Tag Archives: PCT

A Second Letter to Lord McNally

Dear Tom,

I hope that I can call you Tom at this stage in our correspondence. Albeit I am still awaiting a response to my friend request on Facebook, I am sure this speaks more of how busy you are at the moment rather than existing as any commentary on the depth of our bond.

And busy you have been. The Lord Chancellor and you have developed a cunning strategy. He is an elected representative. He cannot continue his zealotry of Legal Aid reform unless he is in power. You are a life peer. You do not rely upon a mandate from the people to change society. If you are left to do front of house then, in the unlikely event this all goes wrong, Chris reduces his risk of losing his seat in the House because his name is indelibly linked to a failed policy as you are the public face for this reform. And it is no risk for you as you do not have to rely upon the mendacity of the electorate. Genius.

So when this has to be discussed in public you are the perfect man for the job. You are Chris Grayling’s bullet proof vest. Ready to take one for the team. You are the Kevin Costner to his Whitney Houston (without the romantic interest).

So let us talk about your week. The Bar Council invited someone from the Ministry to Legal Aid Question Time. It made perfect sense for you to go rather than Chris expose himself again. It was right that you should make it clear that you did not regret the hysterical comment. I mean the legal profession keep referring to the Magna Carta. The Magna-freaking-Carta. It’s not like that is even a real law. When King John signed the Magna Carta declaring “To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice” you, as a similarly unelected embodiment of the state, are free to ignore that. The legal profession and the judiciary referring to the Magna Carta is properly to be dismissed as histrionics. That is so different from Legal Aid. Did King John establish Legal Aid? No! So those pesky Judges should just let it lie.

If King John was around I’m sure he would have something to say about that cad Grieve. Something like “off with his head!”. He was being a very clever lawyer with the way he worded his letter to Treachery Counsel. He doesn’t “own” the policy on Legal Aid, the Lord Chancellor does. He may not own the policy but it was pretty clear to me that he was disowning it. What does he know? A fine example of what happens when you let lawyers meddle in areas like justice. Time to have a non-lawyer as Attorney-General. Can I suggest Eddie?

Now I know that when you were elected Leader of the LibDems in the Lords you said you wanted to be “the voice of conscience and reform on issues such as civil liberties, human rights, changes in the legal system and access to justice” but you should have told Nick Clegg you didn’t bloody mean it. What’s all this about it being perverse to not allow defendants to choose their own solicitor? Has nobody told Clegg about 20 year career criminals? It sounds like Clegg thinks they may, on occasion, be innocent. Time for a word with the Deputy Prime Minister. Remind him you did for Kennedy. That’ll keep him in line.

You need to make the likes of Grieve and Clegg realise where you are going with all of this. I recall you saying of Abu Qatada “The fact is, in my mind, if the Human Rights Act occasionally comes in favour of somebody who is not very likeable in terms of what they have done or who they are… that to me is a reassurance, that if even he is given the protection of our law and Human Rights Act then all the more the rest of us are going to be protected by it as well…..The law is there to protect us all and sometimes it protects those least worthy of its protection, but the fact its protection is there is part of what makes us a civilised society.” That demonstrates that you do indeed have a conscience. And you are right when you say that protecting those who we may dislike is the hallmark of a civilised society. And this is where your policy is so clever. We can have all the safeguards that show us to be a civilised society but then make sure no one can afford access to the courts so the Government are inconvenienced by hysterical lawyers. Foreigner we want to deport? Fails the residency test. Prisoner wants to review penal policy? Denied Legal Aid. Career burglar? Provided with lawyers no better than adequate and get them to plead without the rigmarole of a trial. Saving face whilst saving money. This policy is just brilliant. I can see you now at the party conference “Strong on Justice, tough on the causes of Justice.”

They should give you a Knighthood….

Yours admiringly,

The Gardener.

Read the first letter to my mate Tom here.

The Unfair Taper

This is a genuine record of the progress of a criminal trial before the Crown Court. No criticism is intended of any party or individual. No exaggeration has been made. What is important is that under the current Government proposals counsel would be penalised for the progress of this case.

    Day One

The Judge has a couple of cases to deal with before commencing the trial. That allows counsel to discuss one or two final matters prior to the jury being sworn. As soon as the Judge has finished his other work the parties are ready to go. A jury is sworn. However this is a day of industrial action by certain members of the court staff. This trial involves one principle witness who will give evidence via the live link facilities. Other ongoing trials need the non-union staff to cover things like juries retiring to consider their verdicts so the case has to be adjourned at lunchtime until the following day. All concerned in the case, Circuit Judge and two counsel with 40 years experience of such matters, agree that the case should be concluded within 3 days. Comfortably.

    Day Two

Everyone is ready and raring to go at 10.30, the allotted start time. Counsel have been in court before then, testing that the DVD playback works and is audible. The staff test the link to the witness room. Everything is ok. Prosecution counsel open the case to the jury. The Judge talks to the witness over the link and we prepare to watch the DVD of his evidence. Save for the fact we cannot. Inexplicably the screens are blank. 45 minutes are lost whilst three members of the court staff struggle to rectify the problem.

The next problem then becomes apparent. The witness has certain mental health difficulties. He can properly be described as vulnerable. This is known in advance and there has been an assessment of his needs. However whilst the DVD is being viewed the witness, who can be seen at all times by the Judge, indicates that he needs a break. Due to his problems all parties, including the defence, immediately agree that he should be provided with whatever accommodation is required for his comfort and wellbeing. Hence a video that has a duration of 60 minutes takes almost two hours to watch due to the need for frequent breaks. The frequency of requests for breaks increases once cross-examination commences. The length of these breaks vary between a few minutes to twenty minutes.

In this second afternoon of the trial there was over an hour available for the purposes of cross-examination. Due to the need for breaks actually questioning occupies 20 to 25 minutes of this time. Additionally the pace of the questioning is dictated by the needs of the witness. The propositions explored are broken down in to manageable chunks. To allow the witness to understand and put in context the questions there has to be a degree of recap of what has gone before. Any competent counsel adapts the manner of their examination to cater for such matters. You may be able to cover the same ground with one witness in 5 minutes, with a different witness (a child, someone with learning difficulties or someone being deliberately obtuse) the same ground may take 20 minutes.

    Day Three

Today there is a valedictory for a Judge who has been appointed to the High Court bench. That takes place at 10am with the courts listed to start at 11. Now I will have a little personal moan here. When the Northern Circuit decided to hold a meeting during court hours to discuss and respond to the consultation the majority of the local judiciary responded that the sitting of the court could not be disrupted for this. Here we are, part heard in a trial, already losing time and the court is taking time out to celebrate the advancement of…. a member of the local judiciary. I actually support this, I welcome a good relationship between local practitioners and bench. I welcome the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of one of the Judges I regularly appear in front of. However I am also a big fan of consistency. And I kind of believe that practitioners dealing with the approaching wreck that is the consultation is on an equal footing with saying “well done” to someone on their new job.

Back to the true theme of this piece. Although the valedictory concludes at about 11.15 the court is not ready to commence again until 11.40. We continue the staccato cross-examination of the complainant. We break for lunch and the jury are sent away until 2.15 as the Judge has to deal with another case at 2. So of course we do not commence in the afternoon until 2.30. When I finally finish with the complainant it is 4pm. The only other witness in the case is also on videolink so we cannot start her that afternoon.

    Day Four

Due to testing the equipment and then ironing out one or two problems with the next video witness the court does not start until 10.50. Eventually, with only two breaks this time, we conclude that witness. And the rest of the prosecution case is dealt with by formal admission. Fifty pages of witness statements, the bad character evidence and fifty pages of interview dealt with in formal admissions that take one page of A4. The rest of the day is taken up with the defence case.

    Day Five

All that is left are speeches. The Judge quite correctly decides it would not be appropriate to sum the case up in the afternoon before the weekend. Additionally he has three cases that have been moved back from earlier in the week including a sentence listed for an hour. Those are listed at 12.30. Of course we start 20 minutes late as efforts are made to set the air conditioning to reduce the temperature of the court as it is 74 degrees. Not exactly conducive for listening to counsel….

So there we are. A week in the life of a case that should have lasted three days. Not a single delay was the fault of the advocates. The only contribution the advocates made to the length of the trial was to reduce it by agreeing formal admissions. Of all the people involved who are the only ones for whom it is suggested their remuneration decreases each day it lasts? The advocates. The daily taper is a slur made against every advocate operating in the Crown Court. It says we drag cases out to make money. And it is exactly this false justification for the “reforms” like this that runs through the consultation like Blackpool through a stick of rock. If the Lord Chancellor came out and made cuts that would be one thing. It would be a thing that I would be up in arms about. But to dress them up as some form of reform, some form of streamlining of the system just sickens me. It maybe hysterical but it is also indicative of a confidence trick that the MoJ is trying to pull on the public to make cuts where there is no room to make cuts.

Do not let the Lord Chancellor get away with this inequity. Sign the e-petition.

The Wizard of Epsom

Finally the Lord Chancellor has agreed to meet with the chairman of the CBA…..

MTQC …enters room… Thank you for finally meeting me Lord Chancellor…err Lord Chancellor?!? …MTQC goes back door to the door… Felicity, it is Felicity isn’t it?

Felicity Yes, Mr Turner …Felicity enters room and then stops abruptly… Oh!

MTQC I thought the Lord Chancellor was waiting in here for me.

F So did I! …Felicity walks around the desk and looks quizzically at the empty chair behind the desk… He was just here, I came in and told him you were here and he muttered something about “and she now makes it 10,001” before telling me to bring you in….

Lord McNallysuddenly enters room, looking a little flustered… Michael, Michael great to see you. How can I help?

MTQC Lord McNally, I am sorry, I thought I was seeing the Lord Chancellor.

LM …looks around the room as he walks to the desk… Nope, nope, always me, never ducked a debate before and not starting now.

MTQC I appreciate that but this IS the Lord Chancellor’s office?

LM Yes it is. …sits down at the desk…

MTQC And Felicity is the Lord Chancellor’s secretary?

LM Errr…yes…non-executive secretary. …glances beneath desk… But your meeting is with me….err…decorating my office at the moment…so he and I are kind of hot desking …looks over shoulder… and my secretary is on holiday so Felicity is doing a bit for me. So let’s get down to brass tacks. No need to pussyfoot around when dealing with a wage negotiation.

MTQC But we don’t view this as a wage negotiation. We view this as a fight to save justice.

LM There you go, getting all hysterical. Why don’t you just admit that it is fat cat lawyer self interest and we can have a sensible negotiation over your fees.

MTQC This is not just about fees. This is dismantling the system and moving us rapidly to a public defender system. A system that will just increase costs throughout the system over time.

LM Well I am sure that during the consultation the Ministry will consider such matters …Lord McNally’s phone pings and he glances at a text… although the Lord Chancellor would no doubt want me to tell you that he is not going to buckle.

MTQC The system you are proposing will limit entry to the profession, limiting it to only the independently wealthy. Diversity will take a huge step backwards.

LM Well that is a legitimate concern …Lord McNally’s phone pings again, he reads the text… although the Lord Chancellor would, if he was here, remind you that it is not his problem how you structure your profession.

MTQC It will be everyone’s concern when we don’t have diverse judiciary in the future.

LM The focus must be by the profession to guarantee diversity. Our only concern has to be cost. It’s not as if the Lord Chancellor has any duty to protect the system or to guard against adverse impact to certain sectors of society.

MTQC I am afraid that is exactly what will lead to Judicial Review of these proposals.

…a disembodied voice… Bollocks.

…Lord McNally and MTQC look at each other for a moment…

LM That will be Felicity. Always gets a bit agricultural in her language when the typing goes wrong.

MTQC Sounded like a man’s voice….

LM Definitely Felicity. A martyr to hay fever. Always makes her sound a bit more…masculine.

MTQC There are also questions about the impact on quality. One of your officials at the consultation roadshow said “if quality falls, so be it”.

…a disembodied voice… Bastard.

LM Felicity. Man trouble.

MTQC It sounded like it came from behind you.

LM Nonsense. Who would be behind me? The point you have made about quality and choice is a valid one….

…a disembodied voice… Shut up man!

MTQC Is there someone in the cupboard?

LM Of course not. …Lord McNally gets up and walks towards the stationary cupboard…

MTQC The Lord Chancellor isn’t hiding from me in the cupboard is he?

LM Don’t be silly Lord McNally turns the small key in the cupboard door… No, if the Lord Chancellor was here speaks very loudly and taps door with his foot HE WOULD SIT VERY QUIETLY AND LISTEN TO WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY.

MTQC The problem is whether he really is listening.

LM I can assure you looks for a moment at the cupboard door that he is listening to every word you say…..

Force the Lord Chancellor out in to the open to debate the issues. Sign the e-petition.

The Case for the Defence

There is much current debate about the size of the Legal Aid bill footed by the taxpayer. In an episode of typical disingenuity the Lord Chancellor has recently expressly stated that the public have the choice between Legal Aid and the NHS, that the £220 million that he looks to save would be spent protecting the spend on healthcare.

Now the point could be made that the Legal Aid budget has already contributed much by way of cuts with £200 million already disappearing from last year’s spend in this year’s projected budget. Or that slashing 20% of the criminal Legal Aid spend would not even cover one day of the nation’s spend on the NHS. Or that if we were to cut money to the NHS you would cut the spend on non-essential workers (lets say money spent on actors, hairdressers and leadership training courses) before you cut the income of the doctors and nurses who provide the quality of service at the coal face.

However I would suggest that Legal Aid is as important to the provision of welfare in this country as the NHS is. It is about time that the Lord Chancellor recognised this. Until he does he cannot perform the key function of his office. The provision of welfare is all about the provision of a safety net in times of need. Criminal Legal Aid falls exactly in to this category. People are provided with Legal Aid in criminal cases when the State chooses to prosecute them. Anyone provided with criminal Legal Aid would prefer not to have to need it, in so much as they would rather not have been arrested in this first place. So in criminal cases it is not the accused who goes out seeking Legal Aid,it comes to him.

One of the problems that the legal profession face in firmly establishing the credibility of Legal Aid as part of the safety net provided to all taxpayers is the notion that it is only criminals, often repeat offenders, who benefit from its provision. I for one would hesitate to introduce blameworthiness into the provision of welfare. Should a smoker be provided with free cancer treatment? The obese with diabetic assistance? Of course they should. One of the difficulties is persuading the public that prosecution, like ill health, is something that could befall them as much as those who very obviously are the authors of their own misfortune.

Let me give you some examples of the way in which it is not just the guilty that find themselves in need of Legal Aid. These are actual cases that came before the courts in Manchester in recent times. The first was well publicised at the time (see here). I know the defence advocate in the case. A woman in Greater Manchester was subjected to the horrific ordeal of rape. This involved her being raped as she walked home by a man unknown to her. The police collected samples from her that could be tested for DNA in a hope to identify a suspect. A positive result came back. A man in the South West was identified. He was arrested, denied the offence and denied he had ever even been in the area. He was charged with rape and remanded in to custody. He was provided with the assistance of a solicitor and a barrister. There was no other evidence against him but it would be presented to the jury by the prosecution that the presence of his DNA in intimate samples taken from the victim could mean only one thing – his guilt.

The case was prepared for trial. Other evidence obtained showed that the defendant was in the South West the morning following the offence but such as still gave him a window of opportunity to commit the offence. A combination of enquiries made by the defence and the officer in the case being concerned by this aspect of the case led to a re-examination of the scientific evidence in the case. It transpired there had been a huge error. A tray used in the laboratory that tested the sample had been previously used in a DNA test that related to a relatively minor offence of violence in which the defendant was a suspect. This led to his DNA remaining in the tray and contaminating the sample from the victim. His innocence was only discovered days before his trial was due to start. He was an innocent man who needed Legal Aid.

A further example happened in the case load of the same defence advocate. A woman worked in an office. One of her colleagues got married and went on her honeymoon. Sadly whilst she was away the colleague’s house was burgled. A games console was stolen in the course of that burglary. The games console had been in its original box but the burglar had removed it and left the box behind. A scene of crime officer provided a statement that stated the box had been tested for fingerprints and a print matched the fingerprint of the defendant, the woman who worked in the office of the bride.

This came to light because the woman in the office had, when she was much younger, been involved in an argument in the street which had led to her arrest and caution for a public order offence. Her life therefore had not been completely blameless but that was the only transgression. That meant that the police therefore had her fingerprints on record and the match was made. She denied the offence, denied that she had ever been to her colleague’s house, had never handled the cardboard box and could not account for the presence of her fingerprint.

Once again this case came to the Crown Court. One can easily imagine that everyone involved, her lawyers and the CPS, thought that there might be a guilty plea. Fingerprints are unique. The presence of a fingerprint in a dwelling with no innocent explanation is clear evidence of the person’s involvement in the burglary. However she pleaded not guilty and the case was adjourned for trial. Legal Aid provided her with lawyers and with funding to have the exhibit examined to double check it was her fingerprint (such mistakes being unheard of but it required independently verifying). Those investigations discovered that when the test for fingerprints was undertaken a number of items were examined under the same reference number. So whilst that reference number did relate to the console box it also related to a good luck card that the victim had received from her colleagues at work….

Those two cases are examples where the independent scientific evidence pointed strongly at the guilt of someone entirely innocent of the charge. As an aside it must be a worry what may happen in such cases in the future if the advocate is under financial pressure from an employer to deliver the more lucrative guilty plea. However the vast majority of taxpayers would be comforted by the fact that their DNA would not be floating around labs or that youthful indiscretions had led to their fingerprints being on a police database.

So let me move on to the next illustration. A hard working man of entirely good character worked as a satellite television engineer. He installed a new box in the house of an elderly couple. He asked to use their toilet. When he had left the woman of the household discovered that a valuable necklace was missing from the top of her bedroom cabinet where she had left it that morning. The police were called. A thorough search did not turn up the necklace. Both husband and wife gave statements that the necklace was on the cabinet moments before the satellite engineer arrived. The door to the bathroom was next to the door of the bedroom. Moments after he left they discovered it was missing. The man was arrested. He denied the offence but was charged with theft. Again he was provided with Legal Aid for representation at the Crown Court. No doubt he was relieved to be provided with such assistance. And that was assistance provided to an entirely innocent man. Decorators found the necklace behind a radiator in the elderly couple’s bedroom a few weeks before the trial. A man who had never been in trouble had simple been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Circumstances conspired against him. Should he have faced those circumstances alone? Should he have paid for his own defence? Should he have had a lawyer assigned to him by the state of only “acceptable” quality?

My final example is a man I represented. He was a retired engineer. Later in life he and his wife had a daughter. It would be fair to say she was the apple of his eye. She went to university. Whilst away from home she met and fell in love with a man. Sadly he was entirely unsuitable. Not just in the way that many parents may find a child’s choice of partner not what they had hoped for. This man was just bad news. He introduced the daughter to drug use. He assaulted her. After many anxious months the daughter had the sense to leave the boyfriend and return home. The parents were overjoyed to have their daughter back and set about repairing the damage.

The boyfriend would not give up. He tried contacting the daughter. He began turning up at the family home. The father would bar his way and, after often heated discussions, would send him on his way. On one such occasion the father pushed the boyfriend. The boyfriend produced a knife. A tussle ensued. The father disarmed the boyfriend but the boyfriend kept on coming. In the doorway to his house and fearful of what may be about to happen the father jabbed the knife in to the thigh of the boyfriend. No doubt surprised by the level of resistance the boyfriend hobbled away. Straight to the police. He made a malicious statement that told of how the father had pulled a knife on him and stabbed him. The police visited the house and discovered a knife with the boyfriend’s blood on it. Remarkably the father was charged. He had a trial. He was acquitted. All due to the safety net provided by Legal Aid.

So whether it be by scientific negligence or paperwork error, whether it be by a genuine and honest belief mistakenly held or malicious falsehood innocent people can find themselves facing a criminal court. It matters not whether they have never been in trouble before. Of course such examples are at the extreme end of the spectrum. For every one like that I have witnessed I have represented dozens of repeat offenders who are guilty. And there are those in between. People who would never have thought they would be before the courts but end up there because of a combination of circumstances, sometimes because they are guilty, sometimes because they have done something wrong but not what they are charged with or sometimes because they are unfortunate to find themselves wrongly accused of crime.

The point is that democracy requires the efficient and proper prosecution of those guilty of crime and protection for those falsely accused. The method of determining which category an accused falls in to requires them to be represented. It is not possible before the process commences to determine those who are deserving of assistance because they are innocent and those that are not because they are guilty. That is why we all have an interest in maintaining an effective provision of criminal Legal Aid. Like all safety nets you hope you never fall in to it. Should the unexpected happen you would have every reason to be grateful that it catches you. The professions can work with the Lord Chancellor to provide further savings. But he has to place the preservation of this vital aspect of society at the forefront of his approach. Not the current attitude of seeking to turn public opinion against the system and those toiling within it. Legal Aid is something which the nation should be rightly proud of. I believe that they are.

If you agree that criminal Legal Aid is a vital component of a civilised democratic society please sign the e-petition here. Thank you.

A Barrister Rants; aka The (Real) Summary of my Response

I have reproduced some of my responses here to the consultation paper. I have not produced everything because it turned out to be quite a long document! But I have included those responses where even a calmer read through could not placate me and the responses became more personal to me. I confess these are the less thought out and evidence based sections but it made me feel good to get it off my chest…..

1) Restricting the scope of legal aid for prison law
Q1. Do you agree with the proposal that criminal legal aid for prison law matters should be restricted to the proposed criteria? Please give reasons.

No. The right of the citizen, even if a prisoner, to challenge the decisions of the state is critical in a proper system of checks and balances. The prisoner is the least likely member of society to have the resources to launch such matters privately funded. There should be a clear merits test but not the restrictions suggested in the consultation document. This is simply a headline grabbing attack on a section of society that lacks public sympathy. And as a barrister I know how that feels.

3) Introducing a residence test

Q4. Do you agree with the proposed approach for limiting legal aid to those with a strong connection with the UK? Please give reasons.

Again, as a feature of a free and democratic society, is it not right that the state provide a mechanism whereby the actions of the government can be tested in the courts by foreign nationals where the actions of the government may be unlawful? When this country enters the theatre of war in places like Afghanistan should those affected by our actions have at least some recourse to the UK courts where appropriate? Should we really expect that an Afghan farmer unlawfully detained by the armed forces should have no recourse to justice unless he can pay?

This is just a headline grabbing “we are hard on immigrants” stance taken to win back voters from UKIP. That it finds its way in to a document about reforming Legal Aid demonstrates the political use that Legal Aid is being put to and the things that are being brought in under the disguise of austerity. As a nation we are better than this.

Chapter Four: Introducing Competition in the Criminal Legal Aid Market

Scope of the new contract
Q7. Do you agree with the proposed scope of criminal legal aid services to be competed? Please give reasons.

No. PCT is a disaster for the criminal justice system. If implemented it will be amongst the worst decisions made by a government in modern times. This consultation should have as its first question in this section something which allows for a debate about the proposal and not just questions designed around the model. The Lord Chancellor has repeatedly said he would listen to alternatives to PCT but where is the opportunity for me to do this within the body of this consultation? The Minster and the officials at the roadshows ask us to come up with alternatives but where is the question in this consultation that asks us to do that? How am I, as an individual, meant to come up with costed proposals designed to save money? I have plenty of suggestions such as telephone hearings, efficiencies in the use of court time, changes to legislation such as Custody Time Limits but in the eight weeks afforded to me how am I meant to present those in this document which does not even ask me a question designed to get such an answer?

Q8. Do you agree that, given the need to deliver further savings, a 17.5% reduction in the rates payable for those classes of work not determined by the price competition is reasonable? Please give reasons.

I do not believe the need to deliver further savings. If the nation are “in it together” in austere times the legal profession was the first over the top.

iii) Geographical areas for the procurement and delivery of services
Q10. Do you agree with the proposal under the competition model that with the exception of London, Warwickshire/West Mercia and Avon and Somerset /Gloucestershire, procurement areas should be set by the current criminal justice system areas? Please give reasons.

Geography is one of the waiting disasters of PCT. You will create vast swathes of the country to be covered by an entity that will have one small central office and a minimum of staff. Americans call them Lincoln Lawyers. I call them rubbish lawyers.

Q11. Do you agree with the proposal under the competition model to join the following criminal justice system areas: Warwickshire with West Mercia; and Gloucestershire with Avon and Somerset, to form two new procurement areas? Please give reasons.

No. Because PCT is a very very bad idea.

Q12. Do you agree with the proposal under the competition model that London should be divided into three procurement areas, aligned with the area boundaries used by the Crown Prosecution Service? Please give reasons.

You may spot a theme here. PCT is a bad idea.

Q13. Do you agree with the proposal under the competition model that work tendered should be exclusively available to those who have won competitively tendered contracts within the applicable procurement areas? Please give reasons.

Have I mentioned PCT is a very bad idea? Clearly you have to guarantee market share to make it workable in terms of your model. But it is that guarantee that also guarantees laziness and ineptitude.

iv) Number of contracts
Q14. Do you agree with the proposal under the competition model to vary the number of contracts in each procurement area? Please give reasons.

PCT. Bad. Idea. However, clearly different sized areas would need a different number of providers based on need.

Q15. Do you agree with the factors that we propose to take into consideration and are there any other factors that should to be taken into consideration in determining the appropriate number of contracts in each procurement area under the competition model? Please give reasons.

PCT is a recipe for injustice. As ideas go I would say this is a bad one.

vi) Contract value
Q16. Do you agree with the proposal under the competition model that work would be shared equally between providers in each procurement area? Please give reasons.

You are not slicing a pie or dividing pallets of goods. You are dealing with people’s lives. The liberty of the subject is not a commodity to be auctioned off. Anyone proposing that would be ventilating something which can only be described as…..a bad idea.

vii) Client choice
Q17. Do you agree with the proposal under the competition model that clients would generally have no choice in the representative allocated to them at the outset? Please give reasons.

The limitation on client choice and the removal of a significant proportion of the supply base could jeopardise parts of the justice system. The benefits of continuation, reputation and confidence of representation, e.g. for vulnerable or black and minority ethnic clients, may be lost and some rural areas could lose supply altogether – these are not my views but those of Lord Carter after his detailed iterative review of procurement. Listen to him. Please.

Q19. Do you agree with the proposal under the competition model that for clients who cannot be represented by one of the contracted providers in the procurement area (for a reason agreed by the Legal Aid Agency or the Court), the client should be allocated to the next available nearest provider in a different procurement area? Please give reasons.

I risk repeating myself here but it is worth saying until you understand. Choice is part of the civil liberties that we deserve. Choice is also seen as a driver for quality in every other area of public funded welfare provision. Education? Choose a school based on tables. NHS? Choose your doctor or service provider. Locked up for a crime you did not commit? Just have the cheapest provider who is next off the conveyor belt.

Let me explain the cab rank rule to you. It is meant to ensure clients get representation no matter how heinous their crime. You will manage to invert that so that the accused has to take the first jalopy on the rank, notwithstanding it is a death trap.

Q20. Do you agree with the proposal under the competition model that clients would be required to stay with their allocated provider for the duration of the case, subject to exceptional circumstances? Please give reasons.

The reality is they already are. What is wrong is the fact that you lash them to an unknown, low-rent lawyer in the first place.

ix) Remuneration
Q21. Do you agree with the following proposed remuneration mechanism under the competition model? Please give reasons.

 Block payment for all police station attendance work per provider per procurement area based on the historical volume in area and the bid price
 Fixed fee per provider per procurement area based on their bid price for magistrates’ court representation
 Fixed fee per provider per procurement area based on their bid price for Crown Court litigation (for cases where the pages of prosecution evidence does not exceed 500)
 Current graduated fee scheme for Crown Court litigation (for cases where the pages of prosecution evidence exceed 500 only) but at discounted rates as proposed by each provider in the procurement area

Now we get to the real reason. You want to pile them high and sell them cheap. How can you cheapen justice? You appreciate you cannot cut any more from the litigation fees without guaranteeing market share. You realise it is unsustainable. Should you not look to try and make your savings elsewhere rather than cutting a sector that has already been pared to the bone? The only way you can do this is by shredding up years of quality service in this area and selling it off to the lowest bidder with a consequential loss of quality. Listen to the people at the coalface. You cannot and should not do this. This whole consultation introduces a race to the bottom.

x) Procurement process
Q23. Are there any other factors to be taken into consideration in designing the technical criteria for the Pre Qualification Questionnaire stage of the tendering process under the competition model? Please give reasons.

Quality. I am going to mention it here because you do not seem to have any question designed aroundw the standards that will follow PCT and how you intend to maintain them. I appreciate that this is because you realise that PCT will lower quality. I have heard much of how the LC is going to work with the Law Society and the Bar Council to design a quality assurance scheme. When? Where is it? Where is the quality assurance scheme for litigators that has been designed with PCT in mind? You have put the cart before the horse but even the cart manages to smell agricultural.

You see, Lord Carter said this about BVT

“Recommendation 3.1: The Legal Services Commission should begin from July 2006 a national roll-out of peer review assessment for all firms seeking a place in the new market so that the introduction of best value tendering can take place from April 2009 onwards. The Legal Services Commission should adopt four criteria to plan the roll-out of peer review:
• greatest quality impact for clients;
• greatest opportunity to restructure the local market;
• ensure a level playing field for all firms until best value tendering takes place; and
assess the impact on the justice system.”

I would venture to suggest that the same applies to PCT. In fact under the proposed model the risk to quality is even greater as the only driver is cost. So Lord Carter envisaged a quality assurance scheme established 2 and 1/2 years before the tender process so the scheme could be refined and the bidders could be scrutinised for quality. Your process has not even got such a scheme in place yet. The promises about quality are based on nothing more than faint hopes and aspirations, so much so that your promises are empty and meaningless. You are driving the criminal justice system off the edge of the cliff and want the public to believe it is all going to be alright.

Q26. Do you agree with the proposals to amend the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme to:
 introduce a single harmonised basic fee, payable in all cases (other than those that attract a fixed fee), based on the current basic fee for a cracked trial;
 reduce the initial daily attendance fee for trials by between approximately 20 and 30%; and
 taper rates so that a decreased fee would be payable for every additional day of trial?
Please give reasons.

No. I am a criminal advocate. My income has halved. I have already had cuts which I can scarcely withstand. And yet you want to come again. There is only one result of this. People of experience and skill will leave the profession. You recognise that you cannot unduly limit bankers’ pay and bonuses because of the potential for an exodus of talent from the sector or the country. It may well be that MP’s salaries are increased due to a recommendation that you will not attract good candidates at the current level of remuneration. Why can you not see the risk in criminal advocacy?

If you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

The daily rates are already poor. It is laughable to reduce them across the board. It is insulting to reduce them one iota because of the length of the trial. If I ask for time in a case it is because it is in the interests of justice to do so. Not so I can get a refresher. If it takes a while to cross examine a vulnerable witness it is because that is the best approach to take for all involved. If I tarry, the Judge will chastise me. If a trial in a violent disorder to which there are twenty eye witnesses and six defendants takes three weeks that is not my fault, it is the length that the trial has to take. In fact I shorten trials by making sensible concessions and formal admissions on a daily basis. I DO NOT NEED PENALISING IN FEES! The only thing it will do is encourage the less experienced and less well trained to cut corners. No one spins out a case and you have no evidence that we do. This is just about saving money. Attending court for £100 or less before expenses is simply not viable.

Introduce theses fee changes and I will be part of the talent drain away from the criminal bar.

2) Reducing litigator and advocate fees in Very High Cost Cases (Crime)

Q27. Do you agree that Very High Cost Case (Crime) fees should be reduced by 30%? Please give reasons.

They are already ludicrously low. I can’t get a plumber or a mechanic to work at these rates. I do not undervalue their experience and expertise. This consultation seriously undervalues mine.

Q28. Do you agree that the reduction should be applied to future work under current contracts as well as future contracts? Please give reasons.

No. That offends some pretty basic principles of contract law. If you ask a lawyer, a commercial lawyer, they will tell you that and then charge you more per hour than you will pay a Silk in a terrorism trial. You have value for money right now with the criminal bar. You want blood.

Chapter Seven: Expert Fees in Civil, Family, and Criminal Proceedings

Q33. Do you agree with the proposal that fees paid to experts should be reduced by 20%? Please give reasons.

You will not be surprised to hear that I say no. The quality of experts will diminish in the same way everything will if you underfund the provision of experts. There should be proper control of these fees, it is difficult to understand why a psychiatrist gets paid more in the majority of the cases than the advocate who prepares and presents the case. Oh no, hang on, I do understand it. It is because we, the advocates, are already paid considerably less than other professionals…..

PS

As a postscript to this post I would like to say that I have read many of the responses that my colleagues have produced. I am proud to say that they are all brilliant pieces of advocacy and I am more than ever convinced of the power of the opposition to this ludicrous proposal. Where I have ranted, Mark George was precise. Where I have prattled on, Tim Forte was coruscating. Where I have taken, broad swipes,Tony Cross was surgical. Where I have lost my cool, Guy Gozem has espoused reason.The list could go on. Hundreds of responses were delivered from the Northern Circuit in person to the MOJ by Lisi Ke and Sarah Griffin. Dozens more (such as my own) went by email.

If anyone suggests this is self interest then direct them to the 50shadesofaffray blog here.

If you haven’t done so already sign the e-petition here.

The Inconvenient Truth

Those who know can talk, those with an agenda will not listen. Another conversation from the imagination….

Backbencher Thank you for agreeing to see me Lord Chancellor

Lord Chancellor Well we all have to humour the swivel-eyed loons.

BB Are you talking about me?

LC Of course not, I was simply saying I understand that you are here representing the view of your constituents and I am here to listen.

BB Right, well, I have had letters from some of my constituents about Legal Aid.

LC Brilliant. My officials told me that they existed but I thought they were kidding. At last I can shut some of those lawyers up and point to the letters you have showing the public’s concerns about the credibility of the Legal Aid scheme. I was beginning worry these letters might be my “weapons of mass destruction” so thank goodness you have some. This is turning out to be a jolly good meeting.

BB Sorry Lord Chancellor, these letters support Legal Aid and are rather critical of your reforms.

LC Oh. Did you mention that to Maureen when you made this appointment?

BB I certainly did.

LC I see. [reaches for pen and paper] That’s one more wage saving I can make straight away….

BB The letters I have received raise a lot of concerns about the cuts.

LC I have to make cuts. I have already agreed to make cuts. I promised Gideon.

BB I don’t wish to be pedantic but didn’t you take an oath that included the promise to discharge your duty to ensure the provision of resources for the efficient and effective support of the courts for which you are responsible?

LC I remember something along those lines.

BB And doesn’t that set you apart from most of your ministerial colleagues?

LC Well I suppose if you are someone who applies the technicalities of oath taking and don’t just see it as a quaint tradition there for the tourists then yes, technically speaking it does make me a bit different from the other ministers but I don’t like to make it too obvious.

BB If we do think it means something then shouldn’t it mean your job is not to agree to any cuts? Isn’t that your duty?

LC Look, you’re not Michael Turner are you?

BB No!

LC Right. Are you sure?

BB Of course I am sure.

LC Its just that I have never met him so I thought I should check. I imagine these are the kind of pesky questions he asks.

BB It is one of the things my constituents raised, as Lord Chancellor you should protect the front line services of representation and find savings from elsewhere only if necessary. But you should be fighting to protect the budget, not agreeing to reducing it.

LC The Legal Aid budget is over £1 billion. I need to reduce it.

BB No it isn’t. The spend was over £1 billion. The future projected spend is well under that figure. You have already reduced the payments we make to practitioners so you don’t have to make further savings.

LC Yes I do. I promised.

BB You also promised resources in your oath….

LC Here we go again…. Look I need to make savings and the Legal Aid spend is huge and so that has to give. Every penny I spend is critical to complying with that oath thingy you keep banging on about.

BB Really? £2 million on leadership training for the civil servants?

LC Its vital that someone shows some leadership.

BB £3.6 million on car hire?

LC People in the department have to get from A to B doing all these blinking’ roadshows.

BB What about the £720,000 your department spent on actors?

LC They play an essential role in selecting a suitably qualified and diverse judiciary.

BB More important than funding the lawyers appropriately who go on to be the Judges in the future?

LC Paying them less won’t diminish quality.

BB How about PCT? Won’t that diminish quality?

LC Nope.

BB Won’t removing client choice and market competition reduce quality?

LC Nope. There may be a different quality but it will still be there.

BB Is there a risk that the different quality will be lower than before?

LC I am committed to defendants having a fair trial. The CPS have been under resourced for years. I am just levelling the playing field.

BB Speaking of paying lawyers I note that the MOJ paid over £6million for “estate legal services”, £200 grand for legal support to MOJ procurement and I dread to think what you have paid the lawyers assisting with plans to privatise the courts.

LC Of course we did. These chaps don’t come cheap. You’re a Tory. Market forces and all that. You have to pay the going rate. If you want quality advice you have to be prepared to pay.

BB But that doesn’t apply to the provision of criminal representation?

LC I am a connoisseur of legal services you see. I know what I am looking at. The plebs, I mean, the public are generally speaking just run of the mill amateur palates when it comes to legal services. I like caviar, they like fish and chips. So it’s best if I choose who represents them and how good they are at it. And if they are acceptably adequate then that’ll do me. For them of course. For me and the Home Secretary it is wall to wall QCs all the way.

BB Isn’t it quite important that the individual gets to choose though?

LC I have a strong record on individual choice. The B&B owners of this land know how much I believe in individual choice. But I just prefer it when their choice matches my choice. And at the moment these people keep choosing specialist lawyers and I would prefer them to choose one of my contracted lawyers. But people cannot have free choice when the state picks up the tab.

BB What about the NHS. Haven’t we introduced personal choice there to improve standards.

LC Okay. People cannot have free choice when the public pays, unless they are ill.

BB What about mentally disordered offenders?

LC Right, people cannot have free choice when the public pays, unless they are ill, EXCEPT where them being ill coincides with them being a criminal.

BB What if them being ill means they should not be labelled a criminal? What if being ill means they are innocent? Should they not be able to choose a specialist solicitor with experience of them personally or mentally disordered offenders generally?

LC Look at that giant hummingbird over your shoulder. Look! Look now!

BB There is nothing there is there Lord chancellor? Okay. Let’s for a moment say we are not going to allow the market to dictate quality, how else do propose to maintain quality?

LC Well clearly there will have to be rigorously assessed standards and processes of quality assurance to make sure the lawyers are all acceptable to me.

BB And how long has that quality assessment scheme been up and running?

LC It isn’t.

BB Because one of my constituents directed me to Lord Carter’s review of legal services procurement from 2007 and in his report he considered it vital that if client choice was removed there had to be a rigorous quality assurance scheme in place that would take at least two and a half years to establish and develop before choice was removed from the market. So how long until you put your plans in place?

LC Four months. But this focus on quality is just a smokescreen by the fat cat lawyers and their monstrous earnings.

BB My constituents were quite, well I think I can safely say, were quite irate about this.

LC I am not surprised they are irate! I have proof as well. Statistics. Evidence of payments. It is fair to say that no professional should be paid more than the Prime Minister out of public funds.

BB They are not irate about what barristers earn, they are irate about what you say they earn. The last figures I have available to me showed that seven civil servants in your department had a salary bigger than the Prime Minister.

LC Well you have to reward some people commensurate to their skills and the responsibility of their work.

BB Isn’t that what is going on when a handful of lawyers get large single payments that will relate to the most serious and complicated cases?

LC But it is why the public lack confidence in the credibility of the Legal Aid regime because they see these figures.

BB Because you tell them these figures….

LC It is simply freedom of information and statistics don’t lie.

BB But ministers some times do in their use of them.

LC I have no idea what you mean.

BB Well it could be said that some minsters have form for it. A propensity to use statistics in a misleading way.

LC Propensity…..that sounds like a lawyer’s word. You’re not Ian West are you? He’s another one of the awkward squad. Are you?

BB No! If the information you release is undermining the credibility of the system why don’t we tell them the reality rather than base a reform on this misconception. Lawyers often say difficult cases make bad law.

LC The public will never think that lawyers are anything but fat cats [whispers] … thankfully …

BB We could tell them. You could tell the press how impressed you are by this account of the junior bar in the blog 50 Shades of Affray [hands minister the document]. Read that and you’ll see she only earns £20,000 per year before expenses after three years in the job.

LC £20 grand before expenses? I bet she gets her decorators paid for on top of that. And claims loads against her expenses for her daily travel, accommodation and meals. We all know how much you can top up your income with some imaginative claims, not that I am condoning that sort of thing you understand. But £20,000 before taking into account her expense claims would be most misleading.

BB You’re right. It would. But it is £20,000 before she takes her expenses OFF that figure. An economic adviser with postgraduate qualification in your department starts on £31,000 per annum. I would imagine their economic advice to that barrister would be “get another job”.

LC Well it is exactly that member of the junior bar that I have made it clear I want to help.

BB By cutting their fees and squeezing them out of the Crown Court by cutting solicitors thereby forcing them to do their own advocacy?

LC Yes. And if they don’t like that help I have made it quite clear I will introduce PCT in to the Crown Court. That’ll learn ’em.

BB So PCT is a weapon rather than a reform?

LC PCT is my grand plan. My flagship policy. The Grayling’s not for turning.

BB But what’s your Plan B?

LC I quite liked the Defamation of Strickland Banks but the rest of his stuff leaves me a bit cold……

BB No Lord Chancellor. Not a question about music What is your alternative to PCT?

LC I don’t need one.

BB But what if there are no bids?

LC There will be.

BB Indulge me for a moment. Let’s say that too few solicitors bid to cover the work. What will you do then?

LC They will bid. And if they don’t we’ll call the Army in. That’s what we always do. Firemen on strike? Call in the Green Goddesses. Security a bit lapse at the Olympics? Call in the Army.

BB That doesn’t really work does it. And what happens if you put 1200 firms out of business and then PCT turns out to be the disaster many predict. What then?

LC What do you suggest? Pilot schemes?

BB Well it would seem sensible. At least have some idea you are right before you get it very, very wrong.

LC I promised to make the savings now, or rather I need to make immediate savings.

BB But you already have. That’s what my concerned constituents are saying.

LC No. I need to save something from the £1.2billion budget.

BB As I said before, it is less than that now.

LC No. The budget is £1.3 billion.

BB You keep changing that figure.

LC No I don’t. The £1.4 billion budget is spiralling out of control as we speak.

BB You are just deliberately inflating the figures.

LC I have to rein in the projected £1.5 billion we are going to spend on criminal Legal Aid.

BB Stop this. It’s ridiculous.

LC Yes it is ridiculous that we spend £1.6 billion on mostly foreign criminals who don’t have a defence. I agree it needs stopping.

BB I am beginning to think you might say anything to justify these reforms.

LC Not at all. The public need to know that I intend to curb this system which swallows £1.7 billion of public funds….

BB Right, I’m leaving this is pointless.

LC Jolly nice to see you. Thanks and all that. Tell your constituents that at £1.8 billion we spend more on criminal legal aid than any other country….

BB I’m off. You are not listening.

LC Oh I am old boy. I listen. Send Maureen in on your way out. I have a saving to make. And give my best to the SELs…..

Make the Lord Chancellor listen to the facts and evidence being debated in Parliament. Signing the petition here is our only chance for that to happen.

It Could Be You – The Diary of an Ordinary Man

10th August 2015

This is the reason why I have kept a diary all these years so I can record and recall the momentous events in my life. So, and this may be the biggest thing ever to record….. I asked Jane to marry me tonight and she said yes!!! I was real smooth, booked a restaurant in town and asked the waiter to hide the ring in the ice bucket so when he came over with some champagne I popped the question and told her there was some expensive ice in the bucket. Exciting times……

3rd September 2015

It is odd to be so happy and so stressed at the same time. Everything is going so quickly towards organising the wedding and it is all so thrilling. At the same time everything at work is so stressful. The boss says that they are having to bid really low on contracts to get the work in and make promises as to when they will be finished. So we can’t afford temp labour so those of us on permanent contracts are having to work every hour to get the jobs done. All of us are terrified about losing our jobs. So I am happy, knackered and stressed! Anyway, football at the weekend so that should take my mind off it and then the pub on Saturday……

14th September 2015

I cannot stop my hand shaking as I write this. Even though it happened 48 hours ago I can’t stop shaking as I think about it. I am not sure I can even write about it yet but here it goes. I had been working late on the Wood Mill job, we have such a deadline. So I was coming home and it was dark on the Parkway. On the straight bit on the approach to the turning at the Bulls Head I swear there was nothing coming so I just took the turn and there was an almighty bang. I don’t know where he came from but a motorcyclist went straight in to the side of the van. The first thing I knew was the sound of metal tearing and the airbags went off. I just sat there stunned. I could hear the motorbike engine still revving. Someone opened the door and I staggered out in to the road. I could hear people speaking to me but my head was all over the place. The bike was on the floor wedged under the van. People were trying to get me to sit down but suddenly I thought about the rider. Where was he? I saw a figure in the road about 100 yards away. Two people were kneeling by him. I tried to walk over to him. Someone held my arm and it was then that I realised I was hurt. The pain shot along my arm and chest. I guess adrenaline or fear had blocked it out. The next thing were the sirens and lights. Police and ambulance. They took me to the General. I had broken my collarbone and some ribs. It was when I was in the cubicle that the Officers came in. And, Christ I can scarcely believe it, they told me the motorcyclist had died. I can’t stop the tears now. They breathalysed me. They said they had to. Procedure. I knew I was ok, I had been at work. I feel so sorry for that poor bloke.

17th September 2015

The police called in today to see me. Two nice officers. The poor bloke died at the scene. They told me that witnesses had seen that his headlight was not on as he approached the junction. That must have been why I didn’t see him. They said that a preliminary look at the bike showed it probably had a fault in the wiring that had led to the light being broken and that the guy probably knew it because the switch was in the off position. Not that we will know it because the poor bugger is dead. That explains why I didn’t see him. Doesn’t make me feel any better about it. I just want to get back to work and have all this behind me.

12th October 2015

Jane has been a rock these last few weeks. Looking after me when I was out of hospital. And then the last few weeks she has had to put up with my total feelings of despair at the thoughts of the accident. I have been waking up in the middle of the night when the accident is in my dreams. Sometimes it is not even the same accident. But the sights and sounds are the same. But Jane has been there for me. And now I am back at work things seem to be getting back to normal. The boss said they struggled without me but were just able to keep my job open. So now I just have to put this behind me and look to the future and the wedding.

16th October 2015

Work is hectic again. The collarbone is still giving me gyp, particularly after a hard day. Jane and I are saving every penny we have at the moment for the wedding. We have tried to cut out every overhead so we can plough all our disposable income in to the building society account to pay for the wedding. Jane being a school teacher is great but it does make a Saturday summer wedding and honeymoon in school holidays bloody expensive!!

19th October 2015

Just when I thought everything was back to normal this. A phone call from the police. They want me to go in and speak to them again. They have asked me to go to the station next Monday afternoon. I guess they have to finalise everything. Just wanted this to be over so I guess this might be the end at least.

23rd October 2015

I simply cannot believe it. When I got to the station they arrested me for death by careless driving. Properly arrested. I have never even been done for speeding. The police said they would get me a solicitor and then put me in a cell. I spent three hours in a cell. Me, locked up in a cell. Then my solicitor arrived. She told me that the police had disclosed some information to her. A witness, another driver, has said that I did not indicate as I pulled to the right to make the turn and that the police have an expert that said I should have been able to see the motorbike for ages before the turn, even though he had his light off. I told her I could not remember actually turning the indicator on but I must have done. I must have. I told her that the bike was just on me, I had no chance to see him. I was sorry, but it just wasn’t my fault. She talked me through what I can do and then we went in to interview. I told the police what I could recall. They even told me that it was thought the biker was speeding. I was interviewed for over an hour. Endless questions about what I was doing that day, how tired I was, distracted by work. At the end of it I was bailed. I have to go back in six weeks. I am on bail. For killing someone. The solicitor said she would be in touch.

6th November 2015

Work continues to be crazy but now it almost happens as if behind glass. In fact my whole life happens as if it is happening to someone else. It is if there are only two things in my life – the fact that the accident happened which is my only history and the fact that I have to wait another three weeks to find out what the police are doing which is my only future. I rang the solicitors today and was just told there was nothing we could do and just had to sit and wait.

5th December 2015

I am due at the police station tomorrow. I spoke to the solicitor this afternoon. The one that came to the police station has changed jobs so I spoke to someone else. The said there was no point in coming with me tomorrow. If they want to interview me again they’ll send someone but otherwise they would not come.

6th December 2015

If I had hoped that this would be over any time soon that was seriously wrong. When I got to the police station today they simply bailed me again for a further six weeks because the CPS need to advise them some more. Do they not realise they are playing with my future here? I know that the guy died and I should be grateful for what I have but if I had left five minutes earlier that day or been sent to another site I would be writing in my diary about the arrangements for a wedding, not recalling my attendance at a police station, sitting in a waiting room with people who look like they never work and being given a slip of paper detailing the fact that I am on bail. I am not a criminal. But I feel like one.

1st January 2016

Last night I just could not stand the idea of Jane’s brother’s New Year Eve party. Christmas day was bad enough but a night of everyone looking forward to all that the next year has to bring and here I am, thinking for the first time “Am I going to go to prison?” I just don’t know. Do people even go to prison for this sort of thing? I can’t explain it to Jane so she doesn’t understand. She just thinks I am being miserable. I reckon I have every right to be miserable. But we rowed about it.

14th January 2016

I could not face doing my diary yesterday. If it wasn’t bad enough that I had to take another afternoon off work when I got to the police station they charged me with death by careless driving. I am due in the Magistrates Court in four weeks time. I came straight out and called the solicitors and asked if I could come in for a meeting so I have an appointment next week. Another day off work. I had not really thought about it before but their office is miles away. They told me they only have the one office in the area. Right need to get a little perspective in my life. I cannot get the thoughts of all this from my mind. Jane is quite right to moan that I am ignoring the arrangements for the wedding. I cannot simply think about it. And when Jane tries to talk to me about it I just snap. I need to sit down with my solicitor and get things straight in my head. It is real now. I am really in trouble. I feel like I am drowning.

What will become of me?