A Diary of Progress, Politics, and Pessimists
James Eadie QC for the MoJ “It’s the usual problem at this time of year M’Lud - all our staff have fled
to the shires. I shan’t be able to take proper instructions until 5 January”. Now, these civil servants are regulating a 24-7, 365 day legal service. Yet they operate at 9am-5pm for about 40 weeks in the year. The irony of catching them out two days before Christmas was exquisite.
15 to 19 January: High Court, Judicial Review hearing
A masterclass by our entire legal team is all I will say. Incredible input from LCCSA and CLSA members, as well as Law Society stalwarts, like Richard Miller. If you haven’t read the skeleton arguments, you really should.
21 January: Chris Grayling’s interview with ConservativeHome.
Not being a lawyer is a positive advantage to a Lord Chancellor, he explains:
"So you don't arrive at a decision because you're a barrister and therefore you favour the Bar, or because you're a solicitor and therefore you favour the solicitors' firms," Thus impugning the motives of 400 years of his predecessors.
“Being neither barrister nor a solicitor also allows me to dispassionately play one body off against the other”. Okay, so I made that second sentence up. He makes statistics up. We’ll call it a draw.
22 January: Jerry Hayes’ Blog
Jerry Hayes, a barrister and former Tory MP, wrote on his blog that Chris Grayling is “a sh*t that will have to be flushed” once the Tories win the general election.
I appreciate the sentiment but I seriously doubt Mr. Grayling would be replaced by a compassionate and liberal Tory. The direction of the Tories on justice, rights of the individual, and the rule of law recently is clear. Just ask Dominic Grieve. As for a Tory replacement – apparently Michael Gove needs a job. I hear he gets on just fabulously with any profession he presides over.
23 January: The People have spoken.
Legal networking website Mootis found that 82% of its users were more likely to vote Conservative if Chris Grayling were replaced. Now, a word of caution here - this was clearly not a scientifically accurate poll. I know this because it appears to be off by about 18%.
29 January: MoJ Guidance.
The MoJ published an easy-to-use Court guide for those without lawyers. It includes the sentence:
“If you say you did not do a crime, you may have to go back to Court on a different day, to show the Court you did not do the crime. This is called a trial.”
Honestly, I go to real effort to think of amusing lines about criminal law, only for a civil servant to come up with a cracker like that without even trying. There’s no justice.
30 January: Labour Day
In the dead of night, the Labour Party finally declared their partial support. Sadiq Khan MP and his party would stop implementation of the much-reviled ‘two tier’ duty contract system, even if the government wins the judicial review. Labour would also ‘review’ the 8.75% solicitors’ fee cut due in June 2015, and work with the Law Society to try to find savings elsewhere.
There was a gasp of disbelief, muted applause, bursts of hope… but then the doom-mongers piled in. Those eternal glumsters with their prophecies of betrayal and defeat. Some of them honestly believe they’re being helpful. When it comes to political campaigning, their typical pattern is this:
Doom-monger without political support – “No politician cares about legal aid. There are no votes in it, you see. They aren’t people of principle, they only care about votes. That is why they ignore us, and always will”.
Doom-monger with political support – “Oh look, the Labour Party have just backed the LCCSA and CLSA on legal aid. What a bunch of opportunistic, untrustworthy vote-chasing shysters they are”.
Erm… excuse me?
Dear Brigade of Doom: if you proceed on the basis that no politician is ever worth a 10p phone call, then what is your plan, exactly? To spurn everyone in power, even when they agree with you? Such a policy would find favour with the People’s Front of Judea, but it won’t do for us. Not the 16,000 who responded to the first consultation, nor the 4,000 who responded to the last consultation, at the rate of 200 responses per day. Nor will it do for all those donors to our huge war-chest for these Judicial Reviews. Most importantly, pessimism won’t do for the wrongly-accused, the over-charged or the vulnerable defendants of the future. Some of whom would be going to Court with nothing but a government guide that gets the burden of proof wrong.
Crystal Ed Balls
What will happen with the current judicial review? What will happen during the election campaign? What will happen after that? Well, the Tuesday Truth is that none of us really know. But we do know that we will be on the right side. Nearly two years into this latest onslaught, and we’re still very much in the game. Personally, I suggest we say “Thank you Mr Khan. Now, what about the rest of you? Lib Dems? Greens? Plaid Cymru? Okay, even you compassionate Tories chained up in Lynton Crosby’s basement? Can any of you match or better that pledge on criminal legal aid?”
This is the question we should all be asking now. Like them or loathe them, it is the Labour Party that empowers us to ask it.
So whilst I am not authorised to provide financial advice, I wouldn’t start investing in “The End is Nigh” sandwich boards just yet.