Tag Archives: justice

Ten Green Bottles

Ten green bottles hanging on a wall, ten green bottles hanging on a wall…..

It was anticipated that the announcement as to who had “won” (I use the word somewhat loosely) the new duty contracts pursuant to the Two Tier system was coming last Friday. Then it was not. It was put back to 15th October.

The MoJ informed those anxiously waiting that “(w)e regret that we will not be able to notify bidders this week about the outcome of the crime duty tender, as previously indicated. We understand the anxiety this could cause bidding organisations and are working hard to finalise the quality assurance required to make sure these important decisions are right.”

Now if one green bottle should accidentally fall…..

So what happened to cause the announcement to be put back? We do not actually know because the MoJ, despite their concern and their regret, have not actually deigned to tell those anxiously waiting what the hold up is.

It could well be that the delay is related to developments with a firm of solicitors called Blavo. It may be that it is  not. It may well just be one hell of a coincidence. 

For those that missed it in the middle of last week Blavo, a firm with a national profile and with areas of work including crime and mental health, announced that they were consulting on redundancies. There was talk of the impact of legal aid cuts and the need to restructure. The firm, it was said, was still financially secure.

Then the story took another twist with the LAA announcing that they had terminated all Blavo’s contracts and had referred the matter to the police

Now I do not know if Blavo had applied for a Duty Contract. Given the nature of their profile I anticipate that they have. I do not know if they were to be awarded a contract. And we have no way of knowing if they are on the brink of collapse, are financially secure or have done anything to justify the action taken by the LAA. And, because the MoJ are not providing information, we do not know if this has caused the delay. 

But let’s just imagine the worst case scenario for a moment. Let us imagine that they are really struggling. Let us imagine that there are some “irregularities” concerning their current contracts. Let us imagine they were just days away from getting one or more than one of the contracts on offer. 

Now that throws up a whole load of questions. If all of the above imaginings are correct what does it say about the application and scrutiny process? If they were about to be awarded a contract and it transpires that they were in financial troubles and circumstances existed to justify termination of their contracts how did they pass “the quality assurance” tests?

And what if these circumstances came to light after the award of the contracts? Would other firms who missed out not be able to question how it is that an unviable firm got a contract and their viable firm did not? What if it took nine months of the contract irregularities to come out? So the firm already had a number of duty contracts and now the LAA realise that there were problems with their previous contracts. Nine months after consolidation their rival bidders may have been consolidated all the way to the dole queue….

That prospect is of particular concern when the firm undertakes other areas of “niche” work. Let us say Blavo do most of the mental health work in a town. They have one competitor that also provides that service. Both firms have been finding it tough since the Legal Aid cuts. Blavo get a crime contract, the other firm does not. The other firm goes out of business as a result. Then the irregularities come to light and the LAA terminates all the contracts. Suddenly you have no provision for mental health representation in that area. That is an advice desert. That is the game of Russian Roulette the MoJ are playing with our justice system. 

Remember that the Duty Contract is no guarantee of long term security. There are more adjustments to the fees coming along. When I say “adjustments”, I mean cuts. Court closures can threaten the viability of firms (imagine Firm A have a healthy amount of own client work that tends to be in the court building just down the road from their office, when that court closes and they have to travel for up to an hour each way to represent these same clients that can suddenly impact upon the meagre profits they previously made). 

On top of that there is uncertainty about how firms are going to be able to keep work in house. I do not for one moment imagine that there is going to be some sort of ban on in house advocacy but there is, now, uncertainty. If a firm was banking on being able to keep a percentage of work in house, they cannot bank on it any more.

This is the precarious market that the MoJ seem to make more precarious with every step they take. Hopefully Blavo’s current problems are all ironed out smoothly. Hopefully this is only a warning to the MoJ. It is, however, a warning they should heed. It does not take much for there to be…..

……no green bottles hanging on the wall.

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…….

Easy Read Guide to Being Lord Chancellor

This is an easy read guide for those who do not know very much about the law and how the law works. Such people are some times called “Graylings”.

What is the High Court?

The High Court is somewhere a bunch of people who no one voted for make decisions based on what Foreigners (or Europeans) think is best.

Someone who is accused of making a bad decision and goes to court is often called a Lord Chancellor.

An example of a bad decision is when the Lord Chancellor hides a load of info that he uses to make his bad decision.

This process is sometimes called Judicial Review but people in power often call it a right pain in the arse.

Before you go to court.

Make sure you spend a lot of time getting on the telly or the radio to tell everyone it is not your fault.

It is a very good idea to blame Foreigners.

If you cannot blame Foreigners, blame Immigrants.

Immigrants are also Foreigners but people are more scared of Immigrants and are more likely to vote UKIP unless you blame them for everything.

If it is really hard to blame Foreigners or Immigrants you can try to blame Left Wing Liberals.

At the same time as blaming someone else, make sure a friend from your College at Oxbridge writes something about a prisoner getting Legal Aid because his mattress is too hard.

Don’t worry if that’s not true.

When you get to the court

Make sure you pay lawyers a lot of money to do exactly what you say.

Pay them a lot of money to make sure you get a really good lawyer. Pay them a lot more than you pay Legal Aid lawyers.

At the same time make sure the other side cannot pay a lawyer at all.

This is called equality of arms.

You have two arms. They are allowed two arms.

Just make sure you have more lawyers.

Sometimes they will have lawyers who are doing the case pro bono. Pro bono means they are doing it for free.

If a lawyer does a case pro bono make sure someone who works for you sends your friend from Oxbridge the amount the lawyer received from Legal Aid last year.

Make sure this number is big by adding in the VAT.

If there is a hearing, who is who?

The person sitting at the front facing you is the Judge.

If the Judge finds you made a bad decision he is out of touch.

If the Judge finds you did not make a bad decision then give them the next Judge led inquiry.

The person who says you made a bad decision is a pressure group. Their lawyer is called a fat cat.

What happens at the hearing?

Keep repeating that the decision you made is policy and it is all about politics. Judges are allergic to politics.

Get some civil servants to give some made up facts and numbers. Call this evidence.

When the other side say what is really happening because of your decision, call this anecdotal.

If anecdotal does not work, also say the words self serving.

What happens if you lose?

A Judge may think what you did was as unreasonable as a small town just outside of Birmingham.

If you hear the word “Wednesbury” make sure it was someone else’s decision.

Then deny that the decision had ever been made.

Then make some minor changes.

Do what you always planned to do in any event.

What happens if you keep losing?

Complain about it a lot.

Change the rules to make it much more difficult for people to complain about your decisions.

Keep on repeating how what you are doing makes the rule of law stronger.

Ignore all the lawyers who say that stopping the weak complaining about the powerful is wrong.

Use the words fat cat, liberals and self interest again. And again.

Then throw a big expensive party, or Global Law Summit, to celebrate how strong you have made the rule of law.

Then laugh all they way on to the Board of various global businesses.

Towering Inferno

The current Lord Chancellor likes to see the criminal justice system as a business. Pieces to be sold off to the highest bidder, success being measured in cost saving rather than quality. The boss wants to achieve efficiency and cares nothing for justice.

If it was a business then the reality is that we would torch it and claim the insurance money. It is difficult to think of a single element of the CJS that is currently working at all, let alone working well.

It is a system that is hugely inefficient. It seems the Crown Prosecution Service are incapable of getting a single set of papers out on time. The result? Wasted hearings, poorly prepared hearings and wasted money.

Preliminary hearings in every Crown Court case clog the lists. “Provisional” trial dates are set with no idea as to witness availability. Actually that’s not true. The dates are set with no idea as to who the witnesses are, what they say or even if there are any witnesses. You may as well book me in for an appendectomy in six months time, just in case my appendix ruptures.

The result? Wasted hearings, poorly prepared hearings and wasted money. Oh, and huge delay. Every day a Circuit Judge deals with orders that the Magistrates could have dealt with in a dozen or so cases. Meanwhile that Judge cannot hear a trial. Elsewhere in the list another a Judge fixes a whole series of trial dates that probably are not needed. Meanwhile in August 2014 a two day, non-custody burglary trial is listed for April 2015. Utter lunacy.

If the boss is bothered by “results” and “efficiency” he needs to reach for the petrol can and the matches. If the boss cares about quality and justice, he needs to reach for the chequebook.

Of Books and Bingo

One of the things that the public never grasp, that I never grasped until I became a barrister, is that ordinary people end up in prison too. A lot of them. Not every prisoner is a tattoo’d violent thug. Not every prisoner is stuck in the revolving door of the prison system. That the public do not understand it is understandable, that the MoJ should base every policy and public utterance on this fallacy is disgraceful.

Disgraceful but not entirely surprising. My previous experience of politics has always been as an interested observer. Never before have I been so directly interested in a particular department that I have paid as much interest in the goings on of a ministry as I have been since the Transforming Legal Aid consultation was announced. So now I realise that the Ministry of Justice will never let the truth hinder their thoughts, actions or public pronouncements.

So the “book ban” story has been a fine example of their general approach. It is a shame that the “justice ban” brought about by the restrictions on access to courts for prisoners has not received as much media attention but I will take my exposure of the MoJ wherever I can. And in this case they are exposed as lying, cheating, penny pinchers who put the monetary cost of anything ahead of its value.

The restriction on books and other items being sent into prisoners is contained within a prison circular designed to promote the “Incentives and Enhanced Privileges” scheme. The context is given that it is too easy for prisoners to just have things sent in for them. They should earn their access to things by being compliant in the prison. Then they will be able to earn money to buy the things that may improve the hours spent otherwise idle. The early statements from the MoJ defending this policy were all about this. This is of course a blanket ban introduced based on the idea that every offender is in need of, and is resistant to, rehabilitation. It does not cater for the idea that being able to receive small personal things from the outside world may act as a brake to an offender’s further descent into poor behaviour. If the idea was that you had to earn the right to have things like books why not just introduce that you had to earn the right to have them sent in from outside?

Then came the change. Then came the justification that parcels had to be banned because they were being abused by prisoners seeking to receive contraband items such as phones and drugs. The parcels could not be screened for the presence of such things. Something had to be done. A ban was the only answer.

If that were true then the only answer to the tide of drugs and phones in prison is to ban prison officers from entering the prison estate. And to ban new prisoners as well. As anyone knows there are a number of ways drugs etc get into prisons. They are sent hidden in parcels (albeit I venture to suggest rarely), they are carried in hidden about new prisoners or visitors, they are thrown over prison walls or they are conveyed by corrupt prison workers. If the answer to the drug problem in prisons is to ban the means of them being smuggled then you are going to have some pretty empty prisons devoid of prisoners or guards.

So the truth is that in order to tackle one problem the MoJ will create another problem and hide it in a false justification. The problem seems to be that prisons cannot afford the labour or the equipment involved in checking parcels that enter the establishment. So something which is generally seen as a positive influence is sacrificed on the altar of cost.

And I seriously hope that it is only cost that has come into this equation and not profit. I recently came across this article which kind of made sense. There is profit to be made from the prison estate having a single supplier of items to their captive market. I believe that David Mowat MP would call that an anti-competitive cartel. I am sure he will be raising questions in the House about it.

I hope someone will. Because on the Today programme Jeremy Wright was asked to identify the business that would supply the books to prisoners. He came nowhere close to answering. Are the MoJ making money out of this cartel with a single supplier into the prison estate? As you can see from the InsideTimes article the prison service justified the 5% profit they were making on Argos orders as covering the administration charge. In that case, why not charge for a parcel being checked? Either payable by the family member when it is dropped off or payable out of the prisoner’s money if they want the parcel to come to their cell.

Charge £1 a parcel for prisoners who have been allowed the privilege of receiving parcels. Discipline and costs covered. Bingo! And the Government like Bingo.

The Book of Moron

This weekend I watched a little bit of Sport Relief. Davina McCall was visiting a quarry where young children worked. She returned with one of the children to her corrugated tin home. The child produced from a bag her most treasured possessions – two tattered school books without covers that had been given to her by a friend. In these books she carefully copied any word vaguely medical as she wanted to be a doctor. In the midst of all that poverty, deprivation and struggle books were a true symbol of hope.

Thankfully we do not have children working in quarries. We do have people in custodial institutions. The vast majority of them are richly deserving of punishment. We have to hope that most of them are capable of redemption. Many of them will be poorly educated. Thanks to the Lord Chancellor all of them will now struggle to have books sent into them from their family of friends.

We know that the Lord Chancellor is not a man to let a sensible policy get in the way of a headline. We know he likes that photograph of him, arms folded, locked prison gate in the background, looking all tough. But books? Really?

I have delivered many a lame mitigation in my time but I have never ever uttered the phrase “what started out as a few social stanzas with friends soon grew to an out of control spiral of book abuse and so began my client’s descent into criminality”. Not once.

What ill is the book ban hoping to stamp out? Is Grayling worried that prisoners may be given ideas from “Escape from Colditz”? Has there been an outbreak of prisoners getting over the wall by climbing a tottering pile of Enid Blyton? Has tobacco and cannabis been replaced by “Pickwick Papers” as the currency of the landings? Has the front page of the Daily Mail been filled with stories of how prisons are becoming more like holiday camps because of the endless supply of autobiographies?

The answer it seems is that they want to encourage prisoners to earn money to buy books. Having looked at the prison incentive scheme it strikes me that it is probably easier for a prisoner to have a TV in his cell and a Playstation than it is for his family to send him a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

I appreciate that the system of reward and privilege is an essential part of prison discipline. It would be more reassuring if the Lord Chancellor would expend more energy explaining that to the public than he does on endless tinkering. However books are such a powerful, positive influence on people that their widespread availability is something to be cherished and promoted.

Rights and privileges are a hallmark of a decent society. Whilst I pause to observe that there is an irony in a Minister of Justice who wishes to lessen the rights of prisoners whilst making privileges out of rights I will say that the access to education through literature is to be cherished as a right, not dangled as a reward. I do not for one moment kid myself that every violent thug is going to have his life transformed by reading Proust but surely we have to see that if a starving child in Africa can be touched by the power of the written word then there is a man in Strangeways who may find a inspiration in life through reading.

I am tempted to send Mr Grayling one or two books. “The Rule of Law” and “The Morality of Law” might be good places to start. Or maybe just “Nutshell’s Guide to Being Lord Chancellor”. You see I believe even our errant Minister of Justice can find redemption in the written word. That is testament to how powerful it can be.

My personal response to the Legal Aid consultation

This is my response to the second consultation concerning Legal Aid. I begin by making it clear that this is not a “template” response. A large number of responses to the first part of this consultation were dismissed as “template” responses. I am unsure as to what is thought of as a “template” response but I can assure you, this is a very personal response to what you propose. I will deal only with advocacy fees in this personal response as that is the only area I wish to make further comment on.

I should make it clear that I adopt the response already submitted by the Northern Circuit, indeed I contributed to it in a small way. I also adopt the response submitted by the CBA. I have been particularly impressed by the response that I have seen from Treasury Counsel. I have no doubt that a lot of what I and others have said will be dismissed as self-interest. That accusation can not be levelled against Treasury Counsel. Treasury Counsel are the sort of lawyers that the Government are prepared to pay appropriately to advise and represent them in complex and difficult cases. Do not be the worst sort of client. Listen and heed their advice.

Now I am sure whoever is reading this will recall well my response to the previous consultation. If not I can summarise it in this way; I told you PCT was a very bad idea. I suspect thousands of people told you the same thing. Guess what? I was right. Whilst my twenty years operating in the criminal courts meant that I was steeped in self-interest it also gave me the knowledge and experience that allowed me to recognise that PCT was wrong.

So I bring my experience and knowledge to consider your latest consultation. My response can be summarised thus – your proposals will drive the Criminal Justice System to disaster.

Okay, I know you think that is a little sensationalist. Hysterical, you might say. It is not. Let me explain to you why the CJS is teetering on the brink. The future is yours to shape.

In relation to VHCCs you consider that reducing fees by 30% would not have an impact on the quality of representation for defendants in those type of cases. Now I remember applying to go on the panel for these type of cases. We had to demonstrate that we had the skills, experience and expertise to undertake these complex and difficult cases. I do not believe that anyone could ever argue that the vast majority of VHCCs are anything but complex and difficult.

On Wednesday 23rd October a story printed in the Guardian revealed the fees paid by the Government to lawyers to represent them in inquiries such as Leveson. I have no doubt that such work is complex and difficult. Indeed the MoJ response said that these fees were paid in cases involving “the most complex legal challenges” which meant using “the most experienced barristers” which resulted in the best outcome for the taxpayer. From that I extrapolate that the MoJ recognise the fact that you “get what you pay for.”

You have now decided to pay 30% less in the most complex legal challenges that arise in the criminal courts. The result? The most experienced barristers will not undertake this sort of work. The standard of representation will drop. I have no doubt whatsoever that people will turn away from such work in droves. Only the desperate or the unemployable will do this work in the future. The absence of the best in these type of cases will mean one thing. They will get longer and more inefficient. Ask the judiciary. Highly skilled advocates shorten cases.

At the very least you could be logical and consistent in your approach to pay in those cases that involve the most complex legal challenges.

I now turn to your proposals for fees in relation to the majority of advocacy conducted in the Crown Court.

Let me explain the current position. At the moment if I undertake work which is not publicly funded I can earn in two days what I earn in a week from my criminal Legal Aid work. So I could choose to use my twenty years of experience to make sure that a vulnerable victim in a sex case is cross-examined properly. By that I mean in a way which fearlessly represents the defendant and is tailored to the needs and situation of the witness. This will be a case where I have spent many hours outside of court editing video and other interviews to concentrate on the issues, saving considerable court time. Undertaking such work is difficult. I am not going to make any bones about it here. It is harrowing work. I have seen things that are seared in to my memory forever. I have to deal with difficult clients. The sort of people you would not want to be in the company of. I have to spend hours in small rooms with them establishing a rapport.

So what point am I making? Well I could try to do two days of private paying work and have the rest of the week off. Or I can do the five day rape case. At the moment I do the five day rape case. I do so because I believe it is important that a criminal case is an even contest between advocates of skill. At the end of the case, if my client is convicted, I have played my part in this vital aspect of a free and democratic society. Cut the fees and my choice will go the other way.

I know The Lord Chancellor seems to think that we can all supplement our Legal Aid income with private work. That is not true. At the moment I devote my time and effort to develop my criminal work. If I were to rely upon private work I would have to devote myself to that. It would have to take priority in my diary. My criminal work would suffer, dwindle and then expire. I do not want that to happen. However I simply cannot face doing another child rape being paid significantly less than I am now.

You test the market. The market will answer. By walking out of the door.

Your consultation gives two options. That is not a consultation. That is a choice between a bad thing and a bad thing.

A scheme involving tapering is invidious. You have not produced one scrap of evidence that this will shorten cases. Not one scrap. It is just a device of paying less. That is all.

The second scheme, the bastardised Bar Council proposal, is wrong because the scheme mooted by the Bar Council was to provide administrative savings and to produce quick payment. The Bar Council recognised that there may be an element of swings and roundabouts in a scheme with less factors being used to identify the fee per case. It was only sustainable if the overall level of fees remained fixed.

Neither scheme meets my approval. Neither scheme is appropriate. Again I will make myself plain. The numbers in the boxes are not enough.

I repeat something which I know is in the Northern Circuit Response. Fees were set by independent review conducted by Lord Carter. It is well known he suggested that appropriate remuneration was generally greater than the fees ultimately introduced by the administration of the day. So that is someone not acting out of self-interest who recognised the appropriate level of remuneration for conducting this type of work. Since that time fees have drastically reduced. So the Bar have already taken their medicine when it comes to the economic plight of the country. I am already not being paid according to the work that I do. How dare you suggest I should be paid less.

So this is what I propose. An independent panel to consider the appropriate level of remuneration for the different types of offending. That panel could compare the rates received by advocates in comparison to the private sector. It could consider what is appropriate bearing in mind the lack of pension etc. It could consider what is required to ensure that criminal advocacy is an attractive route of able lawyers to pursue. It could consider the cost of living. Exactly the sort of thing that has happened for MP’s pay. What could possibly be wrong with that? I am confident to be subjected to such scrutiny. I bet the MoJ would not go near it. Because you know it will prove everything else I have said is right.

The course you currently seem intent on pursuing will drive the talented and experienced people away from the profession. Candidates with potential will not apply to join. You will be left with a rump of poor quality advocates. The Lord Chancellor is meant to ensure that there are appropriate resources to ensure the efficient and effective support of the courts. The principle resource are the people working in the system. The Lord Chancellor is not performing his basic task if he drives us all away.

I was right about PCT. I am right about this.