to wonder why Chris Grayling's plans to smash our justice system appear to have gone unnoticed here?

(82 Posts)
rooiewooie Mon 22-Apr-13 14:08:01

I've been lurking on here for 3 years now. Never plucked up the courage to post until now.

Barristers in the North are "on strike" (ie meeting) to discuss the latest threat to legal aid and our justice system.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jakewallissimons/100213057/its-the-end-of-the-legal-system-as-we-know-it/

AIBU to wonder why this is not being discussed on MN?

Snoopingforsoup Mon 22-Apr-13 14:11:41

I think it has been. It's been discussed everywhere else.

scaevola Mon 22-Apr-13 14:13:22

There have been a number of threads about the wider away of legal aid. I am surprised you've missed all of if it's an area of interest to you.

Here's but one example of MN engagement with this. If you search MN, you'll easily find lots more.

So YABU to assume it's not been discussed. And YABU to assume MNetters are not interested.

Spero Mon 22-Apr-13 14:19:31

I have just clicked that link and it has a grand total of 3 posts so I assume it is not a topic setting mumsnet on fire.

My experience has been that people are happy to argue for an anti women bias in family court system for eg or to say that all social workers are crap but seem less interested in the wholesale dismantling of the family court system.

There is also not much sympathy for lawyers as people often don't understand the distinction between lawyers in private practice and lawyers paid by the state. So probably a lot of people dismiss this as 'fat cats' moaning, whereas I recall the last bail application I did I was actually out of pocket after paying my train fare and buying my criminal client some cigs.

rooiewooie Mon 22-Apr-13 14:27:59

To clarify I was referring to the very latest plans - competitive tendering for criminal legal aid work - as opposed to the changes to legal aid for family cases, which have already come in.

Grammaticus Mon 22-Apr-13 14:31:10

Quite, spero. But the Law Society and Bar Council seem to be totally shite at getting that message across. People on here moaning about teachers' pay always get to me, they are paid pretty much the same as legal aid lawyers and don't get me started on the holidays

scaevola Mon 22-Apr-13 15:07:26

I linked that one because it shows MN taking a public stand, not because of length of debate on it. As I said in my pp, it is merely one example.

If you use the Search function, there are plenty of hits. I thought it would derail this thread to link them all.

Spero Mon 22-Apr-13 15:37:36

Checked link again. Still only 3 posts. So while it is great to see mumsnet take a stand, it is clearly not an issue anyone gives much of a shit about.

I am a fairly regular user of this site and I don't recall seeing any debate about this issue. I will try a search.

Spero Mon 22-Apr-13 15:43:36

Well either search function is crap or I am. Found a thread from March with 5 posts and something from 2011 with 26 posts.

I think the gov has done a very clever job on publicising the (very few) criminal legal aid lawyers who earn shed loads to make it seem like all lawyers are rolling around in caviar.

So no op I don't think YABU.

rooiewooie Mon 22-Apr-13 16:09:22

Spero I think we found the same thread from 2011 (http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/in_the_news/1330777-To-ask-for-your-support-to-protect-Legal-Aid)

Has anyone read or read about the MOJ consultation document https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-legal-aid ?

Is everyone OK with the fact that if these plans go through lawyers will get paid the same whether the client pleads guilty or goes to trial?

And if you are falsely accused of a crime and can't afford to pay for legal representation you'll have to settle for whoever the CPS gives you from whichever firm submitted the cheapest bid?

eastegg Mon 22-Apr-13 16:18:49

You're right to raise this OP, and I think it is noticeable there's nowhere near as much debate as there would be about threats to schools or the NHS. Most people won't miss a decent criminal justice system until it's gone, they think all barristers are fat cats who are only trying to waste taxpayers' money defending the guilty. A hatchet job has been done by successive governments and now this one is ready to destroy publicly funded barrister and solicitors.

You can say that a criminal barrister earns the same as a teacher, roughly, but people literally won't believe it. Once you take into account holidays, sick pay, professional subs and indemnity etc, it probably works out less. But this isn't about whingeing, it's about saving a profession under attack.

andubelievedthat Mon 22-Apr-13 16:21:10

Most likely(lack of any real interest) is that most peeps are of the subconcious opinion that they will never need a solicitor at any time in their law abiding life,only "proper criminals will have such a need so why should the aforementioned mr/mrs johnny b good bother taking an interest? until the day they find themselves in a cell(from experience)by which time , it is ,as usual ,way too late.<resisting the urge to put exclamation mark !(and more than likely ,spell corectly !)

Spero Mon 22-Apr-13 16:43:11

I deliberately turned down a criminal pupillage from a really good set of Chambers because after only 6 months doing criminal cases on the mags court I could see which way the wind was blowing and I doubted very much I could have survived the next couple of years.

Of course we need an efficient well run system. But I don't think the way we are going is going to achieve this. I would rather see more investment in an efficient court system so trials weren't adjourned all the time.

rooiewooie Mon 22-Apr-13 19:14:35

for sure eastegg, "most people" don't realise that independent barristers prosecute as well as defend. They are the ones who take on the hard cases that the CPS can't handle. So if we lose the profession we'll also lose the ability to make sure those who are guilty of the most dreadful crimes get what they deserve and that their victims get justice.

andubelievedthat indeed, think of people like Christopher Jefferies (Joanna Yeats landlord) and Barry George (wrongfully convicted of Jill Dando's murder)

Spero yes, there are soooooo many other ways to save money. How about stopping the CPS prosecuting people when they don't have any evidence? How about making Tesco pay every time they prosecute someone for shoplifting, instead of the tax payer?

Spero Mon 22-Apr-13 19:23:01

I don't agree that Tescos should pay if someone commits a crime in their shops, I think prosecution of crime should always be a function of the state and we should pay taxes to support that.

But what I am worried about is that, once again, there is no thought given to reforms which would endure and would save money in the long run, rather 'we need to save billions now so lets just cut' - it will end up costing loads more money in the long run.

I am not in the criminal system anymore but the family system shows similar problems - desparate to save money the gov cuts legal aid for lots of emotive and difficult cases, expecting litigants in person to be able to put together a trial bundle, cross examine each other and then draw up court orders. And at the same time, they cut the number of available court staff and close court counters after lunch so you have no one to speak to.

rooiewooie Mon 22-Apr-13 20:14:21

yes, once again top down imposition of ill thought out reforms developed by people who know nothing about the system they are trying to "transform".

I guess we'll just have to hope our nearest and dearest don't ever need to settle a family matter / get wrongfully arrested / offended against in future...

Spero Tue 23-Apr-13 08:00:45
ZillionChocolate Tue 23-Apr-13 08:34:07

If the Government succeed, it's because they have all the power and their consultations are a sham. They are only interested in numbers, at the moment it's spending on legal aid. It doesn't take account of the consequences, like delay or unnecessary appeals. Justice isn't something you can measure easily and the Government doesn't seem to value it.

When the system falls apart, it won't be possible to resurrect it. It's frightening.

rooiewooie Tue 23-Apr-13 10:21:44

What do you think the answer is spero? To raising awareness, I mean?

Last time I checked only 16000 people had signed the petition!!

epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/48628

rooiewooie Tue 23-Apr-13 10:27:16

Yup, the idea of G4S running our justice system is very frightening ZillionChocolate. Look what happened with the Olympics...

Merle Tue 23-Apr-13 10:37:06

The 'consultation' has been brought forward by 6 months.

It has taken time for people to consider it and to formulate a response, which is why yesterday's meeting in Manchester was so necessary.

The Bar is an easy target, because we have no employment rights. It is unthinkable that any other profession would be treated with such contempt by the government.

Ultimately, of course, whether or not a barrister is in work won't concern most members of the public. Times are hard and there is no reason why cuts shouldn't be made. (actually criminal legal aid rates have been cut for the last 15 years, but anyhow).

This is not about money, it is about access to justice. The government is happy to allow G4S, Eddie Stobart, or anyone who is able to under-cut their bids, to handle British justice. The problem is that you get what to pay for, so we have the prospect of restricting access to justice, poorly represented defendants and a cluster of cases of miscarriages of justice, in the future.

The thing about the justice system is that it never matters, until you or your family are directly affected. Then it really matters. Please consider signing the petition.

specialsubject Tue 23-Apr-13 10:42:21

what others have said (and no, I am not in the legal profession). As law-abiding citizens we think we'll have no need of legal representation - that is not necessarily the case.

I was surprised to find out that the law is not always a high-paying profession - some barristers are really beginning to struggle and this proposal will make it much worse. Carter-Fuck and his mates as featured in Private Eye are not typical.

a functioning and accessible legal system is a cornerstone of a democracy. Please sign the petition if you agree.

Spero Tue 23-Apr-13 11:03:51

I think it is too late now. The Bar has always had abysmal PR. for at least 20 years of not more people have been fed the 'fat cat' myth - I still get it on certain threads.

The criminal bar should have got itself better organised much earlier.the public perception of barristers as pompous and over paid is so ingrained now that its a handy vehicle for the gov to hitch these cuts to. There is very little sympathy for the Bar and we share much of the blame for this. Traditional failure to engage with new media etc etc.

The problem is as others have said, a system dismantled in haste is going to cause many many more problems down the line.

Merle Tue 23-Apr-13 12:09:24

I have been talking to people, from all walks of life, about these proposals, and I have found that they do understand the issues and have not fallen for the cliche of the bar quaffing claret whilst raking in the cash.

Spero Tue 23-Apr-13 12:27:09

So have they signed the petition?

rooiewooie Tue 23-Apr-13 12:36:46

Welll, if Labour opposition don't appear to understand what hope for the public? Karl Turner is the only MP saying or doing anything about it.

Merle Tue 23-Apr-13 12:44:21

Spero, some of them have.

ReindeerBollocks Tue 23-Apr-13 13:34:10

This isn't just about the Bar but solicitors and all criminal firms in the North and the potential for them all to close.

The biggest problem to this cause is that the lawyers aren't prepared to help themselves and have been busying stabbing each other in the backs over these new proposals. When that they should be doing is rallying together to take action. But they are all too busy working out how to benefit out of the new proposals. Ae you aware that the BFG and certain members of the Bar have been having discussions with CG for the last two years - those members have always been out for themselves. And everyone is going to get shafted as, under this new scheme, there are many none lawyer firms wanting to place bids under the new system (Tesco law anyone?).

Realistically, a solicitor can get called out in the night to deal with very serious matters such as rape or murder and gets paid about £100 for a full nights work. Do you know of any plumbers who would do that? And these are cases which could have hefty sentences, but legally aided lawyers aren't paid properly for them. Is that fair?

Solicitors in the new scheme will be paid a pittance (less than £25k a year) due to the way in which this has been funded. Why would anyone train for nine years (duty status) for that?! It will potentially destroy the system as no-one will want to do it anymore.

And what is the Law Society doing to protect lawyers? Sweet FA from what I can see - to think this is what people pay their registration fees for!

OP, YANBU, it hasn't been properly debated - but when the lawyers can't debate it themselves properly, how can the public be expected to?

Merle Tue 23-Apr-13 13:49:06

RB - what is BFG? No, I'm not aware of the discussions you refer to.

High street sols are already earning £25k.

The situation up here, from what I can tell, is that no one is back-stabbing. All the discussions have been constructive and purposeful and the Bar and solicitors are cooperating. I am not so naive to not realise that this won't be the position if the proposals go through and it's everyone for themselves.

rooiewooie Tue 23-Apr-13 14:11:29

BFG = big firms group. They won't be so big when TescoLaw takes over!

ReindeerBollocks Tue 23-Apr-13 14:19:12

BFG is the big firm group - a very select group of firm owners who have been liaising with Mr Grayling for some time 'on behalf of all lawyers' except, it's all bullshit as they were busy protecting their own interests (or so they thought!). So actually in the NW there has been backstabbing from some firms towards others.

There have been select meetings. As far as I know the Bar had theirs yesterday, as did the solicitors. So far they have resolved to have another meeting - thats action for you.

Most Duty Solicitors I know are on anything from £25-£35K depending on the firm, but I will agree that pay has dwindled over the years. The only problem being is that £25K will be the maximum for any duty solicitor, which is ridiculous.

And whilst I'm vehemently opposed to the new system, I dont think the old one was much better. Very much an old boys club, with new firms being few and far between. Lots of people have made money from Legal Aid but that isn't anyone who qualified in the last ten years. Paying off police for clients, and client retention for the established firms.

However, I do think that Tesco Law is scary and the thought of a non lawyer firm makes me very wary for the criminal profession indeed. Personally I think that decision needs serious review by the Law Society and the Bar Council.

Merle Tue 23-Apr-13 16:16:12

RB what action do you think the Bar could/should take?

Can't strike. Can accept to sign up to QASA en masse, though.

bobbywash Tue 23-Apr-13 17:05:03

It isn't just criminal work and remuneration rates though is it. The whole of the legal profession is being hit by cuts and changes. The Jackson reforms will be just as bad for the civil side. Don't even get me started on Portal PI claims.

I actually think QASA is a joke too. The profession spends too much time protecting its own little piece of turf without regard to the bigger picture.

Merle Tue 23-Apr-13 17:57:20

From what I have heard about the Manchester meeting there were significant contributions from civil practitioners.

rooiewooie Tue 23-Apr-13 19:17:53

why can't all solicitors and barristers go on strike Merle? It would give the country a taste of what will happen if the proposals go through.

rooiewooie Tue 23-Apr-13 22:17:53

petition is still only at 17000 names! we are doomed!

Merle Tue 23-Apr-13 22:22:27

The bar can't strike because we're self-employed. We have no rights, therefore we're easy to kick around. Conversely if we are due to be in court then we have to be there, otherwise it is professional misconduct. Many of the barristers who asked for time out of court to attend the meeting on Monday were refused.

There is a meeting in May. As many of us as possible are going to that.

kungfupannda Tue 23-Apr-13 22:23:29

Labour oposition? Excuse me while I piss myself laughing.

This was Labour's idea in the first place. The Tories promised that they wouldn't bring it in if they got into power, but that they wouldn't stop it if it was already underway.

It wasn't, and they have.

We've seen it off once and now they're having another go. This isn't anything new.

Spero Tue 23-Apr-13 22:26:50

that's the irritating thing - the Gov complain about how much legal aid costs in criminal/family cases but it doesn't have to pay me for holidays, sick leave, my admin staff, my office, or contribute to my pension. I meet all those costs myself.

kungfupannda Tue 23-Apr-13 22:32:14

It's nice to see that people are noticing and interested in this issue - but I would encourage people to read carefully and make sure they understand the proposals and the implications so that they are in the best position to object/raise awareness.

There are a few mistakes/misconceptions on this thread alone.
eg the CPS allocating defence lawyers

rooiewooie Tue 23-Apr-13 22:43:53

kungfupannada can you link to an easy read summary so I can disabuse myself of misconceptions? I had no idea this was Labour's doing or that it was old news.

ReindeerBollocks Tue 23-Apr-13 22:53:59

Merle there were civil practitioners in consultation with the Gov alongside Criminal Barristers but there were also representatives from the BFG, supposedly representing all the criminal solicitors. I know that tomorrow a meeting is taking place with a BFG member and Mr Grayling - again this meeting won't be for the benefit of all criminal practioners, merely a select few.

I know from the Manchester meeting on Monday that the majority of criminal solicitors were in the meeting (so no official strike but no hearing were held). As far as I was aware this was also the case with several members of the Criminal Bar, who were threatened with contempt of court, but which never actually followed through.

I don't know what the Bar should do, I suppose my viewpoint was that they made larger sums than the solicitors and were quite well protected by the Bar Council, moreso than solicitors are by the Law Society or the SRA. However I know that the climate has signficantly changed over the last five years and I agree that they could be afforded better protection. Not sure how to implement that though.

ReindeerBollocks Tue 23-Apr-13 23:02:38

Just to add (before I get lynched) that I am well aware that the funding at the Bar isn't anywhere near the civil counterparts and that the rates have been heavily reduced too - meaning barristers are not paid what they once were. Which is why the Bar and solicitors need more protection for their current positions.

Merle Wed 24-Apr-13 06:52:47

From what I understand the proposed rates of renumeration are too low for the BFG to think it worth bothering, even under PCT.

I tend to think that this wasn't implemented under Labour because that government had an ounce of concern about justice. This current lot couldn't care less. Chris Grayling is terrifying in his lack of concern; a Justice Minister who doesn't give a hoot about justice.

Going back to the original OP -

1. Everyone on here is busy.

2. If it's not your area of work or experience, it is all a bit theoretical.

3. There are worries about cuts in all walks of public life.

4. No one ever expects to come into contact with the cj system. No one expects their children to do so either.

5. However lots of us will do so, whether as a defendant, family member, witness (pros or defence) etc. then these changes will have a direct impact and maybe there will be new AIBU threads, on specific issues. Too late, by then.

We'll have to battle on.

Please could anyone reading this sign the petition - details upthread.

kungfupannda Wed 24-Apr-13 08:09:11

I'm not aware of any easy summaries of the history of this - but it was in the news last time round so if you google you'll see that this was initially a Labour initiative which has now been picked up by this government.

It's not old news - just something that has been trundling on for a few years now, and Labour are well aware of it because they started it back in 2005.

The misconceptions I was referring to are general things about the system - eg the CPS being responsible for allocating lawyers - the CPS are purely the prosecuting body. They have no involvement in the arrangements for defendants being represented.

Spero Wed 24-Apr-13 08:27:05

This is a good overview, but I agree, there is such a long history it is difficult to summarise succintly. I turned down a criminal pupillage in 1997 because I could see even then what was coming.

crimsolicitor.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/the-price-of-everything-the-value-of-nothing/

Spero Wed 24-Apr-13 08:29:37

For me, the most powerful point in that blog is to point out that Grayling never refers to 'defendants' only 'criminals'.

So we can add that to the list of reasons why people in general don't care; they see this all about lawyers trying to defend the undefensible, nasty little crims who just play the system at tax payers expense.

What is less recognised is the huge importance for EVERYONE of a well functioning criminal justice system

kungfupannda Wed 24-Apr-13 08:50:39

To answer the original OP, I think one of the reasons why the public aren't getting worked up about this, other than the obvious lack of sympathy for the nasty criminals and their only-slightly-less-nasty representatives, is that it is almost impossible to come up with a simple, punchy explanation of why this is bad.

Even on this thread, with several members of the profession giving perfectly correct information, someone reading this from a point of no knowledge, would be forgiven for thinking that BVT is directly aimed at the Bar.

The Bar are slightly more vocal and considerably better represented, so a lot of the media stories are inevitably going to focus on the threat to them. There is a threat, a huge threat but it comes from (excluding the whole QASA issue) the direct threat to solicitors from BVT.

If BVT comes in for solicitors, the Bar, particularly the junior Bar, are fucked - their pay is going to plummet way below what they can accept. But for solicitors, if BVT comes in, the majority of firms are going out of business, not because they can't survive on the lower fees, but because they won't have a contract at all. It's an absolute cut-off.

The general public aren't going to be vocal about all this, because it isn't something that they feel will affect them, so they won't wade through all the complicated information to get to the core issues. And the profession find it hard to get round that, because there is no simple, punchy headline.

And unfortunately, it is probably too late now. I was on a committee involved in fighting BVT last time round. We did everything in our power. We had a vocal presence at every meeting. We lobbied. We co-ordinated responses to the consultation. And we discovered that the general public simply won't get on board and that we're pretty much on our own.

There are a couple of members of the profession who have fought tirelessly against these proposals for years, never letting up, never entertaining the possibility of failure. One of them has now publicly said that we (solicitors) have to get our heads round the idea that BVT is going to happen and work out how we deal with it.

People always ask why we don't just go on strike, as though we're just sitting on our backsides saying "oh dear". The Bar have their own difficulties with striking, but they are at least all in it together. I have absolutely no doubt that certain members of the Bar are having discussions with certain large firms about going in-house, but generally the Bar will stand or fall together. Which is as it should be. The problem facing solicitors is a little different, and unfortunately we are not realistically going to stand together.

If the system comes in, any firm that does not bid for work will get no contract whatsoever. Their business will end. If you're not going to bid, you would have to be bloody sure that every other firm in your area is going to stick to their guns and not bid. I don't think any firm is able to have that level of confidence. The chances are that someone will crumble and put in a bid, or that someone will take advantage of the situation and put in a big bid. I've been in two different local justice areas during the two attempts to bring in BVT. In both areas, we could identify the firms that would inevitably stab the rest of us in the back.

Public awareness isn't going to see this off - there wasn't much public support last time and the government backed off, presumably because they accepted that the proposals were crap and weren't going to work. This government is having another go and, unfortunately, it is probably going to succeed, not least because they simply haven't left time for a proper round of consultations. They're pretty much sticking their fingers in their ears and saying "la la la we can't hear you."

The recent publicity is a good thing, obviously, but I think it's too late. This isn't a new thing - it's a fight that's been going on for years and we are losing.

Spero Wed 24-Apr-13 09:00:22

As they say, you don't miss the water until your well runs dry.

Merle Wed 24-Apr-13 11:24:32

I think we are guilty of being much too reasonable.

rooiewooie Wed 24-Apr-13 15:48:16

So to summarise, IWNBU to ask, but it is quite complex and so not likely to be of immediate interest to MN / general public. Thanks for educating me smile

Spero Wed 24-Apr-13 19:45:14

Fair summary!

This is a good clear summary

ukcrime.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/it-could-be-you/

WorldofSab Thu 25-Apr-13 23:26:58

Hi - came to this via FB smile

I'm a criminal defence solicitor in the North East.

Realistically I think these proposals are going to come in whether we like it or not. The length of the 'consultation', the speed this is being brought in etc makes me assume this is a done deal, with major 'preferred providers' already found.

I strongly suspect that PCT will come in, with some minor amendments (eg more firms 'winning' bids) to make us think we've won a skirmish, when in fact we've lost the war. Grayling wants PCT to happen or some major fee cuts. The Law Society appears to have capitulated already and offered our asses out.

If our professional body aren't all that bothered about us, then I don't think the public will be either. Not even the Guardian has really picked up on this. The Daily Mail and Express will be THRILLED that lawyers are losing their jobs, and those nasty criminals being shafted.

Net result?

No client choice
Minimum 17.5% pay cut
75% fewer firms
An entire profession decimated.

Sad but realistic!

WorldofSab Thu 25-Apr-13 23:28:49

......and every WORD of what kungfupannda said!

rooiewooie Fri 26-Apr-13 22:43:50

#saveUKjustice trended on twitter today! petition is up to 21k signatures!

clearly a few members of the public do understand/care about what is at stake, so it is not over yet! don't lose heart lawyer folk!

if you haven't signed yet do it here epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/48628

beeny Sat 27-Apr-13 10:10:14

Please do sign and if you are not convinced ask about what will happen

edam Sat 27-Apr-13 10:22:47

Seriously, even if you are innocent and found not guilty, you'll have to pay your entire legal fees if you have more than £36,500 disposable income?! Good grief.

No surprise that the govt. is imposing stupid, self-defeating, ultimately expensive cuts - they are doing it everywhere else, esp. in the NHS and social care (which are areas I happen to know about).

edam Sat 27-Apr-13 10:23:19

Isn't there EU legislation about access to justice - how do the govts proposals stack up against this (or am I mistaken)?

rooiewooie Sun 28-Apr-13 10:53:02

I have no idea edam, maybe someone more knowledgeable can explain?

the Independent are reporting it today though, at last!

www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/new-legal-aid-reforms-end-justice-for-all-lawyers-warn-8591234.html

edam Sun 28-Apr-13 12:01:34

Found something interesting about EU rules on access to justice: page 47

Article 47 CFR states that “legal aid shall be made
available to those who lack sufficient resources in
so far as such aid is necessary to ensure effective
access to justice.” Thus, denial o flegal aid may
constitute a violation ofthe fundamenta lright of
accessing justice ifthe lack oflegal aid may lead,
for example,to an inequality of arms, which would
create a substantial disadvantage forthe individual.
In its case law, the ECtHR noted that the state must
“display diligence so as to secure to those persons
the genuine and effective enjoyment of the rights
guaranteed under Article 6”.

In the case of
Miroslaw Orzechowski v. Poland the ECtHR found that
the decision to refuse legal aid “infringed the very
essence” of the applicants’ right to access the courts.

edam Sun 28-Apr-13 12:04:44

Although maybe the government is banking on the fact that loss of legal aid/privatisation will mean no-one can afford to take a case to Europe and prove it is illegal/ there are no solicitors left to take the case because they are all huge firms who benefit from the changes.

rooiewooie Sun 28-Apr-13 12:57:16

it is a complete fit up! and still only 23 000 people have signed the petition
epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/48628 !

Alibar50 Sun 28-Apr-13 14:16:29

I came across this thread and hope to add some further information. It is great that at last this disastrous proposal, is being talked about by non-lawyers. Lawyers are not popular, but criminal lawyers generally do not work in this area without a belief in justice and fairness and which, despite misinformation, will not make them wealthy. I am not a lawyer but my daughter is a criminal barrister and my husband was a criminal solicitor. Independent self-employed barristers, those not employed in-house by solicitors or the CPS, rely on Crown Court advocacy work referred to them. Increasingly solicitors and the CPS keep as much work to themselves as they can and understandably refer out only when they have to. This means that a self-employed barrister’s work currently is mainly trials, particularly those which have problems, which results in a stressful working life. Fees for Crown Court work have been repeatedly reduced. After price-competitive tendering large companies, which are not required to have any legal background, will under the new scheme make the most money if people plead guilty and will lose profits if a person insists on the right to trial. These companies will only make a reasonable profit, as they will have had to bid low to win the contract in the first place, if they employ people at the lowest cost to them that they can. It is unlikely that these will be the experienced, well qualified support staff, solicitors or barristers who work in the current system. The little work referred to self-employed barristers will be at slashed fees, paying a trial as much as a guilty plea even though many hours will need to be spent to properly prepare and advocate in a trial. My daughter is struggling financially now, and if the new system comes in she will have to find a new way of earning a living. Out of principle she will not work within the new scheme. There will be miscarriages of justice, victims of crime will not receive justice, good quality solicitors firms and the independent criminal Bar will be gone for good, together with their ethics and knowledge, and huge numbers of people will lose their jobs. Solicitors and barristers are in this together. If they don’t fight together and the general public does not understand what is at stake everyone loses.

edam Sun 28-Apr-13 14:46:01

And the really stupid thing is, all this ridiculous proposal will do is cost more - as cases will take far longer when people are representing themselves and there will be many more miscarriages of justice, which are ruddy expensive to deal with. (Far more expensive than getting it right in the first place.)

babybarrister Sun 28-Apr-13 21:21:51

I totally agree with op. As a family lawyer I and others warned people on the legal threads that legal aid would be removed for vast majority of family cases - no-one was interested sad. Of course now 1 April has passed and it has gone people are moaning on the legal threads about it and how unfair it is - I always ask whether they wrote to their MPs as the lawyers had warned them time and time again ...inevitably they did not bother as who cares about 'fat cat' lawyers .... FWIW I don't do legal aid myself so so much for self interest ....angryangryangry

babybarrister Sun 28-Apr-13 21:27:20

The last time there was a threatened strike the bar was itself threatened with prosecution under some competition act offenceangry

Spero Sun 28-Apr-13 22:40:24

The Welsh are striking!!

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-22330695

babybarrister Mon 29-Apr-13 19:13:21

Yup - about time too - let's see if they the nasty threatening letter that was sent by moj last time angry

edam Tue 30-Apr-13 23:02:37

Well done those Welsh lawyers - will be interesting to see what happens.

The point that family makes about clinical negligence is very worrying. I feared the govt. would ram that one through. Makes it easier for them to destroy the NHS - none of the patients they harm will be able to sue for the costs of life-long disability... sacking midwives and running a dangerously understaffed unit suddenly becomes a lot more attractive to trust chief execs.

kungfupannda Tue 30-Apr-13 23:09:16

WorldofSab - I agree with everything you say, except that I don't think they've found preferred providers yet. Possibly in London, given how active the Johnson group have been, but not in most places.

I work for a firm that is big enough that we will almost certainly survive this in some way, shape or form - although the individual solicitors aren't sure which ones of us will be kept on. There will be 4 contracts for our area and it is pretty inconceivable that we won't get one of those. We haven't been approached by anyone.

WorldofSab Wed 01-May-13 14:28:39

We're not allowed to strike - last time BVT/PCT was on the cards, the Law Society made it very clear that it would discipline anyone striking! So much for any solidarity from our professional body. They don't even recognise my union.

Hi Kungfuupanda - even in those areas with only 4 MAXIMUM contracts, what if g4S, Serco, Stobart etc bid? Are you in a PDS area? They're guaranteed one of those contracts. What if one of the London firms like Duncan Smith, or even Manc firms like Tuckers bid out of area? Because they will.

If you're in North Yorks, which is a proposed 4 contract area, that encompasses an ENORMOUS geographical area - Scarborough, Harrogate, York, Hull etc. Logistically, it will be difficult, as well as factoring in 4 or 5 offices to be run, travel costs etc etc

I'm in an area where our firm is pretty well placed to get a contract as long as out of area/ national providers don't step in. Even if we do get a contract, then I would expect a pay cut if I'm kept on at all tbh.

Scary times!

WorldofSab Wed 01-May-13 14:33:18

...and babybarrister - ditto with the civil cuts that came in on 1 April. I bleated on and on at people, wrote stuff, campaigned etc but in the end, not many people gave a shit - the general perception seemed to be the 'fat cat lawyer' meme. Now it's come in, people are horrified - 'What do you mean I have to pay to get contact with my kids/ get you to help me sort out my debt?' etc.

Lots of my friends also lost their jobs, and are really struggling to find anything else out there - solicitors, support staff, advisers etc.

NicknameTaken Wed 01-May-13 15:01:35

I signed the petition, even though I'm not keen on the wording, which seems to be confined to "citizens" when surely it should be anyone accused of a criminal offence.

I'm still angry at the collapse of the Immigration Advisory Service due to changes in legal aid, which came suspiciously suddenly after some important wins against the government. Talk about targeting the most vulnerable, including asylum-seekers, refugees, victims of trafficking.

"First they came for.."

60sname Wed 01-May-13 19:30:07

Unconstructive but after having lunch with Chris Grayling once I concluded that he is an idiot (he spent the meal demonstrating the more pointless apps on his iPhone)

rooiewooie Wed 01-May-13 20:05:40

mumsnetters stand idle while the Tories kill our justice system! But at least my thread about its impending death limps on grin

Sorry to be melodramatic, but I still can't believe that only 27K people have signed the Save UK Justice petition

https://submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/48628

When will the country wake up and realise we are headed for an unmitigated disaster!!

60sname you had to break bread with him in order to reach that conclusion shock

60sname Wed 01-May-13 20:46:02

In my defence it was a few years ago before he had reached his current heights of stupidity

AviatorRegina Thu 02-May-13 15:53:41

I agree with everyone that this is a very serious issue. Found a lot about it on barristerblogger.com/?p=110

rooiewooie Sat 04-May-13 19:46:24
PleaseDontEatMyShoe Sat 04-May-13 21:29:02

What's your interest in this, rooiewooie? Have seen some great summaries and links for some other posters, just a bit confused about your own position (particularly in light of some of the comments about the CPS!)

PleaseDontEatMyShoe Sat 04-May-13 21:29:38

from some other posters blush

rooiewooie Sat 04-May-13 22:04:06

my position is that I am worried that the country is sleepwalking into some kind of Robocop style nightmare. I don't fully understand all the issues (I'm not a lawyer!) and I hate to get all conspiracy theory about it but I find it really sinister that there is hardly anything being reported about it in the media

deeplybaffled Sat 04-May-13 22:47:35

I agree. I work in the legal system, on the civil, rather than criminal court side and the future is looking pretty bleak there too. I think the problem is that the public don't need a lawyer for anything at all for most of the time, so it's all very remote. When and if the time comes that they do, I suspect there will be an outcry....but it will be too late sad

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