Thousands of officers have been lost in making the jobs of the bankers safer. So what to do? Gove has the answer. He sees the economic success of the Marvel Universe. Millions of dollars being made by Thor, Captain America, Ironman and the Hulk. They are part of the crime fighting community. It is time they stopped fighting aliens in New York and started combatting low level anti-social behaviour in Lewisham. Of course they will have to be properly sworn in as Special Constables and will be expected to wear ill-fitting hi-vis jackets but they will be there. A visible deterrent on our streets. 

The NHS

No nation is truly one nation until you can visit your GP on a Sunday. But how was the NHS going to fund seven day opening? There are plenty of plastic surgeons earning vast sums from private clients after the NHS trained them. They could staff the surgeries on a Sunday. The only concern was that, in a hastily arranged pilot scheme, Bob Smethwick, trucker from Bootle, went to see his GP on a Sunday complaining of haemorrhoids and came away with a prescription for liposuction and a skin peel. 

Undeterred, Gove thought again. The answer was still plastic surgeons. He wondered if the plastic surgeons could help with the police crisis but then realised they would have to be Police Community Support Officers and there were already enough Plastic Coppers. No, they could solve the Sunday GP problem. But instead of being the Sunday GP they could adopt a Sunday GP. So the surgeon pays all the running costs and in return the surgeon and his family get sent a photograph of their adopted GP, a letter every three months and the children of the surgeon are allowed to name the GP and any offspring they may have. Vouchers are available so you can give the gift of GP-Adoption. 

And so it is that we will all become “One Nation Under Gove”. This visionary approach will seep through the nation. The Chief Executives of Weapons Manufacturers will double up as the SAS. Your bins will be emptied by the council. Not council employees, but the councillors themselves. Lewis Hamilton and Nigel Mansell will cut the response times for ambulances. Bankers and politicians will pocket huge pay rises and…err….be bankers and politicians. 

It is time we all bought into this. I say to you “ask not what my country can do for me, but ask how my country can make do and mend”. 

A Paying Customer

A letter written sometime in the nearish future.

Dear Lord Chancerlor,

recently I did a bad thing and had to go to court to tell the jury why I was not guilty. Sadly they did not believe a word of what I said and now I am doing 18 months (out in 9). That wasn’t all. At the end of the case the Judge said I had to pay a criminal court charge. 1,200 quid!

So, anyways, now I am thinking I am not just the defendant, not now I am paying to be the defendant. Now I reckon I am a “stakeholder”.  My probation officer explained to me about being a “stakeholder”. And I reckons that as a “stakeholder” I have some rights and stuff. The big right is I get to complain, so guess what this is? Yep, this is a complaint. 

First up is this. When the train is delayed you get a refund on your ticket. When your flight for a week in Ibiza is delayed you get some vouchers for a meal and a beer at the airport. Even on Ryan-whatsit. Well I was on bail for months before my case even got charged. And then I had to waits awhile for my first trial date. It was, like, an age. And don’t go thinking a voucher for a free meal from the court caff is what I am afters. For a start there isn’t even a court caff. 1,200 quid and I got a vending machine. 

No, you sees my trial was listed as a floater. I sat at court all day. For what? Nothin. We sank. We had to come back three months later. To float again. This time we did get on, but only when we got shoved off to another court building. Parking ain’t cheap you knows. I had paid to park all day and then had to go 17 miles down the road to get my trial. 

So, first up, I have included in this letter my car park ticket. Reckons you can knock that off my bill.

Before you goes thinking that’s it, just a car parking ticket, it ain’t. Yeah we got a courtroom when we moved buildings but we had to wait until the next day for enough jurors! Nearly wet myself when me brief told me that one. 1,200 quid for a trial by jury and you didn’t even have some jurors. 

Oh, and by the way, this second court didn’t have a caff neither. 

So I hopes you are going to compensate me for the delay. You know the Benefits people compensate you when they get it wrong. Now I am a paying customer it is time for you to put your hand in your pocket, you don’t seem to mind putting your hand in my pocket.  

However It wasn’t just the jurors. We had another delay because the CPS ran out of paper. No kiddin. The Judge had a proper fit. We had to wait until the next day for the jury to get copies of the interviews. The lawyers and the Judge kept talking about paperless courts. Didn’t seem to be such a good idea. 

So I reckons, when you work out my bill, you gotta come up with something for all the hassle I had. If I pay all that coin for something, you want it to work well. Oh and don’t think you can go sitting on my appeal neither. What’s the point of hearing bout my appeal against sentence half way through? And then chargin me for the privilege. Oh no. You want me to pay, you get me a quick decision. 

So you work out how much my bill is. I need to know so our kid can go out grafting to get the dosh together. 

And my padmate, Tariq, wanted to give you a message. He has paid his court charge. But now he’s got his POCA. And he says that the POCA guy goes that the money he gave you for his court charge is a tainted gift. So he wants it back. Well, they wants it back. 

Laters,

Johnny

The Laguna Lawyer

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. 

JE: Brilliant. 

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…….

Will the Last Barrister Please Switch Off the Lights

A senior clerk, Ben Arrowboy, sits down with his Head of Chambers, Sidney Blinkers QC, to discuss chambers in advance of the AGM. The chambers, Cloistered Way Chambers, are a predominantly criminal a set. This conversation takes place some time in Summerr 2016.

SB QC: Just give me the headlines and the figures, Ben, so I can do my normal State of the Union address to the AGM. You know, the usual stuff, the “these are difficult times” but “chambers still continues to flourish” kind of stuff.

BA: I’m afraid it is not that straightforward this year, sir. I am afraid we just had a bit of bad news, sir.

SB QC: Oh no, don’t tell it is Mr Auld QC? He hasn’t finally pegged out has he? I told him he shouldn’t be prosecuting road traffic lists, not at 103. But he was always going on about not having a pension and I just could not get him to stop…

BA: No sir, it isn’t Mr Auld. I am afraid it is Tiddles and Co.

SB QC: What about Tiddles and Co? We all cut our teeth on Tiddles work. Old Frank Tiddles instructed me from the first day on my feet. When his daughter took over running the firm they really went from strength to strength. I virtually took Silk on the back of the work they sent me. They are the most loyal solicitors that chambers have. What about them?

BA: Well, sir. They did not get one of the Crime Duty Contracts in the recent tender and it turns out they got lots of work through their duty slots and now they have had to throw their lot in with another firm….

SB QC: That’s very sad. But they have always been loyal so I am sure they will still send their work in from wherever they have ended up. Who have they gone in with?

BA: Biggs, Fish and Pond.

SB QC: Oh.

BA: Exactly, sir. They have been subsumed into the nationwide Biggs, Fish and Pond, one of the main players. They got contracts all over the place and are now hoovering up the Own Client Contract firms that are now struggling.

SB QC: But BFP don’t send us any work.

BA: No, sir.

SB QC: They send it all to Domination House, don’t they?

BA: Yes, sir.

SB QC: Because Domination House as a chambers have an arrangement with BFP that they refer work to them in return for being exclusively instructed by them.

BA: Yes, sir.

SB QC: Why didn’t we think of that?

BA: Because Domination House have chambers on several circuits, sir. They have more connections, more work to refer.

SB QC: Right. Well I suppose that means we have lost Tiddles’s Own Client Contract work does it?

BA: Yes sir, with Tiddles failing to get a CDC with the LAA they have taken their OCC to BFP of the BFG and we are TFO.

SB QC: I’m sorry?

BA: Didn’t get a CDC… Crime Duty Contract with the LAA… the Legal Aid Agency so their Own Client Contract has now been taken by Biggs, Fish and Pond, the Big Firms Group practice.

SB QC: Right. And that leaves us TFO……?

BA: Totally F**ked Over, sir.

SB QC: Well at least we still have other solicitors… As Churchill was fond of saying KBO, KBO, Ben.

BA: KBO, sir?

SB QC: Keep Buggering On, Ben. We will soldier on with our other solicitors.

BA: I didn’t say that was the only bad news, sir.

SB QC: Why? What else can there be?

BA: Do you remember those two partners from BFP who went out on their own a couple of years ago? Set themselves up to be fraud specialists? Send a lot of work into chambers?

SB QC:Of course I do. Rav Singh Ruptah and Diana Banks. Excellent outfit.

BA: Well the have lived up to their name.

SB QC: What do you mean? You clerks always speak in riddles.

BA: They have gone the way of the firm’s name, sir.

SB QC: You are not making sense. The firm is Banks Ruptah…..oh…..I see what you mean. Really?

BA: Yes. They had cut everything to the bone but their Own Client Work just was not enough for them. There were no more cuts to make. A couple of trials were adjourned and cash flow problems drove them to the wall yesterday. They have been consolidated out of existence.

SB QC: Right. I know Johnson and Sons are still going. They have just briefed me.

BA: They are, sir. But just one thing. It’s not Johnson and Sons any more. It’s just Johnson. The sons have both seen the money is elsewhere. One son has gone off to be an intermediary and the other son has locked himself in his back bedroom preparing bids to tender for three probation service contracts, the running of a private prison, a tagging contract and the next tender process for court interpreters.

SB QC: Does he have any experience to bid for such things?

BA: Not at all sir. In the clerks’ room we can’t work out whether he is a visionary genius or he has just had a breakdown….

SB QC: Thankfully Mr Johnson Senior has a good loyal base of old clients to keep him going with his own client work.

BA: He certainly did, sir. Problem is some of them have gone to the big house in the sky, several of them are currently serving IPPs and can’t get Legal Aid to challenge their continued incarceration and when it comes down to it, that leaves four of them.

SB QC: Four what?

BA: Four of his own clients. That’s why Johnson Jr is locked in the back bedroom with a laptop and some conversational Polish CDs….

SB QC: Did any of our professional clients get the Duty Work contract?

BA: Yes, sir.

SB QC: Who? We need to concentrate on servicing their work.

BA: Caldwell and Cunningham have got both contracts.

SB QC: Excellent! That’s excellent news. You need to take them out and oil those wheels!

BA: I already have, sir.

SB QC: Of course you have. You’re my top man….

BA:…. and its bad news I’m afraid.

SB QC: Oh. Of course it is. Seems to be the only news you have at the moment.

BA: Am afraid they are using the increase in work to maximum effect. They have sacked everyone except a few recent graduates as paralegals and then recruited a bunch of HCAs to keep all the work in-house and take the advocacy fee on top. They promised me the odd mention and sentence hearing.

SB QC: This is disastrous. Perhaps I had better get a few of the big-hitters of chambers together to discuss the way forward. Tell Jude, Issy and Guy that I need to meet with them ASAP.

BA: There may be a problem with that.

SB QC: What? This is a crisis.

BA: Do you know that bunch of HCAs I told you Cunningham and Caldwell have recruited?

SB QC: Yes….

BA: Well Miss Askew, Miss Karriet and Mr Foulkes are that bunch.

SB QC: Traitors. Each of them.

BA: And it’s not just them either. Some of the more junior bodies have gone too.

SB QC: Ben, these are desperate times. I just didn’t see this coming. How could anyone see this coming?

BA: It was fairly obvious, with respect.

SB QC: Why didn’t you warn me then? We’ll have to cut costs, even then I don’t know if chambers is going to survive….

BA: On that subject, I can help you with cutting costs.

SB QC: How’s that?

BA: You won’t have to pay my salary any more, I am taking a job at Domination House.

SB QC: But….but…you can’t….I mean….what will we do?

BA: KBO, sir?

SB QC: I don’t know about buggering on, you’ve all buggered off!

It is not too late to donate to the JR fund. Click on the link to donate.

Either Which Way But You Lose

A courtroom somewhere in England and Wales. HHJ A.P.A. Ratchik QC presides. The defendant, Bill Sykes, sits in the dock and has been identified. The defendant is represented by Miss Fi Owen. The prosecution are represented by Mr Bailey-Haq

Fi Owen: Your Honour, my learned friend, Mr Bailey-Haq represents the Prosecution and I represent the defendant. The matter comes into Your Honour’s list today for trial but I have an application that Count 1 be put again to the defendant.

(The Judge consents and the defendant is rearraigned on an allegation of theft of a quantity of razor blades.)

(The prosecutor rises to his feet.)

Bailey-Haq: Your Honour, my learned friend was kind enough to indicate that the defendant was prepared to enter a guilty plea to that count. Of course that leaves the second count, the allegation of affray. In short a security guard from the store alleged that Mr Sykes used his dog to threaten him when he approached the defendant outside the store. I had previously been told that CCTV of the incident did not exist. In fact a disc was found in the bottom of the CPS file this morning and shows a very different picture indeed. In those circumstances the Crown do not anticipate that there is a realistic prospect of conviction and therefore intend to offer no evidence in respect of that count.

HHJ Ratchik QC: Very well, I will enter a not guilty verdict. Given his appalling record I assume you want a report Miss Owen?

Fi Owen:Yes please Your Honour. Three weeks today takes us to the 15th of next month.

HHJ Ratchik QC: Probably best to avoid that. Tomorrow I start a four week trial that is reserved to me. That will still be running at that point. Complicated stuff as well. Can’t be listing work that may interrupt the flow.

Fi Owen: Well may I suggest the following week. The 22nd?

HHJ Ratchik QC: I am afraid that date is a Judicial Sentencing Conference. A necessary commitment for the judiciary. It is difficult to keep abreast of all these changes. Schedule “This” and Schedule “That” meaning a defendant is a dangerous offender on Tuesday and a candidate for probation by Thursday. All defendants being released at the half way point in their sentence, unless they are not, because of a different Schedule which means they are released at some other point, unless the prisons are full lthen they will probably be released on a tag half an hour before I pass sentence….

Fi Owen: Quite Your Honour, perhaps I may suggest….

(The Judge has however, warmed to his theme and is not to be interrupted)

HHJ Ratchik QC: ….and then you have the Sentencing Guidelines from the Council with their differing culpability features and impact features and their additional features so you can have one from the top and three from the middle and one from the bottom. It can all be such a conundrum. So that sentencing conference is a real must Miss Owen. No rest for the wicked. (The Judge chuckles to himself) Or those that sentence the wicked.

Fi Owen: Yes, quite Your Honour. I was going to suggest the following day? Tuesday the 24th?

HHJ Ratchik QC: Oh no, Miss Owen. That is the last Tuesday of the month. That is “why did your trial crack?” day. Lots of cases listed that day. Far too many for me to deal with anything else. Can’t list the sentence that day.

Fi Owen: In any event I spoke too soon, looking at my diary I cannot attend that day.

HHJ Ratchik QC: Oh, Miss Owen, you will be here. Explaining why the trial cracked. It is just that we don’t have the time to do the sentence that day. And you Mr Bailey-Haq, you’ll have to be here as well.

Bailey-Haq: Your Honour may I suggest that we provide that explanation on the day of sentence? Would seem to make sense to avoid a hearing…..

HHJ Ratchik QC: No, Mr Bailey-Haq. The last Tuesday of every month is “why did your trial crack?” day so that is the day for explanations. Not the last Wednesday or the first Thursday. It is the last Tuesday. You don’t go having Christmas dinner on Boxing Day do you Mr Bailey-Haq? That’s the way of anarchy.

Fi Owen: Perhaps I can suggest the following day then? The Wednesday?

(The Clerk stands up. He addresses the Judge in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear.)

Clerk: Listing have asked us to avoid the 25th. Apparently you have 43 preliminary hearings listed that day. There is no room for anything else.

HHJ Ratchik QC: Sorry, Miss Owen. You heard that, its a “no can do” I’m afraid. Have a lot of timetabling to do that day. Lots of orders to make.

Fi Owen: (sighs) The Thursday then? Your Honour will not be engaged in “why did your trial not crack?” Tuesday or in “preliminary hearing” Wednesday so can we do the sentence on the Thursday of that week?

HHJ Ratchik QC: No Miss Owen. That is the last Thursday of the month. That is “why have the CPS failed to comply with orders I made five Wednesdays earlier on Prelim day?” day. That is a packed list, I can tell you. So that’s a no.

(The Judge leans forward and speaks to his clerk.)

HHJ Ratchik QC: Actually add this case to the list that day.

(Both advocates look relieved. It is short lived.)

HHJ Ratchik QC: Yes, Mr Bailey-Haq, it just occurred to me that I will be seeing you that day so you can explain why the CPS had not reviewed and served the CCTV disc sooner than today.

Bailey-Haq: I anticipate that I will be providing the same explanation on “why did your trial crack?” Tuesday so perhaps a further appearance is unnecessary and….

(The Judge cuts across him.)

HHJ Ratchik QC: Christmas Dinner on Boxing Day, Mr Bailey-Haq, Christmas Dinner on Boxing Day. Anarchy. Do you see?

(Bailey-Haq seems to give up and sits down)

HHJ Ratchik QC: Well we are getting nowhere fast. I will list this case on Friday 27th for sentence.

Fi Owen: I am afraid that I am in the Court of Appeal that day Your Honour.

HHJ Ratchik QC: We could do this all day long Miss Owen. I have to draw a line somewhere. I am sure there are plenty of eager, young advocates in your chambers who will be able to accept the sentence of Mr Sykes here on that Friday.

Fi Owen: I feel constrained to point out to Your Honour that, as this was an either way offence where the defendant elected that cracked on the day of trial, the fee is only £194.

HHJ Ratchik QC: Miss Owen, I know that things have been a little tough for the Bar recently but I am sure you can find someone junior prepared to conduct a sentence for £194. Not a princely sum I know, but surely there will be plenty of takers.

Fi Owen: Your Honour misunderstands me. That is the total fee payable for the case. For this case. From start to finish. The moment he pleaded and the prosecution accepted the plea I have been effectively paying for the privilege of representing Mr Sykes.

HHJ Ratchik QC: How on earth has that happened?

Fi Owen: Those are the Government’s rules Your Honour….

HHJ Ratchik QC: I appreciate that. What I mean is how come you allowed this to be a cracked trial?

Fi Owen: Because I have no control over it. The defendant decides what he decides, the Prosecution decide what they decide and I pick up the bill. I could have tried to insist that we had a three day trial. I could have encouraged my Learned Friend to give it a go before the Jury and rely upon their good sense to see the video and acquit the defendant. I could have refused to take further instructions from my lay client. I could have guaranteed a decent fee by swearing in a jury. I could have done all that and Your Honour’s trial for tomorrow would have got precisely nowhere. But I didn’t. And now I have two thirds of not very much to cover the PCMH, today and the sentence. And any other mention that the case has required or will require. So, Your Honour, there is a lot of explaining that needs doing. The first thing being why on earth I carry on doing this awful job….

(The court is totally silent. Miss Owen leans on her lectern, a tad out of breath)

HHJ Ratchik QC: Did you originally say three weeks today Miss Owen? On second thoughts, it may be that we can accommodate you….

One Rule for You…..

A busy PCMH list. The case of Regina v Neerdowell is called on before Her Honour Judge Potts-Puntahs. Mr Harry Charles Andrews prosecutes and Miss Fi Owen defends.

The Court Clerk: Are you Richard Neerdowell?

Def: Yes, miss.

The Court Clerk: Thank you, sit down.

Miss Owen: Your Honour, I appear to defend and my learned friend Mr Andrews appears on behalf of the prosecution. It is my application that the defendant not be arraigned today as the prosecution only served the papers yesterday….

HHJ: Is that right Mr Andrews?

Mr Andrews: Yes, Your Honour.

HHJ: They were ordered to be served six weeks ago Mr Andrews.

Mr Andrews: I know You Honour. It is a minor miracle they are here now.

HHJ: We’ll say no more about it Mr Andrews. Whilst the orders of the court are important, justice being done in the end is what matters. Now, Miss Owen, why can’t your client be arraigned?

Miss Owen: He has not had a conference with trial counsel….

HHJ: Miss Owen, you are here and can discuss matters with the defendant. You are here to make progress with the case, it is your duty to deal with the case expeditiously. Cases are meant to be ready for trial by the PCMH. Now, Mr Andrews, is this the proposed trial indictment?

Mr Andrews: It is the indictment that has been drafted, although the trial advocate has yet to be identified so they may take a different view.

HHJ: I quite understand, Mr Andrews. The Crown can have 28 days to notify the court who will be conducting the trial. Now, Miss Owen, any good reason why the defendant should not be arraigned?

Miss Owen: As I say those who instruct me only received the papers yesterday so the defendant hasn’t even seen them yet….

HHJ: Yes, well he knows whether he has done it or not, so the question of his plea is a simple one. Is he guilty or not?

Miss Owen: But it is not that simple. He is charged with possession of a prohibited firearm. A person in that situation does not necessarily know whether it falls within that definition or not….

HHJ: If he wants full credit he had better make it his business to know.

Miss Owen: But, with respect Your Honour, it is the sort of thing only an expert can know. And the defendant is not an expert.

HHJ: Let me make a note of that…. (speaks sotto voce whilst writing) “lethal weapon in hands of man who does not know what he is doing, potential aggravating feature” (the Judge finishes writing and looks back at counsel) Right, Mr Andrews, is there a report about the item?

Mr Andrews: Yes, Your Honour, the short form forensic expert’s report is at page 22 of the bundle….

Miss Owen: (leaps to her feet) When my learned friend says “expert” that is not accepted by the defence, Your Honour.

HHJ: Who is the expert Mr Andrews?

Mr Andrews: I understand that it is Bob Gunn, a civilian worker for the police armoury. Well, when I say civilian worker, I in fact mean cleaner. But he is quite a fan of the Dirty Harry films. And whilst it is still only the short form of his report it would appear that, in his expert opinion, it looks quite like the sort of thing that could, in a certain light, be a handgun. Whilst I accept that it is not perfect it is all we have been able to obtain in the nine months that have elapsed between this defendant’s arrest and his charge.

HHJ: I quite understand Mr Andrews. This is, after all, only one of hundreds of cases that the police and those who instruct you are dealing with. Now, Miss Owen, anything else to say on the subject of arraignment?

Miss Owen: Yes, Your Honour, it would be my submission that this is a case that should be dismissed for lack of evidence….

HHJ: That is an application I would ordinarily expect to receive in writing, Miss Owen….

Miss Owen: I know, but, as Your Honour knows, I only got the papers yesterday…

HHJ: Miss Owen you have had the papers overnight. That is more than enough time for you to consider them and draft the appropriate written applications. This really is not good enough Miss Owen. In this one instance, Miss Owen, I am prepared to deal with your application without written notice and I am against you.

Miss Owen: But….

HHJ: (raising voice) Miss Owen, I have given my ruling. It seems to me that there is adequate evidence to raise at least the suspicion that this defendant may have committed some offence of a nature which it is unnecessary to specify with any degree of precision at this moment in time. Now if only you recognised that fact then this defendant may have been given some proper advice in conference. But as he hasn’t all we can do is have him arraigned and put the public to the expense of a trial.

(The defendant is arraigned and enters a plea of Not Guilty)

HHJ: Miss Owen, where is the defence case statement?

Miss Owen: As the papers were only served yesterday statute allows a further 27 days for the provision of a defence case statement.

HHJ: That’s not very helpful. It doesn’t matter what statute says, have you not read the Criminal Procedure Rules? A defence case statement is vital to the effective conduct of a PCMH. Your consistent failures are most obstructive.

Miss Owen: But it’s not my fault, the Prosecution served the papers late.

HHJ: This is not the forum to carp, Miss Owens. This is a court with a “can do” outlook. And you are the one that “has not.” Did those who instruct you chase the papers?

Miss Owen: Yes they did, they sent two emails to the Crown and one to the court. They received no respon….

HHJ: (interrupting) But did they chase the response? Did they email every day? Did they go round to the offices of the Crown and chain themselves to the railings until they were given the papers? No, Miss Owen, no they did not. The criminal procedure rules are not a parlour game Miss Owen. Everyone needs to collaborate to convict the guilty. Now, your solicitor can provide the court with a signed, typed DCS by 4.30 today.

Miss Owen: I am not attended by a solicitor today. Since all the cuts they don’t send anyone. In fact they don’t even employ anyone they could send….

HHJ: In that case, Miss Owen, it looks like you’ll be providing a signed defence case statement by close of business. Right, now, trial dates.

Mr Andrews: I am told by the listing officer that there is a two day trial slot available in the first week of November, Your Honour. I should make it clear that is November 2015.

Miss Owen: I hold the brief on behalf of my learned friend Mr N’Lucky who is already engaged on a trial that week. But he is available the week after.

HHJ: As you have been so keen to point out, Mr N’Lucky has not had a conference and the court cannot countenance delaying this case for his availability. Justice delayed is justice denied and all that.

Mr Andrews: I should say that I don’t have witness availability today, may I have seven days liberty to vacate?

HHJ: Of course, Mr Andrews. Now the advantage of the case being heard in 2015 is that a mattress on the floor in the corner of a cell in HMP Overfill may have come free by then….

THERE IS A CONSULTATION THAT STILL NEEDS RESPONDING TO. YOU CAN DO SO HERE.

A Fairy Story

Picture, if you will, two island states. One of them is called the Great Barrister Isles, the other is the Isle of Solicitors. The Great Barrister Isles are made up of lots of little independent countries, the Isle of Solicitors is more tribal but a proud and venerable civilisation none the less.

Dividing these two great island nations is a patch of water called the Referral Straits. This area of sea is of critical strategic importance to both civilisations. It is also the trade route between the two. Each of the nations had very different traditions and strengths. The Great Barrister Isles fished in the seas around them. The Isle of Solicitors had enormous mineral reserves. Trade between the two nations was vital.

One day the people of these two islands awoke to find that they had been besieged. At every port and along every shipping lane a hostile naval force threatened them. Each of these ships bore the flag of a people known as the Moj-rathki. The Moj-rathki were an infamous breed of bloodthirsty warriors and attack dogs.

The Moj-rathki sent messages to leaders of both islands and made it known that they wanted to annex parts of each of the islands to take as their own and they wanted control of the Referral Straits as part of their national waters, the Sea of Dual Contracts.

Now the Great Barrister Islands had always been a fighting, seafaring nation. Every seaworthy vessel was commandeered and made ready for battle. Every able bodied man and woman (for they had taken great steps in warrior diversity) boarded the ships and set out to confront the Moj-rathki. They amassed a fleet of 41 Dreadnoughts and behind them came the armada of smaller boats. They vowed not to surrender and called themselves the Fleet of No Return.

Things were more complicated on the Isle of Solicitors. They were indeed a large and powerful fighting force. However tribal loyalties made massing together a more complicated task. They also had no naval heritage to speak of and insufficient boats to take the fight to the Moj-rathki. You see the Great Barrister Isles had a always transported whatever was needed to and from them. So they had to stand on their shores and watch the Fleet of No Return sail into battle.

When the Moj-rathki saw the Fleet of No Return it could see that they had under estimated their task. Their leader called upon the Admiral of the Fleet to join him on his ship, The Petty France.

And so it was that onboard The Petty France the leader of the Moj-rathki, a giant known as the Grey King, and the Admiral struck a deal. The Moj-rathki would still lay claim to the disputed Straits but would allow the Great Barrister Isles to retain fishing rights. The Fleet of No Return would disband and resume their normal peacetime sea-faring activity. The Moj-rathki wanted an undertaking that the 41 Dreadnoughts would also return to port but the Admiral thought it best to allow them to patrol the Straits still. The Moj-rathki agreed not to annex any part of the Great Barrister Isles until at least four more seasons had passed.

The Peace Accord was not universally well received. Some were concerned that the Dreadnoughts had been left exposed, others worried what would happen to their neighbours and allies.

The Grey King called the Admiral back to this ship. He assured the Admiral that he had no plans to sink the Dreadnoughts. He understood that there were concerns. He assured the Admiral that he wanted to see the Great Barrister Isles flourish as before.

So the Peace Accord was reached. Of course the Isle of Solicitors were still besieged. No ships could come in or out of their shores. The Great Barrister Isles complained to the Moj-rathki on their behalf. They petitioned that their neighbours were being treated badly. The Grey King dismissed their complaints.

“It is out of my hands,” he said, “the Great God Gideon and the Goddess Cost have decreed it.”

As the siege carried on the Isle of Solicitors grew weaker. Although rich in mineral reserves they had little food to keep them going. They had always relied upon trading with others to survive. And they had always relied upon that trade coming to them. One by one, whole tribes began to be wiped out.

Of course the Great Barrister Isles still had their fish. Yes they suffered by not being able to trade with their neighbours like they had before but fish could keep them going. The Dreadnoughts proved hugely successful in protecting their fishing rights.

Until one night. One night the Grey King ordered a portion of his navy into the Straits. These were ageing old hulks of once great warships. However he now deployed them in a new way. He set fire to their timbers and set them on course for the Dreadnoughts. Oh the Grey King was very pleased with the sight of his Pyrotechnic Dreadnought Scupperers sinking the 41.

The Admiral was very cross and said to the Grey King, “you told me that you had no plans to attack the 41.”

“I didn’t have any plans to do so. When I said it,” answered the Grey King.

With the burning hulks of ships littering the Straits it became more difficult for the smaller fishing boats to venture out and feed the Great Barrister Isles.

Over on the Isle of Solicitors the few tribes that remained formulated a survival plan. All the time that this had been going on a few of them had been sewing. That had not seemed like a great plan to fight a war. However it was cunning. Their sewing produced vast nets that they were able to throw into the Straits at their narrowest point. They were able to capture just enough fish to keep the tribes that remained in food.

Unfortunately the industrial sized nets used by the Isle of Solicitors meant that there were less and less fish for the fishermen from the Great Barrister Isles to catch. And less and less fishermen were even able to set to sea as more and more Pyrotechnic Dreadnought Scupperers drifted around the Straits.

Slowly but surely the siege had worked in different ways. The Great Barrister Isles preserved the integrity of their borders but few citizens remained to defend it. A few tribes managed to eek out an existence on the Isle of Solicitors. The once beautiful Straits of Referral were now littered with the pollution caused by the burnt out relics that floated on its surface.

Neither Isle had lost. Neither Isle had won. The Grey King chuckled to himself every night.