Tag Archives: judicial review

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….


Justice Delayed is Justice Saved

Dear Lord Chancellor,

Tomorrow the Court of Appeal deliver their judgment on the appeal brought by solicitors in respect of the Judicial Review into the Dual Contract process. The Dual Contract process, as you know, is the mechanism by which the MoJ intend to “consolidate” the market of providers of Legal Services remunerated by Legal Aid. The MoJ recognise that the only way that solicitors can survive after your next round of cuts is to reduce the number of solicitors that can do the work and therefore increase the volume of work done by each firm that survives. In order to stop solicitors going out of business you are having to make sure that solicitors go out of business.

Now I am not writing this to harangue you about fee cuts or your idealogical restrictions on access to justice. I admit that I have, from time to time, mocked you, ridiculed you and probably been insulting towards you. I have criticised what you have done and your reasons for doing so.

However this is not the time or the place for such expressions of anger, derision or disagreement. This is the time to ask you, no, to implore you to take the next step appropriately, whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s hearing.

If the court rules in your favour then the tender process can re-start and we are set on a course that could see hundreds of firms disappear from the High Street. The legal landscape will be changed forever. It is exactly the sort of change that is very difficult to reverse. I urge caution upon you. DO NOT RESTART THE PROCESS.

We are 48 days away from a General Election. Any combination of things may happen. There has never been more uncertainty about the outcome of a General Election with minority governments, coalitions, a Labour administration or a Conservative administration all a real possibility. You may or not be in power. You may or may not be Lord Chancellor.

Forget purdah. Forget the niceties and conventions of the Civil Service. DO NOT TAKE THIS STEP THAT WILL IRREVOCABLY CHANGE THE JUSTICE SYSTEM. That is the only sensible, prudent, statesmanlike thing to do. Delaying now is not going to be a sign of weakness. It is not going to blow open the budget or the deficit.

And if the solicitors win? Just pause. Do not waste money on appeals. Do not rush through a false consultation. Pause. Think. Reflect.

Let me remind you of this

The Ministry does not know, and has shown little interest in, the knock-on costs of its reforms across the wider public sector as a result of increased physical and mental health problems caused by the inability to access advice to resolve legal problems.

It therefore has no idea whether the projected £300 million spending reduction in its own budget is outweighed by additional costs elsewhere. It does not understand the link between the price it pays for legal aid and the quality of advice being given. In short, there is not a lot the Ministry does know.

Therefore, while the Ministry is on track to make a significant and rapid reduction in the cost of legal aid, it is far from clear that these savings represent value for money.

It needs to get on and urgently review the impact of its reforms and, where necessary, act to address issues such as cost-shifting and people struggling to access justice.

Those are the words of Margaret Hodge from the Public Accounts Committee concerning the errors made in recent times by your department and the civil legal aid reforms. It serves as a timely reminder of the longstanding social costs of ill-thought out reform. It shows that savings do not always equal value. It tells you what many of us have said all along – do not diminish the quality of advice and representation as that causes damage.

You may not believe we are right. You may think you have no choice other than to do what you intend to do. But a pause now, a pause before devastation ensues, may just about be the best decision you ever take.



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!

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