The day our courts became politicised?

(37 Posts)
WetAugust Thu 01-May-14 12:05:20

Judge halts trial because defendants had not obtained suitable legal representation, supposedly because legal aid cuts mean public money is no longer available to buy the services of the highly qualified lawyers that would have been required to defend the case.

Cameron's QC brother had bee representing them prior to the halt of the trial.

Surely this puts the legal profession and the Government at loggerheads?

PartialFancy Thu 01-May-14 12:17:05

You're a tad behind the curve, WetAugust. This has been in the pipeline since 2011; now we're seeing the entirely predictable result.

A few MN threads on the subject:

To ask for your support to protect Legal Aid?

To tell you why criminal barristers are staging a "walk out" tomorrow.

More than 1,000 lawyers protest outside parliament at legal aid cuts

AKeyFox Thu 01-May-14 13:17:24

Firstly, it would help to have clear reporting of the facts in the media.

Some are saying it is "halted" others that it is "abandoned".

Two very different things.

A fair trial is a fair trial, nothing to do with politics.

slug Thu 01-May-14 13:20:38

I, for one, am hugely amused that the QC behind this is none other than David Cameron's brother

TheXxed Thu 01-May-14 13:21:35

What happens if someone can get access to legal representation? Do they just go free? confused

TheXxed Thu 01-May-14 13:24:02

*can't

WetAugust Thu 01-May-14 13:52:49

Suppose you had gazillions in the bank, but refused to spend it on your legal defence. How would that be dealt with?

nennypops Thu 01-May-14 14:16:38

The Government has been at loggerheads with the legal profession virtually since it came into power, and even more so since Grayling was appointed as he is supremely unqualified to do his job. They hate the fact that lawyers point out inconvenient truths, such as the fact that their reforms to judicial review are nothing more than a cynical attempt to stop inconvenient challenges to their more unlawful activities; and that the much-trumpeted savings on legal aid are nothing of the sort. The government would equally love to bypass niceties like fair trials.

The fact that those who voted for legal aid reform were deliberately closing their eyes to the consequences was very satisfyingly demonstrated by the case of Nigel Evans. If only a few more Coalition MPs could have the reality brought home to them.

nennypops Thu 01-May-14 14:17:31

WetAugust, if someone who does not qualify for legal aid chooses not to pay a lawyer, the trial would go ahead. It's perfectly simple.

AKeyFox Thu 01-May-14 14:30:11

Will there be civil proceedings in this case and will similar rules apply to representation then ?

WetAugust Thu 01-May-14 14:34:27

Is it Nennypops? Has this been tested?

Ultimately that person is in the same position as the person who could not afford expensive legal representation - both are without adequate representation but one had put himself in this situation by refusing to pay for it but would the Court take that fact into account. If the Court did soldier on because the defendant would not pay for his defence then the court would effectively be blaming and also penalising the defenedant for his own inadequate defence.

So could the Court order the defendant to pay for his defence?

It's not the equity that underpins our legal system.

nennypops Thu 01-May-14 18:33:20

Not sure what you mean by tested, WetAugust. It is a well established principle that people don't have to have legal representation if they don't want it, whereupon they are known as litigants in person. They can't be ordered to pay for a lawyer. If someone doesn't get a lawyer because he doesn't feel like paying for it although he can afford it, then he would either have to represent himself or (in a criminal case) stay silent. If he did the latter the prosecution would still have to prove its case. The court isn't blaming or penalising the litigant in person, it's simply accepting that he doesn't want to be represented. In fact, if someone does represent himself, the judge has a duty to help him to an extent - not to act as his advocate, but to ensure that the prosecution case is properly tested and the LIP has every opportunity to make his case.

The difference with people who are entitled to legal aid but can't find anyone with the requisite skill willing to take on the case at the pathetic rates now allowed is, of course, that they want to be represented but can't. That means they won't have a fair trial, and the right to a fair trial has been central to our legal system for a very long time indeed. The problem that has arisen here is something about which the government was repeatedly warned, but they chose to steam on regardless. They are claiming that the Government Defence Panel, or whatever it is, will fill the gap, but that in itself opens a whole can of worms because it still means the defendant can't get the lawyer of his choice and gets someone who is not being paid an adequate amount for the very complex work involved and therefore has relatively little incentive to do a proper job.

The issue of people representing themselves is a pain in the neck for the courts, because cases involving LIPs take much, much longer than cases where the parties are represented: which is one of the many reasons why the legal aid "reforms" are a massive false economy.

WetAugust Thu 01-May-14 23:50:46

But in this case the person could not be a litagant in person because the judge would not consider the litigant sufficiently qualified to represent himself in what has been described as a very complex case that required very experienced lawyers to represent him. After all the defandants in this case did have some legal representation, just not adequate to defend the complex charges.

nennypops Fri 02-May-14 07:42:19

WetAugust, it is the defendant's choice and the court simply has no power to force a defendant to pay a lawyer if they don't want to.

AKeyFox Fri 02-May-14 11:05:50

Just to go back to the original point of whether this is politicisation of the courts.

I see this situation as being in diametric opposition to that proposition.

The court has demonstrated that it simply will not be bent by political fiddling.

What is Davy Boy going to do, shrug his shoulders as dozens of cases get thrown out and defendants get wise to making their case "extremely complicated" and unrepresentable ?

Unlikely.

TheXxed Fri 02-May-14 11:24:37

Why did the government want to reform the legal aid system? I wasn't aware there was a problem in the first place.

PartialFancy Fri 02-May-14 11:35:20

Pinka. That's all.

It won't actually save money in the long run, but all government departments were told to make cuts.

Got to fund those tax cuts somehow...

AKeyFox Fri 02-May-14 11:41:01
TheXxed Fri 02-May-14 11:41:46

So if its not actually saving money in the long run what's the point?

PartialFancy Fri 02-May-14 11:51:46

grin Yes I wondered after posting whether I'm the last person in the world who uses that slang!

nennypops Fri 02-May-14 21:13:49

TheXxed, that is a very good question to which the government has never managed to provide a sensible answer. The real reasons are almost certainly (1) that it plays well with the Mail and Express and (2) they don't like outrageous things like fair trials and people being able to challenge unlawful decisions made by, um, the government.

It is not just the lawyers affected by the cuts but also expert witnesses, whose fees have been basically cut in half. This is starting to have an obvious effect in the courts (see www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/may/01/criminal-case-collapse-legal-aid-neurologists-fees).

I am an expert in the family court and I am effectively winding down doing legal aid cases as I will go bankrupt otherwise (the current fees barely cover expenses so it is not viable to carry on doing these cases).

Nennypops Mon 05-May-14 17:42:55

At some point there is going to have to be a public law challenge on the issue of experts' fees. It cannot be acceptable that people on legal aid are stuck with inexperienced or frankly inadequate experts because none of the reputable ones can afford to accept legal aid instructions.

TheXxed Mon 05-May-14 17:51:04

nenny this article ink{http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/law/article4077181.ece\www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/law/article4077181.ec]]e} it say the lord chancellor has the discretion to make one off payments.

Surely that means the govt will be able to pick a choose who can make challenges through the courts.shock

TheXxed Mon 05-May-14 17:52:30

Sorry I meant this article. www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/law/article4077181.ece

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