Tag Archives: SaveUKJustice

Sixteenth Letter to the Lord Chancellor

Sixteenth Letter to the Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice,

Mr Chris Grayling,

22nd May 2014

Re: Operation Cotton (R v Scott Crawley and others)

Dear Lord Chancellor,

I want to congratulate you on your Court of Appeal pyrrhic victory yesterday. It will make your appearance on BBC Question Time later tonight a little easier, but we both know that you are in a very tight spot here. Continue reading

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Fourteenth Letter to the Lord Chancellor

Fourteenth letter to the Lord Chancellor,

Secretary of State for Justice,

Mr Chris Grayling,

14th April 2014

Dear Lord Chancellor,

I too am pleased that our friend and ally Nigel Evans MP has been acquitted of those sex charges, but it is awkward that he is angry at the injustice of having to pay his own £130,000 legal fees. Of course it’s an injustice that an innocent man can be acquitted and lose his entire life savings in the process. What are you supposed to do about it? You’re only the Secretary of State for Justice.
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Tenth Letter to the Lord Chancellor

Tenth letter to the Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice,

Mr Chris Grayling,

22nd January 2014

Dear Lord Chancellor,

Following our emergency summit meeting in the Pontefract bunker before Christmas, can I take stock of the strategy we then decided?
1. Get rid of Lord McNally and replace him with anyone, simply anyone. Was Simon Hughes MP the best Nick Clegg could come up with? At least his first public pronouncement, asking Magistrates to double as defence lawyers to save costs, is the sort of madness that is in keeping with the MOJs hitherto direction of travel.
2. Publishing on the first working day of the New Year the earnings of all the leaders of circuits, in the Daily Mail. I see that Gregory Bull QC, former leader of the Wales and Chester Circuit, was named and shamed as earning £102,792 last year; well that’s the last we’ll hear of him, I hope. LOSER. Continue reading

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Ninth Letter to the Lord Chancellor

Ninth letter to the Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice,

Mr Chris Grayling,

19th November 2013,

Dear Lord Chancellor,

Thank you for your letter, or should I say cri de coeur? Who knew being Lord Chancellor would be so difficult? I think you are correct when you state that Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice are totally incompatible posts. I see the key problem you identify: (1) the Secretary of State for Justice is a political role that requires a hard hatchet approach to reduce the spending of the MOJ (on behalf of the Treasury), whilst (2) The Lord Chancellor is a quasi-judicial post that requires the upholding of justice and judicial impartiality and the defence of the rule of law. The choice of the first is to cut legal aid whereas the duty of the second is to defend it from cuts. I also see that your strategy hitherto of stating that you are defending justice whilst actively undermining it is becoming less easy to pass off. Some of your triumphs in office as Secretary of State for Justice:

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Seventh letter to the Lord Chancellor

Seventh letter to the Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice,

Mr Chris Grayling,

2nd July 2013.

Dear Lord Chancellor,

Congratulations, the U-turn you have announced on client choice for criminal defendants on legal aid is a master-stoke. As we discussed last week, in your bunker under Pontefract Castle, the concession has had a number of very positive advantages:

1. The hostile members of the Justice Select Committee have been thrown off balance and now have only 24 hours to develop a new tack for questioning you when you give evidence tomorrow. It may help restore your reputation as a more sure-footed politician, after being hopelessly outmanoeuvred over the last few weeks. Your letter to Sir Alan Beith on the issue yesterday almost made you sound statesmanlike: “However, I have heard clearly from the Law Society and other respondents that they regard client choice as fundamental to the effective delivery of criminal legal aid. I am therefore looking again at this issue, and expect to make changes to allow a choice of solicitor for clients receiving legal aid”. No wonder you were able to write in the letter to Sir Alan “I look forward to discussing the proposals with the committee.” Ha! That’s not what you said to me last week in Pontefract (when I ran out of tissues trying to dry your self-pitying tears).

2. Further, it confuses those who stated that the consultation was a sham.

3. Those Conservative MPs who spoke against your plans at the Parliamentary debate in the Commons last week, which you wisely elected to avoid whilst electioneering in Bedford, have been brought back onside (and therefore back into the broad church of Grayling supporters in advance of any future party leadership campaign). The potential candidates on the right of the party, remember, are few so your toadying to the Treasury on cuts in the spending review and your right wing ideological plans for privatisation of some of the courts are crucial to you now. By saying “the rationale for proposing this change [the removal of client choice]…is not a policy objective in its own right” shows to the party faithful that it is not a real concession but merely a little tweak.

4. Also, the petition having reached 100,000 signatories has been dealt with. It was worded thus: “The MOJ should not proceed with their plans to reduce access to justice by depriving citizens of legal aid or the right to representation by the Solicitor of their choice.” You were never going to abolish legal aid and you have conceded on the right to representation by a solicitor of choice. Job done. The petition may have become an irrelevance.

5. And best of all it has divided the opposition. The Law Society could see your concession as their victory and then concede on everything else you want. (Ken Clarke made some minor concessions to get the bulk of the LASPO proposals through; this has the potential to be your pacifying decoy.) Our Pontefract strategy would then have worked! In the last 24 hours, since your announcement, duty solicitors have turned on small solicitors firms, small solicitors firms have turned on the large firms. All have turned on the Law Society. There is the delicious danger that they will all fight like rats in a bag for their livelihood and wages. Before, the opposition was united on the ground that removing client choice was not in the public interest (for the simple reason that it was not in the public interest). And you saying to the Commons today, at Justice questions, that the Bar Council did not show “the same degree of constructive engagement” as the Law Society can only enhance this divide and rule strategy.

The beauty of all of this is that the other objectionable parts of your plans will be able to pass through unhindered and unnoticed:

• The ‘residence test’ which leaves the Government free to act unlawfully anywhere outside Britain, with its victims denied access to justice. And provides those trafficked into this country and forced to act as prostitutes with no redress if arrested.

• Prisoners (including children) in custody will not be able to challenge unjust Government decisions affecting their incarceration.

• The lowering of experts fees by 20% (on top of the reduction from 2011) that will have the effect of reducing experts of the highest calibre being available to the courts, as criticised by Her Majesty’s Council of Circuit Judges.

• The fee tapering proposals which sets the same fee for guilty plea as for trial that will provide a financial incentive for some lawyers to ignore their clients best interest and pressurise them into pleading guilty, even if they are innocent, described by the Bar Standards Board as a “high risk strategy”.

• The reduction in the use of QCs and junior counsel for serious and complex cases, even though the Recorder of Leeds Peter Collier QC said that, in his experience as a judge who presides over murder trials, two counsel often “saves time and money”.

• The 17.5% cut in fees across the board, that totally ignores the 71% of the public who are concerned that the proposed legal aid cuts will lead to innocent people being wrongly convicted (ComRes poll 21st May 2013).

• Denying legal aid for judicial review for cases until they achieve permission (justified on those figures shown to be inaccurate by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law), a proposal that has been called “unconscionable” by the 150 Treasury Counsel in their letter to the Attorney-General.

Let us hope the broad coalition opposing your legal aid plan doesn’t step back and re-concentrate on your remaining unjust proposals. Let us hope the above proposals, that are clearly NOT in the public interest, slip through the net. Let us hope that the opposition argues within about who was, and who was not, present at the Law Society meetings with you and who is stabbing whom in the back. Let us hope that they don’t get a grip, calm down and concentrate on the proposals you are still standing by that are wrong in principle. Let us hope they don’t see the woods for the trees.

I see that you’ve been sent a letter by the Information Commissioner’s Office asking you to obey the law following your website being spotted as one that may have unlawfully gathered the data of visitors without their consent (via computer cookies). How on earth are you expected to know the law, you’re only the Lord Chancellor for heaven’s sake? My imps are scurrying within the internet server at the MOJ offices in Petty France now to resolve the issue. Whilst there, as you asked me to arrange, they are frenetically deleting emailed responses to the consultation paper. It is a bit awkward, I agree, that some of the lawyers who responded to the paper ‘tracked’ their emails so that our deleting them has now been spotted. Anyway the MOJ press release claiming technical glitches and you saying you are ‘confident’ seems to have held the line, for now. You keep telling people to re-send their emails and we’ll keep deleting them. These lawyers are a deviously suspicious bunch. How could they not have confidence in your confidence?

My chief imp has, at your request during the Pontefract bunker summit, placed the musty robes of one of your Lord Chancellor predecessors on eBay for £454. The late Earl of Kilmuir (Sir David Maxwell Fife, when he was Attorney-General) was a fine predecessor of yours (Lord Chancellor 1954-1962). He refused a plea made to him by Derek Bentley thereby allowing him to hang, despite the jury recommending clemency and a similar petition from 200 MPs, and Bentley having a mental age of 11. Those were the days! That, my friend, is how you deal with a troublesome petition. However he was not all good, I see that he was one of the people who drafted the European Convention on Human Rights. So you are quite right to dump his robes, as poetic inhuman and degrading treatment, onto the market place for dressing-up clothes. Spend the £454 wisely.

Finally, my imps are, as we speak, delivering favourable planted questions in brown envelopes to Nick De Bois (C, Enfield North) and Rehman Chishti (C, Gillingham) your two most favourable henchmen on the Justice Select Committee. Good luck tomorrow.

Yours, already in position under Sir Alan’s chair with a spike,

the intrigant.

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Fourth Letter to the Lord Chancellor

Fourth letter to the Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice

 

Mr Chris Grayling

 

5th June 2013

 

Dear Lord Chancellor,

 

Thank you for your reply and for allowing me access throughout last night to the MOJ building at 102 Petty France in Westminster. My two imps and I were able to do the initial sift for you of the responses to your consultation on transforming legal aid. Who knew there would be tens of thousands? Anyway I have identified some particularly problematic responses for you and list them here for your perusal.

  1. Legal Services Consumer Panel. The panel concluded that because of the heavy focus on price in the tender process there was a “series of risks that quality may deteriorate due to the reforms” (paragraph 22) and that there is “no incentive on providers to deliver services exceeding the minimum standards” (paragraph 23). Their response relied on evidence provided by the Office for Fair Trading and its own Panel’s Tracking Survey. It challenged your comments that defendants are not connoisseurs of legal skills by showing in chart 2 from their survey that legally aided clients shop around between solicitors in 40% of cases, but privately funded ones in only 25%. 
  2. Council of Her Majesty’s Circuit Judges. The Council is critical of the proposed reduction to expert’s fees of 20%. Between paragraphs 113-126 they say that the proposal is premature as there is insufficient data or analysis and consequently no justification or supporting arguments in favour. It is worried about the impact on the quality and supply of experts in many cases, such a clinical negligence birth damage cases where experts of the highest calibre are needed. They point out that the reduction in October 2011 of expert’s fees has already reduced the pool and there are, for example, only a handful of paediatric radiologists nationwide for an area where expertise is widely needed.
  3. The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law. This response was written by academics headed by Dr Mark Elliott a Reader in Public Law at the University of Cambridge. The legal academics were concerned “about the incompleteness of the statistical evidence upon which the proposals are based” (paragraph 17) With the figures for legally aided judicial review (JR) for 2011-2012 that they did have, they examined with care the MOJ suggestion that it was because as many as 56% of legal aid JR cases end before permission is sought that legal aid funding should be removed. The Centre showed in its response that in fact legal aid JR application were five times more likely than privately funded JR applications to receive permission from the court to proceed. And overall privately funded JR cases were less likely to succeed in the end than legally aided ones.
  4. Howard League for Penal Reform. This response stated that the proposals if implemented are counter-productive to the MOJ’s commitment to the rehabilitation of offenders.   The League also argued that it is wrong to have a blanket ban on legal aid for vulnerable prisoners, such as children, who suffer abuse whilst being detained by the state. Further they are concerned at the loss to the country of quality specialist prison law firms in the tender process.
  5. Bar Standards Board. The Board’s response touches only on its regulatory remit. It states that the proposals are a “high risk strategy” and in particular criticises the fee tapering proposals that sets the same fee for guilty pleas as trials, and thus provides a financial incentive to new providers to ignore their clients best interests and pressurise them to plead guilty.  As legal regulators they “may not be able to mitigate that risk since it cannot safely be assumed that abuses will necessarily come to light”.
  6. HH Judge Peter Collier QC, the Honorary Recorder of Leeds. He has a particular interest in dealing with applications for multiple/two advocate cases, and he attaches his well-known guidance to lawyers to his response. He is of the view that QCs are of importance and value in serious and complex cases and that in his experience they save time and money. He has some constructive suggestions to make about applications to the court for two advocates and is in support of the proposition that more litigation support should be made available to counsel at trial. He asserts that resident judges along with trial judges are best placed to assess the appropriateness of any applications. He finishes his response thus:

“What a tragedy it would be to dismantle the system which is currently providing in Leeds an efficient and effective criminal justice system to find in 18 months’ time that the savings would have been achieved without dismantling the system.”   

 The main problem for you with these responses (and many others like them) is:

  • They come from people who know what they are talking about.
  • They deal with specific areas of the proposals that lie within their area of expertise, rather than mere generalities.
  • They are made by people with nothing to gain financially from the proposals being not implemented. None of the authors are paid by legal aid. They stand to gain nothing by defeating the proposals.
  • They often rely on research, statistics, case law and other material and evidence that both contrast with the MOJs bald assertions and take apart the MOJ statistics that there are.
  • They build up together to provide a convincing case that the MOJ has lost the argument on these proposals.

Remember the golden rule of government: Don’t waste time winning the argument win the PR battle. How wise you have been to release the legal aid figures for lawyers for publication in today’s Daily Mail.  I laughed when I saw it. The consultation is as you know almost exclusively about the Government’s criminal legal aid spend, but by including the legal aid payments for family lawyers, civil lawyers and lawyers from the Leveson Inquiry the public will be beautifully befuddled. Quoting that the criminal legal aid solicitors firm Tuckers earned £8.27 million last year was particularly good as they are likely to earn more than that if they successfully tender for one or more of the 400 new contracts. 65% of junior criminal legal aid barristers earn less than £50k per annum; your figures in the Mail will conceal that! Also you are quoted as saying that the opposition to your plans come from lawyers who are using an “evocative and creative defence” against the MOJ’s plans. It is quite right for you to keep the public’s eye on the lawyers who stand to gain financially from defeating the proposals and not the arguments of the other legal experts, who do not. You must simply ignore all of the good arguments and keep repeating the mantra that lawyers are paid too much.

 

In fact my team and I have shredded all of the above responses. Let’s hope that they never get out into the public domain. We have burnt some, ripped up others, pasted a few backwards onto the wall of your office and fed some to the MOJ dog (although frankly he was pretty large already). The thousands of responses from solicitors I have bundled together, and I have done the same for those from all the barristers. They can be treated as simply two responses as you can declare that they all say the same thing.  Also I searched diligently, as you asked me to do, for some positive responses. I found one! I had to write it myself, but it is there. It simply says “You are right and everyone else is wrong” in capital letters in answer to each of the 36 questions. I have photocopied it 30,000 times. Some of the questions were genius. They required the respondent to choose between options within the model of PCT and allowed no option for disagreeing with the model. So: Mr Turkey, do you vote for Christmas on 24th, 25th or 26th of December? However I could find no response from Mr Bob Neill MP, he must have missed the deadline.

Finally, can I congratulate you for persuading someone in the CPS to issue a dictat disallowing all CPS employees from signing the e-petitions to save UK justice? Although it was arguably harassment, bullying and almost certainly unlawful, if it avoids 100,000 signatures being reached, it will save you from having to answer the substantive arguments against your proposals in Parliament. Your safest ground, as always, is not in the theatre of argument but over a cup of coffee having a cosy chat with a tame Daily Mail journalist.

 

Yours, with no dismay

 

the intrigant.    

 

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