Tag Archives: lord chancellor

A Brief Note for Briefs

Joseph Markus from Garden Court North in Manchester, attended the CLSA and LCCSA Rally about Dual Contracts. He kindly agreed to produce this briefing note. Clearly he wrote it for publication before the General Election. However, as the time for decisions about action draws nearer, it is important that as many people as possible understand what is afoot. Joe’s note is a pretty succinct explanation of what is planned and when it is coming into effect. Maybe the new Lord Chancellor may need to read it so he is totally up to speed. 

Many thanks to Joseph for producing this. 

LCCSA rally – dual contracts

Criminal legal aid services are provided under contract to the Legal Aid Agency. The current position is that an individual firm can apply for a Standard Crime Contract, which gives that firm the opportunity to take instructions from new clients as well as join a “duty rota” under which solicitors are posted to police stations (and in some cases magistrates’ courts) in order to provide legal advice and representation to those who require it. 

The Lord Chancellor intends to split criminal legal aid work into two contracts, the first for Own Client Work (“OCW”) and the second for Duty Provider Work (“DPW”). As now, the individual firm will need to apply to the Legal Aid Agency for a contract. Under the new system firms will only be able to take on a “duty” role if they hold a DPW contract and these will only be issued to a limited number of firms throughout a particular region. The geographical regions represent considerably larger areas than firms were previously required to service. These reforms are to be made in conjunction with a net fee reduction of 17.5 per cent. The first fee cut of 8.75 per cent was implemented on 20 March 2014; the second 8.75 per cent fee cut is due in July 2015.

The Lord Chancellor believes that limiting the number of contracts in this manner, and requiring providers to commit to the provision of legal advice and representation across the whole geographical area, will produce a more efficient system where criminal legal aid providers will be able to benefit from economies of scale and the ability to offset loss-making cases with those charged at higher rates. 

The effect of this reform is acknowledged to be widespread and irreversible market consolidation. That is the only way that firms will be able to successfully demonstrate an ability to service an entire region (as required). The estimates suggest that up to 1,000 firms will be forced to close as a consequence of two-tier contracting.

We know from the argument before and the judgment of the Court of Appeal in R (The Law Society & Ors) v the Lord Chancellor [2015] EWCA Civ 230 that the number of DPW contracts will be capped at 527 and the Legal Aid Agency will award contracts based on a tendering process. The tender will consist of firms applying to the Legal Aid Agency demonstrating a capability to provide duty rotations of solicitors across the designated region.

The tender process for the 527 new DPW contracts re-commenced on 27 March 2015 and will close at midday on 5 May 2015. The tendering process would be implemented such that the contracts would start on 11 January 2016.

The Bar can expect that two-tier contracting, together with the proposed fee cuts, will have an effect on the number of cases briefed out, especially to the junior criminal Bar. The need to slash costs and run economies of scale is likely to lead to an increase in the number of Higher Court Advocates operating from within firms. 

The Labour Party has committed to scrap two-tier contracting in the event that it is returned as the UK Government in May 2015. It has pledged to review the fee cut scheduled for July 2015.

And now, the bio and marketing blurb. View From the North would like to make it clear that other barristers are available…. 

“Joe is a civil practitioner with a growing judicial review practice covering his core areas of practice (immigration and housing) as well as other fields of law. He has developed particular experience of challenges focusing on Articles 6 and 8 ECHR relating to the Legal Aid Agency’s exceptional case funding regime, having been instructed in one of the lead challenges to that regime – successful both in the High Court and Court of Appeal – as well as a number of follow-up cases”

http://www.p.co.uk/gcn./barristers/markus

 

Promises, Promises. 

A Prime Minister, facing re-election, sits in a room with a phalanx of advisors. Let’s call him “Dave” for the purposes of this story. The phalanx of advisors are of uniform appearance. The men all have slick hair that towers above their foreheads like cliffs rising from the sea. The women all have fringes that hover in the general vicinity of their eyebrows. Dark, heavy, thick rimmed glasses adorn every face. Were they not in the presence of the Prime Minister one would imagine it was a convention of presenters of TV shows about the restoration of old buildings or about ordinary people getting together to sing a choral piece or two. 

The scene speaks of serious business. You can tell that because “Dave” has his jacket off, his shirt open at the neck and his sleeves rolled up. 

“Right team,” the Prime Ministers addresses the thronged mass of spectacles, “I am serious and genuine when I say we need a plan, a tough plan, a plan that works. This nation needs a plan that gets us back on our feet. And by “us”, I mean me. And by “back on our feet” I mean my feet back under the table at Number 10. Whatever it takes. Get me ahead in the polls and another five years for me to carry out my vision of me having another five years and then retiring.”

One of the strategists adjusts his glasses and clears his throat. He glances at his colleagues and takes the plunge. 

“The issue is one of credibility. Of a public perception of a man prepared to do anything in order to find himself Prime Minister. A man willing to make any promise to buy a vote and then prepared to ditch that promise to cut a deal that gets him the top job….” the strategist is stopped mid-sentence as the PM raises his hand. 

“Don’t think I am not with you on this, that we are not both on the same page, because we are. I agree with you. The Leader of the Opposition spills out promises like Russell Brand tosses out big words. They are there for effect, not for value. But we’ve done this. And it’s not working. We need to attack in some other way. And not just by hoping the English are still scared of the Scots,” the Prime Minister takes in the whole room as he speaks. Business. He means business. You can tell by the fact he has his serious face on. Lips tight, slightly down turned and sad, puppy eyes. 

The strategist clears his throat again.

“Not the opposition, Prime Minister. It’s you. The public don’t believe your promises. They think you’ll promise anything now and renege on it later.”

“Why would they think that?” asks a slightly wounded Dave. 

“Because it’s what you did last time,” a severe fringed female from the end of the table answers, her eyes shielded by frames the Safestyle man would be proud of knocking over whilst repeating “I say, you buy one, you get one free….”

“Well what we have here is a problem and problems require solutions. We need some blue sky thinking. Putting clear water between me and the others. But not too much distance because I want their supporters to like me as much as them. And for the same reasons as them. And not too blue. Purple may work better at this election,” the Prime Minister glances at his discarded tie as he speaks, regretting the decision to wear a red, yellow, purple and green striped one. How could that appeal to anyone?

The Prime Minster produces a pen and jots the words “broken promises” on a notepad before him. 

He holds it up and shows the room. 

“So there we have the problem, and what do we do when we have a problem?” he asks the young and the bespectacled around the table. 

“Have a judge led inquiry?” says one. 

“Promise a judge led inquiry then kick it into the long grass?” suggests another. 

“No, too much danger of me having to answer difficult questions. We only have judge led inquiries into things other people have done. So I can apologise on behalf of them and appear all statesmanlike, whilst making it clear it was someone else’s fault and the previous administration had the chance to blame someone else too, but didn’t. No, this is not a time for a judge led inquiry,” the PM doing  his best football-coach-encouraging-the-kids face whilst urging the room, “so come on, what else do we do when faced with a problem like me?”

“Pass a law about it?” suggests a pair of glasses and some hair wax.

“Brilliant. Loving it. We’ll pass a law,” Dave exclaims as he writes the word “LEGISLATE” on his pad. Underlining it twice and adding an exclamation mark with smiley face at the end of it. 

“What’s the law?” asks one, all white teeth and varifocals. 

“I will promise a law that I will break the law, that I have promised, if I break any of the promises that I make about things like tax,” Dave beams as he speaks. Obviously very pleased with himself, which is an expression that comes naturally to him. 

“I’m no lawyer…..” begins one of the hair and glass combinations.

“Great, I may be in the market for a new Lord Chancellor,” interrupts Dave. 

“No, no, Prime Minister. That wasn’t a job application. I was going to say ‘I’m no lawyer, but…’ And the but is…. Isn’t it wrong to pass a law that makes things unlawful retrospectively? So you can’t pass a law to make things illegal that you are doing now? And we can’t pass the law now because Parliament isn’t sitting.”

“Already ahead of you there,” Dave answers, clearly now in a “Zone”. Not “the Zone”. But definitely a zone. 

“We don’t pass a law that makes breaking the promise unlawful,” the PM explains, “we put the promise, the promise not to raise tax, into law.”

“Why don’t you just keep the promise?” asked the newest advisor in the room. 

Eyes smile from behind the glazing in the less naive amongst the strategists. 

“Because I can’t trust myself to keep the promise,” the Prime Minister answers, “the public know that, so I have to legislate against it. To protect the public from the high likelihood that otherwise I would break the promise. It is a trust issue. And here I am, speaking to my people and resoundingly telling them ‘You are not right to trust me and that’s why you should elect me, so I can legislate to bring an end to my fickle ways’. Its logic is utterly unanswerable.”

“Shall we get some people to draft the law?” asks a lady whose fringe and glasses seem in some way conjoined. 

“Certainly not,” responds Dave. “We aren’t going to be needing that.”

“But you just promised to introduce it!” the lady cannot help but exclaim as her eyebrows rise in incredulity, but not that anyone notices. They are well disguised by her hairline, glasses rim combination. 

“No, I am promising a law. A promise that is necessary because I cannot be trusted not to break the promises I make now. But breaking the promise about the law, that’s not going to be unlawful. There is no law about that. So, once I have my slippers under the bed at Number 10, I just break the promise I made about the law preventing me from breaking promises. And do you know what the good thing is?”

A room of blank expressions and empty eyes look back at the PM.

“The public will feel good about themselves because they will have been dead right. You can’t trust me. Now I am glad we have that sorted. West Ham are playing Villa and I am praying for a draw. I call it ‘Total Coalition Football’…..”

Co-efficiency of Inefficiency 

I have now been a barrister for twenty-two years. That is a frightening thing to see committed to writing. It is probably in my Top Three Worst Things To See In Writing alongside “Jaime is bald” and “you will never fulfill your dream of playing cricket for England”. The only comfort I have is that one of those things is not true. 

Another comfort is that, in my twenty-two years as a bald, non-Test playing lawyer, I have never had to attend a Saturday court. For the uninitiated, the Magistrates’ Court sits on a Saturday morning to deal with those locked up in the previous 24 hours or so. The time limits that apply to the post arrest detention of suspects means the legal system cannot have a full weekend off. 

So the courts sit, local justice applies and Bench, lawyers and staff give up their Saturdays to run a little corner of the justice system whilst the rest of us watch James Martin chat to Ken Hom. 

I am told there has been a recent efficiency drive. That efficiency drive could be otherwise stylised as a “cutback”. Cutback is another word for “austerity mad bit of madness”.  When I first wrote that sentence I finished it with the word “bollocks” but, on reflection, “madness” is more becoming of a bald, middle-aged, jurisprudential, right hand batsman, like myself. 

This austerity mad bit of bollocks, sorry, madness, means that each of the local courts no longer sit on a Saturday. Only one does. So last Saturday only Manchester sat, as opposed to Manchester and Bolton. So Bolton cases went to Manchester. 

As luck would have it, I have been instructed in a Bolton case that appeared in Manchester Saturday court last weekend and was sent to Bolton Crown Court for this forthcoming Monday. And so that is what I am booked to do on Monday, go to Bolton and do his prelim. 

Anyone that has ever tried to move a prelim to coincide with the availability of counsel will know that, once the Magistrates have sent the case, the date is set in stone. Particularly with a defendant in custody. It is something to do with the remand order. So if Manchester Mags send a case to Bolton Crown Court for this Monday, it happens this Monday. 

Or not. 

Because, at the moment, it ain’t happening Monday. Because the papers have not travelled the ten and a half miles from Manchester to Bolton in the week since the case appeared in the Mags. Because that means the case isn’t listed. And because the case is not listed, as my clerk discovered this evening, I am not working on Monday. 

This never happened when cases appeared in the court local to the Crown Court. But let us not allow efficiencies get in the way of efficiency. This is, yet again, an illustration of how cuts, in fact, slash. Yes money has been saved by not opening one building for half a day. But the efficient working of the system has been slashed by the Freddie Kruger-esque hand of an austerity mad Lord Chancellor. 

And I am not in court on Monday because of it. Nor can I guarantee that I will be available to do the prelim when finally the papers arrive at the Crown Court. And will I be able to put the case back to when I can? Oh no, because that would be inefficient. 

Oh well, at least there is still the outside chance I can play cricket for England. 

Pass the Placard

I am currently on a train on the way to London. Today I am joining a demo in the Old Palace Yard Westminster. I imagine that many people who will be there have not been on a demo since their student days. I cannot even claim that. Poll tax, apartheid, student loans – all were demonstrated against but the student VFTN did not go along and wave a placard. Today I am going to.

So what has motivated my middle aged bones to rattle off to London and spend too much time stood in the cold than is good for a man of my age? Well, something that is older than me. Something that turns 800 this year – the Magna Carta.

In fact it is not the Magna Carta itself that is causing me to join the massed throngs. If it was the Magna Carta itself then it would be a bit of a sham as the anniversary is not until June (which at least might stand a chance of being a little warmer). It is because this Government has the gall to use the ideals promoted by the Magna Carta to drum up business from abroad and cloak it all in a celebration of the venerable document.

For those who deal with football analogies, this is a bit like a Manchester United fan singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in an effort to impress someone they fancy. It is just wrong. It cheapens everyone.

This is rank hypocrisy from the Government. They are promoting a justice system by values and achievements that they are set to destroy. Do not take my word for it when I suggest this. Read these words:

“In short, we see the Government’s proposals for competitive tendering for services or a 17.5% reduction as likely to result in (a) a marked deterioration in the provision of services in criminal cases leading inevitably to injustice in a significant number of cases, and as a result (b) harm to the reputation of this country’s justice system, which is likely to do consequential harm to other areas in which legal services are supplied, to the benefit of lawyers in this country and the Treasury.”

That comes from the Chancery Barr Association’s response to the Legal Aid consultation. The 17.5% cuts are still there. The damage is obvious to all those who can see. It is not Justice that is blind, but the Ministry of Justice.

And that was not a one off statement by the ChBA. Tim Fancourt QC addressed the One Bar, One Voice event in these terms:

“The legal services industry makes a huge contribution to the Exchequer. When it comes to invisible exports to international consumers, the Government is very approving: I quote:

“We recognise the importance of the UK’s legal services sector and the excellent reputation its legal services providers have at home and abroad. The sector contributed £20.9 bn to the UK economy in 2011, £4 bn of this derived from exports. It is important that we consolidate the UK’s international standing in what is becoming an increasingly competitive international field” (Chris Grayling, in a foreword to a MoJ /UKTI paper on UK Legal Services on the International Stage.)

And of course the Lord Chancellor is about to trumpet all these virtues to the visiting world at the Global Law Summit in 2015.

But is the Government not missing something here?

Surely it must recognise that it is taking an unacceptable risk with the reputation of the system in which it finds such virtue?”

So there we have the lawyers who benefit from the reputation for justice carved out from the Magna Carta onwards warning the Lord Chancellor of the damage he is doing. A sector that contributes £20.9 bn to the UK economy on the back of a reputation forged on the back of the work of Legal Aid lawyers at a cost of £2 bn per year. As the Americans would say – you do the maths.

Tim Fancourt QC addresses a plenary session at the Global Law Summit this afternoon, let’s hope he takes the opportunity to remind the Lord Chancellor of the views expressed above. In fact it is neither a hope nor an opportunity. It is an expectation and a duty.

An expectation and a duty that has been missed by some already. The Lord Chief Justice opened the Summit in the morning session. He addressed the assembled lawyers, politicians and business people thus:

“Access to justice

We are also all familiar now with the second principle ‐ that all should have fair and effective access to justice. That was not always the case. In parts of the world it is still not the case. And in other parts of the world it remains an aspiration that many are working to realise. One thing that I am sure we can all take from Magna Carta is that our commitment to this ideal is something, that no matter how familiar we are with it, is one that we must constantly reassert, just as Magna Carta was reissued and its demands for access to justice were reasserted over the centuries.

We will therefore examine how access to justice is best achieved – the way government can best provide for a court system that is open, transparent and effective in vindicating and, as importantly, enforcing rights and responsibilities, how a state guarantees a judiciary that will act independently of governmental or commercial pressure, how citizens can be provided with better access to courts through the proper use of modern technology, and the way in which a vibrant, diverse and independent legal profession can best make a cost effective contribution to the delivery of justice.”

Now I ask you this – how can anyone deal with this area, with “access to justice”, and not mention Legal Aid? That is not apolitical. It is appalling. If the judiciary are to remain away from politics, why address a nakedly political event? If the Lord Chief Justice will not challenge the restrictions to justice brought about by this Lord Chancellor what are the rest of us to do?

The answer is – haul ourselves down to London and protest. Now can someone hand me a placard please?

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.

Fight Club

In March 2013 George Osborne’s introduction to his Budget speech included these words: “This is a Budget for those who aspire to own their own home; who aspire to get their first job; or start their own business; a Budget for those who want to save for their retirement and provide for their children. It is a Budget for our Aspiration Nation.”

He went on to refer to the positive steps the Government would take in order to support and encourage small to medium sized businesses through their own procurement procedures: “To help small firms, we’ll increase by fivefold the value of government procurement budgets spent through the Small Business Research Initiative.”

Yesterday the Lord Chancellor announced Government policy that will put hundreds of small to medium businesses out of business by the way the Government have chosen to procure legal services. Yesterday he signed the warrant of execution for scores of businesses that provide a service to the community at the very heart of the High Street.

There will be 527 duty contracts. There are currently something in the region of 1,600 criminal legal aid providers. There are some who will survive. There are those who hope they can prosper from this scheme. And there are those who will be “consolidated” out of existence.

So why should you care?

Well that depends who you are.

Senior Solicitors: Clearly there are going to be losers in all this. People put out of work. Your colleagues and friends.

Yes some of you will survive. Yes some of you will still eek out an existence by coming up with a business model that works.

But ask yourself this – did you go to university, law school and spend hours working your way through the profession to undertake criminal law as purely a business? If you did then you must be pretty stupid. Sorry if that seems offensive but there are much better businesses for you to profit from.

You are an equity partner in your firm because you care about the delivery of justice to both the accused and the victim. Reignite that ideal now.

The cuts and consolidation impact upon the access to justice in a way unprecedented since the creation of the Legal Aid scheme.

I appreciate it is difficult in that there are your staff to consider but you are the leaders of your profession. Explain to your staff why action has to be taken. Then take it.

Junior Solicitors: This is your future. Your career. Seek out your senior partner. Tell them of your ambitions. Tell them of your ideals. Ask them to fight on.

The Criminal Bar: I really hope that it does not need explaining to barristers that a section of your supplier base ceasing to exist is bad news for you as a business. And I am afraid it is no answer to say there will still be the same number of cases.

If you are unlucky, and there will be some who are this unlucky, either the majority of your solicitors or the majority of your chambers’ solicitors will go out of business or stop/reduce their criminal work.

If they go out of business and the individuals are fortunate enough to find work elsewhere or if the firm is subsumed by some greater entity there is no guarantee that they will continue to instruct you. In fact the larger firms with greater volumes of work and greater control of blocks of cases coming up from the magistrates is the perfect scenario for the employment of in-house advocates.

Individuals and possibly whole chambers are going to struggle. So polish your CV. You may soon need to find alternative employment too.

Even if you retain a sufficient client base to carry on you need to appreciate the political reality. The solicitors are also facing the implementation of the second round of cuts. We have seen the reports that suggest minimal profit margins for firms in the new Legal Aid landscape.

So the next time a civil servant has to suggest to a minister where a few savings can be made what do you think the answer will be? Advocacy fees.

Other Barristers: The financial struggles of your colleagues leads to higher chambers’ expenses. The disappearance of some firms could impact upon your access to work.

And then there is the fact that this is plain wrong.

Campaigners for Justice: Nearly every concern that PCT brought now resurfaces. Choice is reduced in a shrinking market place. Quality is reduced as bulk work and cheap prices take the place of specialisation and excellence.

The General Public: I would like to think that the people of this nation care about the quality of justice. This is not just about guilty men complaining they do not have access to a Playstation as is their Human Right. This is about a justice system in decline, miscarriages of justice, a lowering of standards across the board. It is setting up massive costs for the future, both financial and social.

And it does have an impact upon you. The firm in the High Street? The firm that helped when your neighbour caused a nuisance? The firm that did your Grannies’ will? The firm that did your conveyancing? By this time next year they could have gone out of business. You might have another charity shop.

So what can we do? The simple answer is to fight it. The how we fight is for discussion. The two observations I will make is that it does not have to be every criminal practitioner who fights. Just a significant number. And I know it is difficult to see a rival still work whilst you take direct action. I know it is because I have witnessed it. But the alternative is worse. So unity is not the same as unanimity. Organisation and information is the key.

The other observation is that whatever has happened in the past must be consigned to the past. It matters not who let who down last time round. This is now. Action is needed. The last thing a Government seeking re-election in May needs is things going seriously wrong at the moment.

I will say that it is unrealistic to expect the Bar to take the only direct action. Solicitors will have to organise and take steps themselves. I, for one, would join with them like a shot because this is important. Really important.

The Westhoughton Question

Deep in the bowels of the Ministry of Justice this conversation has not happened, it is completely imagined….

A young civil servant bursts into The Lord Chancellor’s office. He clearly has news….

Civil Servant Minister, I have news. (see I told you he had news) The Northern Circuit has just voted in favour of independence.

Lord Chancellor What are you talking about?

CS The lawyers. Up North. They have voted to go independent. They want to break away from the MoJ, the LAA, the lot.

LC I’m sorry?

CS They reckon they have had enough of decisions being taken in Westminster and the Temple that impact upon them. They began the “Bugger Off” Campaign.

LC What makes them so special? Anyone would have thought that the Trade Union movement and Socialism had its roots up there.

CS Err, it kind of does. They have always been a bit, well, awkward. And the lawyers are no different. What with their “No To QASA” meetings and badges.

LC We’ll judicially review it….

CS I’m not sure we can.

LC Why not? I always have my decisions overturned by it.

CS I think you need grounds. Like lack of consultation. And it looks like they consulted a lot before they made their mind up. They consulted, they revealed all the evidence and they voted. Fairly.

LC That sounds a bit….. amateurish. Much safer to make your mind up first.

CS Well they have consulted and they have decided they want to go it alone.

LC How do they think they can survive without us? What have they contributed to the legal scene?

CS Leveson.

LC What’s that?

CS Lord Justice Leveson

LC What about him?

CS He came from up that way. The North.

LC Well okay, other than Leveson, President of the Queen’s Bench Division and famed for the press thingy, other than him, what have the North ever contributed to the legal scene?

CS Mr Justice Edis. He prosecuted the phone hacking case. You’ve just appointed him to the High Court Bench.

LC Okay, other than Lord Leveson and this Edis fella who prosecuted one big-ish case, what has the North contributed to the legal wealth of this country?

CSMr Justice Henriques, retired now. He prosecuted Shipman and was the Judge in some pretty big trials.

LC Okay. Stop. I get it. I’ll just say they seem like a pretty sexist lot up there with all there Mr Justice this and their Lord Justice that…

CS Well they also produced Dame Janet Smith who did the Shipman Enquiry and then, if you think about it, there was Rose Heilbron who was one of the first two women to be appointed King’s Counsel in England, the first woman to lead in a murder case, the first woman Recorder, the first woman judge to sit at the Old Bailey and was also the second woman ever to be appointed a High Court judge….

LC Other than a few Judges what have the Northerners ever done for us?

CS Viaducts.

LC Sorry?

CS Viaducts. They have good viaducts up there. I suppose you could say that was actually the Romans…..

LC You’re not helping now. I’ll have to send Jeremy to sort them out. He is from up that way.

CS Jeremy?

LC You know, the new A-G. He’s from the North.

CS He is from the Midlands, isn’t he? I am not sure that counts as the North to Northerners…

LC I’ll send Buckland then. He has an accent.

CS He’s Welsh….

LC Is he? But he’s in Parliament here. With me. In England.

CS And?

LC And he’s foreign.

CS I am not sure that is going to placate them.

LC Right, make them all Judges.

CS What?!?

LC (The Lord Chancellor enunciates his words slowly and deliberately) Offer… to… make… them… Judges. It usually works to quell trouble.

CS There is over a thousand of them. A thousand members of the “Bugger Off” Campaign. And you want to make them all Judges?

LC Well maybe Judges of the First Tribunal Tier or Parking Adjudicator. Anything. With a pension. They love a pension.

CS Well it turns out that it isn’t just the North….

LC What else is there?

CS Well this morning, outside Newcastle Crown Court, there was a horde of barristers, with woad on their faces and one was giving this speech, “dying in your bed many years from now,” he was shouting at the collected lawyers, “would you be willing to trade all the briefs from this day for one chance to stand here as middle aged hacks and tell our enemies that they may take our uncontested divorces but they will never take our red corners!”.

LC That bloody Ian West….

CS But what are we going to do?

LC Make them a lot of promises. Of stuff that we can’t do until after the election. Then either we will have lost the election and it will be someone else’s problem or I’ll be in the Home Office and it’ll be someone else’s problem.

CS Yes Lord Chancellor.

LC The last thing I want to see is an independent Bar….