Tag Archives: Tories

A Paying Customer

A letter written sometime in the nearish future.

Dear Lord Chancerlor,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laters,

Johnny

My Learned Dodo

When I came to the Bar I hoped for a glittering career. I have always been suspicious of any barrister who does not begin their career with a hope of obtaining Silk. It takes such a tremendous quantity of confidence and self-belief to take to your feet for the first time it can only be a life which those who believe that they can be the very best would embark upon.

The extent to which my aspirations have been held back consequent upon my ability is not for discussion here and at least some of my confidence can remain intact, even if it is misleadingly so. However the time has come now, 20 years in, whereby my fears are not where my career will go but when it will end.

In recent times both The Lord Chancellor and the The Attorney-General have expressed the view that there are too many barristers. It would seem to be the case that they are linking this to a reduction in the level of fees paid in each individual case. My contention is that the number of barristers is not a matter for Government, and my instinct would be that it is certainly not a matter for a Conservative Government. Surely a Tory administration would welcome open competition between individuals who are engaged according to their ability?

Leaving political persuasion to one side, I find it remarkable that the level of fees is being used as a tool by the administration to thin out the number of barristers. At the outset of the PCT consultation the Badger cull was metaphorically referred to. This is now a more direct comparison. The Bar are being culled. Remuneration is the lethal device of choice.

The reasons why this is wrong are palpable. Not one word of either of the consultations refer to fee cuts being wielded as the executioner wields his axe when it comes to the Bar. The case for cuts is made out on the basis of economic need. The longer this goes on, the more I am convinced that the cuts are motivated by ideology. Economic difficulties have given the Government the opportunity to pare down the numbers of pesky lawyers.

Why is it any business of the Government how many barristers there are? When we are not working we cost the taxpayer precisely nothing. When a criminal lawyer is required barristers are available to advise and represent. We are an army of specialists and locums available without being on the payroll or representing a pension burden.

To prove the point I will rely upon this quote “if I were running a business and I had the choice between a group of people on my payroll, National Insurance, pension contribution, who I had to pay come rain or shine, who I had to pay whilst on holiday and all the rest…. Or I could use a team of experienced freelancers I’d go for the experienced freelancer every time”. Not my words but the words of Chris Grayling. So why does he want to reduce the number in the team of the experienced freelancers?

Fees for cases should be set at a rate which represents fair remuneration for the work undertaken. It seems that implicit in the uttering of Grayling and Grieve that they acknowledge the rates will be fixed at a level that only members of the Bar with extensive diaries can survive. Which is great news for anyone hoping to divide their time between their family and their career. And gives little hope to those yet to carve out their own practice. This is not a series of cuts aimed at fat cats. This is a cull which will come for the scrawny cats first. Oh, and by the way, I can only really do one trial at a time. So I would like to be paid appropriately for the work which it involves.

Let there be no mistake. Not only are the Bar right to fear we cannot survive further cuts to our remuneration but we should now fear that is the intended consequence of the proposed cuts. A fan of conspiracies may view this as sinister in the context of a Government that seems intent on reducing or removing the ability of the citizen to challenge the State. I do not know about that. But I do know one thing – the Bar and the opportunity for people of ability to become part of the Bar are things worth fighting for.

We should not sit back and simply accept cuts. This is about each of us fighting to preserve our existence. In War of the Worlds, HG Wells described man’s initial failure to react to the Martian invasion in these terms “So some respectable dodo […] might have lorded it in his nest, and discussed the arrival of that shipful of pitiless sailors in want of animal food. ‘We will peck them to death tomorrow, my dear’.”

Fighting the cuts is not to oppose austerity. The Bar are not the latest public servants to experience cuts. We were at the vanguard of the cuts. Now it is about each individual taking responsibility for taking action against the proposals. The stated intention of the Government is to put you out of business. Do not be a dodo. Start pecking back. NOW.