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Criminal bar remains resolute as over 90 chambers back direct action over legal aid cuts

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Barristers have been refusing to take new publicly-funded cases since April 1

It is understood that over 90 chambers now publicly support the Criminal Bar Association’s (CBA) call for direct action in response to fresh government cuts to legal aid.

In a message to its members, CBA chair Angela Rafferty QC said that the bar’s “resolute approach” had led to a “watershed moment”. A spreadsheet doing the rounds on social media overnight suggests the association now has the backing of 91 sets. Stressing that it’s still the CBA’s hope that a solution can be reached before the “action escalates,” the Red Lion Chambers barrister continued:

“The cohesion makes us strong. Solicitors are playing an invaluable part in this and are showing tremendous courage in their dealings with the courts and their clients.”

Last month, CBA members voted overwhelming in favour of direct action from 1 April. This was in response to changes to the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS), which barristers say will result in further cuts to their income.

Rafferty, however, was keen to stress that this was not a strike. “We cannot strike given our self-employment,” she said. “All we can do is to refuse work — this is harmful to all of us but especially our most vulnerable members and our Chambers. Yet we think it is necessary. The action we are taking is to save our future and the future of the criminal justice system. We are considering how we can protect our most junior and vulnerable members.”

The 2018 Chambers Most List

Taking aim at the government, Rafferty said that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) had provided no indication that it was willing to invest in a system which was already suffering from “chronic impoverishment.” She continued:

“The politicians who can resolve this dispute must be aware of the growing clamour to do something about justice. The rhetoric towards us must change. The only message we hear is one of cut, cut, cut. We have been hearing it for years. We have had enough.”

The CBA’s defiant message comes less than a week after a panel of top lawyers predicted that chaos would ensue as a result of the protests.

Penelope Gibbs, a research associate at the University of Oxford, anticipated that “judges will adjourn cases rather than getting unrepresented defendants to struggle to represent themselves”. Emphasising that this would be the correct course of action, Gibbs told those in attendance at the Why Criminal Justice Matters event in London that adjourning so many cases will “create chaos” in a justice system that is already “crumbling”.

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29 Comments

Not Amused

In modern Britain public money is spent on hordes of unnecessary public sector (or public paid) employees and not on front line services.

This is the system Blair created and it is rubbish.

(22)(4)

SingaporeSwing

That’s not a fair characterisation of the problem.

Criminal lawyers should get the same basic as doctors

(9)(2)

Anonymous

So you are proposing a 150% rise then.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Why? Why not the pay of nurses or physiotherapists?

It’s only middle class self-regard that brackets lawyers and doctors together.

I might accept a rough equivalence between the worth of silks and of doctors, but nothing below that.

(0)(32)

Anonymous

Because:

a) like doctors, we study for years and leave education with massive debts that nurses do not.
b) like doctors, we make difficult decisions on a day to day basis that can come back and bite us. The responsibility is greater than that borne by nurses.
c) if nurses stay late, they get overtime. They do not take work home with them to do. I am up late every night working, unpaid. As an hourly rate I earn less than a newly qualified nurse does.
d) I have no pension, sick pay, maternity pay or other benefits – which are all above average in the NHS.

I know this because I come from a family of nurses who frequently tell me to pack in the criminal bar and train to be a nurse because my pay, conditions, lifestyle and prospects would all be better – and the public would like me and appreciate what I do instead of thinking I’m a fat cat.

(34)(1)

Anonymous

Most of what you’ve written confuses effort with worth.

But b) is just wrong. The routine responsibilities on criminal practitioners’ shoulders are nothing like as significant as those faced by doctors. The consequences of a slip or bad judgment are hardly ever as serious (in most cases it doesn’t matter what defence lawyers do anyway).

(2)(30)

Criminal Hack

How much is your liberty worth? If I was defending you, how much effort would you like me to put in? Should I do nothing on the basis that it wouldn’t make any difference anyway?

(26)(2)

Anonymous

That would depend on the case. A run of the mill case with – as is perfectly common – a not guilty plea backed by an implausible story, in the face of overwhelming prosecution evidence…I wouldn’t try too hard if I were you.

A doctor has to take everything seriously. Raised temperature, rash, blurred vision, chest pain etc…any of these could be nothing or could be very serious, depending on the patient.

No, your responsibility is less than that of a doctor, junior or senior, GP or hospital. By a long way.

(1)(3)

Mr (Optional)

@Anonymous: Apr 17 2018 11:59am

Re: “It’s only middle class self-regard that brackets lawyers and doctors together. I might accept a rough equivalence between the worth of silks and of doctors, but nothing below that”

Nonsense. Whilst it is true that when a criminal barrister makes a mistake nobody dies, if we screw things up, even in a piddling little Mags Court common assault case, then the following outcomes may well ensue for some clients as a result of being poorly defended or badly prosecuted (especially disclosure failures):

– Loss of job (swiftly followed by loss of home).
– Loss of reputation.
– Loss of relationship.
– Loss of contact with children for periods of time, sometimes permanently. Every criminal hack will be familiar with those cases where allegations of domestic violence seem to have been made in order to gain a strategic advantage in Family Court proceedings.
– Prison sentence/remand in custody (which frequently leads to some or all of the above).

Fancy any of those? No. Me neither.

I accept that in extreme cases if a GP drops a clanger, then the outcome can be terminal for the patient, but in the vast majority of instances the patient will either get better by themselves or there won’t be grave consequences. The same can’t be said for defendants in criminal cases.

Btw, the last time I went to the GP he basically disinterestedly inputted my symptoms into a fancy version of google, the computer diagnosed me and I was in and out in less than 10 minutes. It reminded me of that scene in Idiocracy where the main protagonist visits the hospital (500 years into the future) and the slack jawed nurse simply gazes blankly at him and presses a button on a pictorial console like a children’s toy to triage his ailment.

(7)(0)

Mr (Optional)

Here’s the clip: https://youtu.be/LXzJR7K0wK0

(0)(0)

Anonymous

To the barricades, Jocasta!

(3)(4)

Lord Harley of Counsel

Pro bobo is the future.

(4)(4)

HHj

And Barristers will feed their families how?

(3)(0)

Anonymous

By not doing loads of Legal Aid cases at a loss and doing a small number of private cases at a profit instead.

(5)(13)

Anonymous

So who will do the legal aid cases? Or should people eligible for legal aid be priced out of the justice system for good?

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Nobody. The govenment wants to keep paying 1978 rates of pay with the result that cases are no longer profitable to do. It is the same as if the govenment said to NHS workers that they will no longer be paid a salary, but instead will be paid a fixed fee per patient treated calculated at what it cost to treat a patient in 1978. Out of that fixed fee they must pay the running costs of the NHS at 2018 rates. They can keep the difference as a fee. If the fixed fee paid is less than the cost of running the NHS then all NHS workers go bankrupt and you don’t have an NHS anymore.

If you want a builder to do work on your roof for a fixed fee of £500, but it costs him £600 to pay the Scaffolder to put up the Scaffolding then you won’t get you roof fixed. Whining about how you have the most generous building budget in the world and how it’s not fair that fat cat builders won’t accept work at a loss does not change the fact that you cannot get building work done at below cost fees.

(18)(2)

Mumsy

ME COS IM TOO DERANGED AND SENILE!!

(1)(2)

Mr (Optional)

Whoever gave the above post the thumbs down either doesn’t understand the criminal justice system or they work for the MOJ (which is more or less the same thing).

(5)(0)

Mr (Optional)

By “above”, I mean the “1978 rates of pay…” post, not the “deranged and senile” one (which, serendipitously, could also apply to the powers that be at the MOJ).

(5)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(0)

Mr (Optional)

Perhaps if criminal cases could be resolved by firing cruise missiles at defendants then the HM Govt might just be interested. After all, we just fired 20 odd of them at Syria so we can pretend we are still a major player on the world stage and they only cost £666m each (plus the cost of getting the ship into range and all the other logistical support). It seems the Govt can find money when it wants to….

(14)(6)

Doctor Doom

The Magic Money Tree: suddenly making an appearance when bribing the DUP/blowing up brown people.

(8)(0)

Mr (Optional)

According to a report I just read, the cost of us giving Syria a light spanking was £2.4bn. That is more than 10 times the amount the Govt cut from the legal aid budget, at the cost of the virtual and perhaps soon actual collapse of the criminal justice system. Just think about that for a moment. THEY QUITE LITERALLY SET FIRE TO 10x THE AMOUNT THEY SAID THEY COULDN’T AFFORD TO SPEND ON LEGAL AID IN ONE NIGHT!!!!

Sorry for the caps, but I am ****ing furious

(10)(6)

Anonymous

The RAF fired 8 Storm Shadow missiles, which cost just shy of £800,000 per unit. Whether or not you believe this is justified, throwing around utterly inaccurate figures doesn’t help anyone.

(6)(5)

Mr (Optional)

How do you know my figures were inaccurate and yours aren’t? Unless you have extremely high level security clearance then for all you know it could have been 80, or 18, or 8 or none. However, giving in to the temptation to engage with your pedantry, 8 x £800,000 = £6.4bn. Which my rather tired and foggy brain thinks works out at around 30 times the £220m saving I quoted earlier (so it is even worse than I originally thought).

The “20 odd missiles” claim was a bag of a fag packet estimate based on a newspaper report (I can’t recall which one and I can’t be bothered to look it up again as I am commenting on a website and not drafting pleadings), which said that 104 missiles had been fired. 60 odd of these were launched by the USA, 20 odd by France and 20 odd by the UK. Plus the a number of UK warplanes also flew sorties. Apologies that I don’t have a Rain Man like recall for how many…..

(5)(5)

Mr (Optional)

Just realised my maths is way off. That’s what comes of posting after about 3.5 hrs sleep. The point still remains that after the Govt continually pleads poverty it’s a bit rich (pun intended) that all of a sudden money can be found to lob bombs around the Middle East when it suits them.

Whilst the missiles might “only” cost £800,000 each in terms of replacement expenditure of the hardware, there are also the logistical costs of mobilising the Navy/RAF etc. So the £2.4bn claim might be accurate.

(4)(2)

Mr (Optional)

This from t’interwebz – “The British government has spent over $2.44 billion (£1.7bn) to carry out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014, the year the US and its allies formed a so-called coalition to allegedly counter terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the two Arab countries, according to official data.

The larger chunk of the money, around $2 billion (£1.5bn), has gone into flying the Royal Air Force (RAF)’s Tornado and Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets as well as Reaper attack and surveillance drones for more than 42,000 hours.”

Now….would that huge amount money have been better spent on our education, justice and health services or on trying to keep up with the Joneses/Trumps?

(6)(0)

Judge Mental

Stay strong peeps.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

The criminal justice system has endured cut after cut after cut. In previous fee scheme changes there has been an agreed scheme implemented and then subsequently that agreed scheme has been cut. We have had enough. No investment in criminal justice across the board has seen the system reach breaking point and then snap. Recent cases in the media show that innocent people are facing trial when there is material out there undermining the prosecution case which is not disclosed or disclosed mid-trial. We at the coal face see this day in and day out and we have had enough. The whole system requires investment across the board in all sections – police, CPS, defence, court buildings, fees, the whole system. That is why the criminal defence barristers and solicitors see this time as a pivotal moment. For everyone involved investment is needed. Victims of crime want things done properly too and presently that is not happening….

(3)(0)

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