So you’ve witnessed a crime…10 things you should know as a witness (but probably won’t be told)

This is a little later than promised. But, following on from the Criminal Justice Alliance report last month, chronicling the collected misery of witnesses in Crown Court trials, herewith a litany of dirty little secrets masquerading as home truths, which I as a witness would want to know in advance. Just to make the heartbreak…

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Witnesses in criminal cases deserve to know the truth

The criminal courts are horrible. That is an inalienable truth. It is also a succinct way of summarising the findings of a report published last week by the Criminal Justice Alliance following a 20-month study of the Crown Courts. The paper – Structured Mayhem: Personal Experiences of the Crown Court – relies on observations of…

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Sexism? Welcome to the Bar, love.

When I was a baby barrister, one particular instructing solicitor used to send me his most unappealing, horrible clients on the basis that, in his words, “You look like a child, and judges will find it harder to slam my clients with your little babyface peeking up at them”. At the time I accepted the backhanded compliment with…

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Bozo the clown shows that the government doesn’t even understand its own grotesque Criminal Courts Charge

Do not mistake this for a witch-hunt. It is not. Rather, it is a ninny-hunt. In fact, if there was sufficient slogan space on the t-shirts that I, as a modern-day Thomas Danforth, would distribute to the villagers along with their flaming torches, it is a Legally-Illiterate-Ninny-Who-Has-Inexplicably-Found-His-Hands-On-The-Oxidated-Levers-of-Justice hunt. Shailesh Vara MP, the under-secretary of state at the Ministry…

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Official: If you are accused of a crime, the government will pay more for someone to photocopy your case than for someone to defend you

This is not a complaint about what criminal barristers get paid. Honestly. There are plenty of such grizzlings on other posts over these pages. But this is not one of them. No siree. Well not really. Admittedly pay rates are a feature of this contemplation, but only as an adjunct to a broader, more depressing principle. And it…

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Witless for the Prosecution: A brief response to the CPS’ response

Last weekend, the Sun on Sunday gobbled up the juiciest, lowest-hanging fruit on the legal stories tree (if such an arboreal metaphor exists) and published a mini-splash on the various maladies rotting the Crown Prosecution Service. The article, “Witless for the Prosecution”, relied upon seemingly anecdotal evidence from two anonymous CPS whistleblowers – one a…

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Why this 75p Mars bar shows we should abolish magistrates

If there is one positive to be derived from the Criminal Courts Charge (about which see here), it is that the creeping media attention is starting to shine a low-wattage torch on the grubby underside of the criminal justice system – the magistrates’ courts. Enormous credit must be extended to Frances Crook and colleagues at…

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Michael and the Mystery of the Disappearing Prosecution Service

And now, the latest instalment in a new children’s series provisionally entitled “Michael Meets The Justice System”, possibly published by Penguin (and now, happily, no longer barred to prisoners), in which the reader joins brand new Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove on a rollercoaster of head-scratching and belly laughs as…

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Bozo the clown and the court closures

A somewhat disheartening intervention yesterday from junior justice minister Shailesh Vara, the mendacious bozo behind the false statistics on barristers’ earnings fiasco, as his written ministerial statement heralds a consultation envisaging the closure of 91 courts and tribunals. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Courts and Legal Aid made the following observation: “The estate costs taxpayers…

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