The Big Issue: Why The Law Is Broken

I’ve written a piece in this week’s Big Issue on the crisis in our criminal justice system.

The article can be read online here, but if you are able to grab a paper copy and donate to a brilliant cause, I’d urge you to do so.

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3 thoughts on “The Big Issue: Why The Law Is Broken

  1. I wish we could put your article in front of all those newly qualified lawyers earning squillions of pounds and working for US law firms in the City. Two tiered legal system with an unbridgeable gulf between these people and junior / senior criminal legal aid lawyers.

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  2. The net result of a decade of conflict and confrontation with the MoJ has resulted in no improvement in criminal defence legal aid fees. They have been drastically cut. The best that can be said is that things, for the criminal bar, have got worse more slowly than they otherwise might. In The Times law section (14 June 2018), the following Bar Council history of cuts in defence fees is listed;

    1997: end of hourly rates and a new graduated fee scheme for trials of up to ten days. Rates set at 1995 fee levels
    2001: scheme extended to trials of up to 25 days, involving fees cut
    2004: Government restored “unintended” cuts, but with no rise for inflation. Scheme extended to trials of up to 40 days
    2005: QC payments cut by 12.5 per cent; “uplift” scrapped for 10 day-trials
    2007: A revised scheme increases fees by 18 per cent, but below 26 per cent rate of inflation from 1997-2006
    2010: Fees cut by 13.5 per cent over three years. Scheme extended to 40-60 day trials — reducing fees in those cases by 39.5 per cent
    2011: more fee cuts for serious cases
    Since 2013: no cuts, but no rises for inflation. Fees now 40 per cent lower in real terms than in 2007

    Clearly, whatever action, over the last ten years, the criminal bar/CBA have taken to improve the situation hasn’t worked. The MoJ have brushed aside the latest modest demands from the CBA. Trusting that the MoJ will sees sense when they have their ‘planned review’, that future Parliamentary enquiries/committees will right past wrongs or that the ‘money tree’ of any possible incoming government will magically solve everything will only lead to further, bitter disappointment. The criminal bar is becoming living proof of Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

    The current business model the criminal bar uses is not working and needs completely rebuilding to meet the demands of today’s circumstances to support and reward those criminal barristers who remain afterwards to continue their valuable work. Something fundamental must change.

    There is a debate about the bar being a profession or business. The high standards barristers use in exercising their training and experience when dealing with clients and courts in the execution of their work is of a professional nature. How payments for that work are made and their commercial dealings with clients are carried out are to do with the business of the bar.

    No business which is as competitive and crowded as the criminal bar, has seen payments fall for up to 20 years and is failing to prosper would persevere with the same business model. That business would change the model to one which matches their circumstances. The criminal bar has not done this.

    Jonathan Djangoly MP touches on this in a recent piece in Legal Futures (21 May 2018) https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/abss-can-facilitate-criminal-legal-aid-revolution-argues-former-justice-minister

    The criminal justice system might be ‘broken’ but the leadership of the criminal bar is as guilty as the MoJ in breaking it. Worse still, the leadership of the criminal bar has failed to come up with any suggestions of new business models preferring to perpetuate past and increasingly useless and discredited structures.

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