Assange, the law of limitation, and the next eight days

11th August 2015

In a few days time, unless something unexpected happens, Julian Assange will no longer be facing three of the four potential charges against him in respect of what happened in Sweden in August 2010.

This is because of the Swedish law of limitation which for certain offences means that the suspect has to be charged within five years of the alleged incident.

The alleged incidents occurred on the following dates: two in respect of 13-14 August 2010 (the complainant AA); 17 August 2010 (the complainant SW); and 18 August 2010 (the complainant AA).  The details of the alleged incidents are set out in the European Arrest Warrant of 26 November 2010, which I have set out fully here.

Of the four alleged incidents, the three relating to AA are the ones which may become time-barred in the next few days.  The remaining alleged incident, concerning SW, has a ten year limitation period.

In essence, unless something unexpected happens, Assange will be free of all three allegations concerning AA on 18 August 2015, that is a week today.

*

This, of course, seems counter-intuitive.  It surely cannot be the case that Assange can rely on his own refusal to go to Sweden to escape answering the allegations. However, this does seem to be the case.

It would seem that, in the circumstances, any charge will require an investigation to close; and, in turn, for an investigation to close requires there to be an interview with the suspect.

I asked the Swedish Prosecution Authority (SPA) if there was anything it could do before 13-18 August to charge Assange or whether that, as things stand, was impossible.  I also asked if it would still be seeking to pursue the one remaining potential charge after 18 August, with the longer limitation period.  The SPA’s response was:

“As long as the prosecutor does not receive permission to interview Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy, there is nothing else she can do before 13-18 August. An interview is necessary for the investigation.

“If the prosecutor does get the permission, she will issue a press release on our web page: www.aklagare.se, presumably on 13 August. The press release will be translated to English and will also state what she intends to do with the remaining rape allegation.”

*

How has this situation come about?

For a long time one of the staple arguments of supporters of Assange was that the SPA should come to London to interview Assange.

This contention was addressed at point “Four” of my post here (which sets out the then SPA position).

In March 2015, however, the SPA changed its position and requested to interview Assange in London.  A spokesperson for Assange welcomed the development and said Assange wanted to be interviewed.

This was followed in June 2015 by a formal request to the English and Ecuadorean authorities.

But the SPA were not able to proceed as Ecuador did not give the requisite permissions.  The trip to London by a Swedish prosecutor had to be abandoned.

And then, last week, the SPA said that Ecuador were now demanding a precondition to which the SPA could not lawfully agree:

“The demands are in complete violation of our principles of justice.

“As a condition to let Assange be heard they [Ecuador] have demanded a special agreement in which Sweden recognizes asylum status for Assange. But the government cannot make such a commitment because it is the Migration Board which decides whether or not a person has the right to asylum.”

So this is where the matter currently stands.

*

If charges are not brought in respect of the three allegations concerning AA on or before 18 August 2015 (and assuming nothing unexpected happens in the meantime) then the SPA will have to consider whether to continue with the remaining potential charge.  One would assume that they will do so, as it is the most serious of the four potential charges; but at this stage one cannot be certain – any prosecution authority has to keep matters under review.

Assange also still faces liability in England and Wales for breach of his bail conditions.

He cannot just freely walk out of the embassy on Thursday next week.

*

Why can the SPA not interview Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy?

The SPA are prepared to come to London; and Assange’s spokesperson is quoted as saying that Assange is willing to be questioned.

The most probable explanation is, of course, that the Ecuadorean government are coming up with mere excuses now that the SPA called the bluff in March 2015.  It seems unlikely that the latest demands – that the SPA agree to something it cannot lawfully agree to – can be sincere.  Sincere and co-operative governments do not make impossible demands as pre-conditions.  Accordingly, in my view the pre-condition is a sham.

There may, however, be other explanations – the preceding paragraph is a statement of opinion, not of fact.  On the current evidence, one cannot yet be certain: this is a situation where diplomacy. law, procedure and media presentation mix – and so things are not clear to the onlooker

But the one thing which seems fairly certain: if Assange waits just another eight days then, barring something unexpected, he will never be required to formally answer three of the four allegations about what happened in August 2010.

__________________

To get alerts for my new posts at Jack of Kent and the FT, and anywhere else, please submit your email address in the “Subscribe” box at the top of this page.

 

 

 

 

Law and policy round-up – legal aid crisis talks continue, court orders

4th August 2015

Legal Aid Crisis

Talks continue at the Ministry of Justice – a joint statement by the the two criminal solicitors’ groups the LCCSA and CLSA.

Comment: The boycott by solicitors of criminal legal aid work since 1 July 2015 is continuing (though it is now focused on crown court work only); the “no returns” policy of criminal legal barristers since 27 July 2015 is now also beginning to have an impact.  The crown courts are gradually coming to a halt.

It is thereby good that these talks are taking place and that there are further talks planned. The lack of confrontational public statements by the MoJ is welcome.

Gove’s absence at this second session of talks was a disappointment; but at least someone from the Criminal Bar Association managed to turn up this time.  The MoJ is plainly playing hardball over the (flawed) “dual contract” model which is intended to somehow restructure (“consolidate”) the supply of criminal legal aid services.  The MoJ is, however, being more flexible about the 1 July 2015 cut and appears to accept that there could be a case for suspending it (though not removing it completely).

*

The Guardian view on cuts to the justice budget: eroding the rule of law – Guardian

Comment: Good, strong – and detailed – editorial. Well worth reading carefully.

*

Why lawyers are taking on the government  – by Oliver Carter, at Left Foot Forward

Comment: Nicely done, informative piece with many helpful links.

*

Court Orders

Illegal immigrants to UK face eviction without court order under new plans – Guardian

Comment: JoK is a primarily a law and policy blog, and so is not really concerned with areas of substantive law; but what is worrying about this news report is the notion that there could be a return to the pre-1957 days of evictions without court orders, as former appeals judge Sir Henry Brooke noted on Twitter.

__________________

To get alerts for my new posts at Jack of Kent and the FT, and anywhere else, please submit your email address in the “Subscribe” box at the top of this page.

“I put my faith in the honourable” – a guest post by Michael Auty QC

The post below was originally in the “Save UK Justice” group on Facebook, where it prompted considerable attention and received a lot of praise.  Its author is Michael Auty QC, and he has kindly agreed for it to be cross-posted here.  

The post is in support of the “yes” camp of barristers supporting “no returns” direct action against the government’s criminal legal aid policy.

I have added a few explanations in [brackets].

By way of background, Simon Myerson QC is a barrister who has been critical of the decision of the Criminal Bar Association to adopt the current “no returns” policy.  Michael Auty defends this policy, starting off with politely addressing the difference between them.

 

I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Simon Myerson QC but I know I’m going to like him; a lot. We have different views about the action presently being taken but that, for me, is simply part of life’s rich tapestry. I always read what he writes and I consider it with the care it deserves. You see I know that, in any situation, I can rely on every word he says. I don’t need to verify or corroborate what he says; I can take it as if it were Holy Writ brought down from Mount Sinaii. How is it that I am able to do this? I simply know he’s a man of tremendous principle and unvarnished integrity.

He’s not unique in that regard but it has been, and continues to be, the abiding joy of my professional career that I meet and deal with society’s best usually as we battle about what we do with some of society’s worst.

The fundamental reason I was, and remain, in the “yes” camp is that I simply do not trust politicians.

I have nothing against Michael Gove as a person. I’ve met him and he’s very charming and hugely bright. He’s a very good and lifetime friend of Gary Bell QC, an old mate, and, in his days in education, worked closely with John Tomasevic, another mate, who, like Simon, I would trust implicitly in all things.

Not long after I came to the Bar Lord Mackay was made Lord Chancellor. He thought the Bar should be highly paid but we should be fewer in number. We didn’t prosper one iota under him.

In due course we had Derry Irvine, with his gold-plated “dine with me and schmooze your way to the top” dinners. Then we had Charlie Falconer about whom nothing polite can possibly be said.

Willie Bach was among the most disappointing politicians for me. I know him and I liked him at the Bar. Yet he promised us £11,000,000 on prosecution fees if we surrendered them from defending. He lied.

Geoff Hoon, famously christened “Buff” by His Honour Judge John Hopkin (deceased) was even worse.

Don’t even get me started on Grayling because Katrina Harris-Byrne [moderator of the Facebook group] tells me she won’t tolerate profanity.

At every turn I have seen my profession sold down the river by one sorry dishonest, lying politician after another, usually aided by the Chairman of the Bar who, shortly thereafter, crops up as a High Court Judge, the modern day equivalent of 30 pieces of silver.

Divide and rule; divide and conquer has been so successful a tactic at the MoJ, I’m astonished it’s not on their letterhead.

We are not dealing with Michael Gove. He is simply the smiling assassin sent to convince the next High Court Judge that his master, George Osborne, cares.

The photographs of George in the company of ladies of the night and a veritable mountain of Cocaine have been doing the rounds again lately I see. No one bats an eyelid. We expect such behaviour; it no longer has the power to shock. It may explain old George’s disliking of lawyers though. George no doubt fell over laughing when Igor Judge suggested Justice should be ring fenced just as the NHS and Education is. “Over my dead body,” I am virtually certain he will have said.

And yet I am invited to trust Gove. But where is the 40% cut to the MoJ budget coming from; the elephant in the room, as the modern idiom has it?

I was once a solicitor. I was booed on my call night when I was introduced as such. I wondered why I wanted to join a profession that seemed to hate me from the outset. Yet the Bar has changed; I have never known the Criminal Bar more skilled and capable than it is right now. In contrast the JAC seems to have turned most of the Circuit Bench into a monumental laughing stock.

I’ve never met Jonathan Black [‎President of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association and leader of the solicitors in the current crisis] either but I like him too and for many of the same reasons I so admire Simon. He never descends into petulant name calling or abuse; he is a professional. The thought of losing someone like him fills me with dread.

My fear is this. If Two Tier [the new legal aid contractual regime] comes in, what remains in September will be unrecognisable. The Bar will have no purchase, no bargaining chip; the MoJ will declare open season on us and it will be a massacre. Thus, even if I didn’t care a damn about all my solicitor mates, and I do, very much indeed, I’ll have been lulled into a trap waiting to be picked off.

In Nottingham the solicitors are using the income stream from Magistrates’ Court work to keep the more vulnerable firms and the most junior members of the Bar afloat. We work in glorious symbiosis; we help one another rather than kick each other to death the moment the opportunity arises, which is precisely what awaits all of us when Osbourne’s next 40% cut arrives.

Ironically the letter from Richard Atkins QC, someone else I admire enormously, anticipates the MoJ not honouring any promise they might make. What possible basis is that for honourable negotiation?

My position is thus a simple one; I put my faith in the honourable; those of integrity. When Simon Myerson QC is Lord Chancellor I will know I can take every word to the bank. Until then, given what I’ve learnt about politicians during my 52 years (as of next Thursday) of life, I wouldn’t trust one of them so much as an inch.

 

 

“The Empty Chair”

24th July 2015

Yesterday there was an important meeting at the Ministry of Justice.

Michael Gove, the new Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, and his senior officials, met representatives of criminal legal aid lawyers.   I understand Mr Gove was very much on top of his brief and led the meeting; the issue of criminal legal aid and the current severe problems in the criminal justice system had his full and keen attention.

It was the sort of meeting where big decisions can be made; it is rare to get relevant people in one place to discuss one thing when that one thing can properly be dealt with.  It was – potentially – a historic meeting.

But not everyone was at that meeting.

Criminal legal aid lawyers were represented by the three relevant solicitor groups.  The Criminal Bar Association (CBA), however, chose not to appear.

Why was this?  Does it matter?  And what consequences – if any – will this no-show have?

The one explanation for the no-show which can be discounted is the one the CBA gave at the time.  Thirty minutes before the 11.30 am meeting yesterday I spoke with an official of the CBA.  He told me that the CBA had “not been invited”.  The CBA also had told others by then of this “not invited” excuse.

The excuse was false.

The CBA had been invited and had been asked to provide a name; for whatever reason, a name was not provided.  That is why, later in the day, the CBA switched to saying no CBA person had been put on the attendance list.  And this was strictly true; for no name was on the attendance list because the CBA had not provided a name.

It is curious that an organisation whose members every day in courts throughout the land expose such false excuses in cross-examination would offer something so easy to show as untrue.  Why give such an excuse?  Who knows.

What was more important was the non-attendance.

The meeting yesterday was plainly one which the CBA should have been attending.  Even taking their “not on the attendance list” explanation at face value, such things are easily rectified with a quick phone call.

So the CBA could have been there, and should have been there, but they were not there.  And given that any sincere problem with “not being on the attendance list” could have been addressed, the inescapable conclusion must be that the CBA – or, more specifically, its leaders – did not want to be there.

Just the completeness: the CBA were certainly expected to be there.  A member of the CBA executive had confirmed this to a journalist from the Law Society Gazette:

And when the CBA’s expected attendance at the meeting was expressly mentioned in the Law Society Gazette, this was RTd by the CBA’s own Twitter account.

As a matter of fact, senior people at the CBA were freely discussing their attendance at the meeting until the very evening before.  There was no issue about it.

From all this, you can draw your own conclusion of the sincerity of the “not on the attendance list” excuse.  The CBA’s “not invited” excuse is certainly false; you may conclude that the CBA’s “not on the attendance list” excuse is false too; but that is entirely a matter for you.

So why did the CBA leadership not want to be there?  What possible reason would they have for not attending the one meeting, with the Lord Chancellor’s full and informed attention, to address with all interested parties the resolution of the serious but complex problems with criminal legal aid?

Now that is an interesting question.

Some would be cynical.  Here the argument goes that the CBA are quite happy to play the MoJ’s game of divide-and-rule.  In support of this are the two times in recent years where the MoJ has agreed to not cut barristers’ fees when they have cut solicitors’ fees.  These have been seen as “wins” by many criminal barristers, though to any sensible onlooker they look like mere short-term advantages.

Also in support of this cynical approach is the immense flattery the new Lord Chancellor is giving the Bar.  In every relevant public statement so far he singles out the Bar for praise whilst if he mentions solicitors at all, it is about naughty solicitors who entice barristers into doing no good with inappropriate “referral” arrangements.  Gove seems unaware that there are far more solicitors than barristers, and that in the magistrates’ courts – and the police stations – it is solicitors who do the bulk of criminal legal aid work.  Not the glamorous stuff in wigs and gowns and in oak-panelled court rooms, to be sure; but just as important, if not more so, as trial advocacy at the crown court.

But this cynical argument, even if true, is not sufficient  to explain the no-show at yesterday’s meeting.

(It does, however, show one significant issue about the no-show; for the CBA – representing the barristers, whom Gove “gets” – to be in that one room sat alongside the solicitors – about whom Gove, so far, has expressed little interest – would have provided a powerful message about the unity of the legal profession. The CBA’s no-show, on the other hand, sent a different signal.)

The real reason for the absence of the CBA is more likely to be a substantial one.

Criminal legal aid solicitors have been boycotting new legal aid work since 1 July 2015.  Three weeks later, the financial impact of this stance was causing immense internal problems: for example, the staff of the small firms involved need to be paid.

In other words, the complete post-1 July boycott was unsustainable and was about to collapse.  And so, sensibly, the solicitors adopted a new “protocol” (to use the jargon) where the boycott would be focused on the crown courts, allowing legal aid solicitors to return to magistrates’ court work and police work.

The solicitors agreed this ne protocol and told the CBA in advance of the meeting with Gove.

The CBA leadership had a decision.

The CBA leadership could have understood the solicitors’ predicament, and worked with solicitors on how to combine the new protocol with the “no returns” policy which is about commence among criminal barristers.

(The no returns policy is disliked by the CBA leadership, but it was voted for by its members.  The CBA leadership prefer “constructive engagement” with the MoJ where they can continue to do side-deals which benefit barristers but leave solicitors in the lurch. Many junior criminal barristers and some QCs see this as selfish and short-sighted – hence why the CBA membership voted for no returns, whilst CBA leaders campaigned in alarmist tones against it.)

Instead, it appears that the CBA leadership saw the new protocol as their opportunity to get rid of the no returns policy, and they seized it.

This is not conjecture; read the CBA chairman’s statement of this morning yourself.

“On Wednesday evening, before the meeting, every member of the CBA Executive, received a document entitled “protocol v9″ HERE and a joint statement from the Solicitors’ organisations.  The document and its appendices have been widely circulated.
 
“The CBA has had no input into the protocol.  It provides for solicitors resuming applications for representation orders in a very large number of cases.  This marks a major change of position by our solicitor colleagues, and appears to alter fundamentally the basis upon which our members voted to support solicitors’ action.   
 
“Hence, the Executive Committee will reconvene for an emergency meeting on Monday 27 July, to consider the effect of the new situation.  Meanwhile, everyone is reminded that the decision whether to take or continue action in support of the solicitors remains a matter of individual choice.  I shall of course keep each of you informed of developments.”

The CBA leadership now had what they want; a plausible explanation to get rid of the no returns policy imposed on them by their members.  What they could now get is more delay – another leisurely vote over 14 days (like the last one). And, in the meantime, the solicitors will be struggling to maintain their action in the face of brute financial reality.

And having a “emergency meeting” to discuss a “fundamental” shift by the solicitors would not be consistent with also turning up alongside the solicitors at the Gove meeting.

And so there was an empty chair.

What will now happen?

Criminal legal aid solicitors were wise to shift their action onto a more sustainable basis.  They were alert to the probability that the CBA leadership would do what they can to get out of the no returns policy inflicted upon by the CBA membership.

The new protocol simply means the criminal legal aid solicitors’ boycott can continue when otherwise it could not continue.  They do not depend on the CBA putting in place no returns.

The meeting with Gove was, it is reported, positive.  It is likely that there will be further meetings.  Given the direct involvement of Gove it is possible (though not inevitable) that an overarching solution can be put together.  No longer are lawyers having to deal only with MoJ officials.  The no-show by the CBA is not brilliant; but it is not a disaster.

Nonetheless, it would have been so much better if the CBA adopted a constructive approach and worked with criminal legal aid solicitors.

It would be so much better if there was not an empty chair in that MoJ meeting  room.

Better for barristers, for solicitors, and for all the people caught up in the criminal justice system.

The leadership of the CBA have a real opportunity to help shape the overall reform and recovery of a criminal legal aid system now in crisis.

And you cannot do that with an empty chair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Law and policy round-up – legal aid crisis, judicial review, CPS, Beghal and terrorism

23rd July 2015

Legal Aid Crisis

Today is the big meeting between the MoJ and four groups representing criminal legal aid lawyers – my post on this here at Jack of Kent.

Yesterday there was a “Save Legal Aid” protest at Westminster Magistrates’ Court:

 

Judicial Review

The government has announced a consultation on “reform” of judicial review, so as to make it more “transparent”.  In fact, the government is seeking to make it even more difficult for judicial review claims to be brought.  Judicial review is the means by the High Court can check unlawful actions by public bodies; it is no wonder that governments seek to limit its scope.

 

Crown Prosecution Service

An interesting post by “the Secret Barrister” on the under-funding of the Crown Prosecution Service.  You don’t have to be a fan of the CPS to see that it not being properly funded is not going to make it perform any better.

 

Terrorism

In Beghal [2015] UKSC 49the Supreme Court held that the notorious schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 was compliant with human rights law.  Some of the Justices had reservations, but on the whole this is another case to show how weak the UK courts are at upholding fundamental rights.

The Appellants were represented by Matthew Ryder QC:

David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, tweeted:

 

To get alerts for my new posts at Jack of Kent and the FT, and anywhere else, please submit your email address in the “Subscribe” box at the top of this page.

Law and policy round-up – legal aid crisis, court and tribunal fees, freedom of information

22nd July 2015

Legal Aid Crisis

MoJ and criminal legal aid solicitors to meet tomorrow (Thursday) – Monidipa Fouzder at Law Society Gazette

MoJ tries to keep a brave face amid signs of legal strike panic – Ian Dunt at Politics.co.uk

Comparison of what Michael Gove first said about teachers and what he is now saying about lawyers – A view from the North

The “Save Legal Aid” Crisis – is an end(game) in sight? – here at Jack of Kent

Courts and Tribunals

The House of Commons Justice Committee announce major inquiry into the effect of court and tribunal fees

Freedom of Information

Is this the end for the Freedom of Information Act? – Christopher Cook at Newsnight

To get alerts for my new posts at Jack of Kent and the FT, and anywhere else, please submit your email address in the “Subscribe” box at the top of this page.

The “Save Legal Aid” Crisis – is an end(game) in sight?

21st July 2015

On Thursday there will be a remarkable meeting about the current crisis in criminal legal aid – remarkable that it is taking place at all, remarkable in who is attending it, and remarkable that it appears to have no preconditions.

Everyone who should be there will be around the table, and it would seem that there is nothing “off the table”.

It is a credit to everyone involved.

The meeting was announced today.

Michael Gove, the new Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, will meet representatives of four criminal lawyers’ groups.

This is a shift in approach by the MoJ, which under Michael Gove’s predecessor gloried childishly in confrontation and provocation. And this was unfortunate, as the MoJ was formulating and implementing a botched “reform” of legal aid.

For the four lawyers’ groups to be in one place is exceptional: for when cats complain, they must complain of herding lawyers.

Two of the groups, the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association and London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, represent the smaller legal aid firms.  They will be joined by the “BFG” (not the Big Friendly Giant, sadly, but the “Big Firms Group” of the larger solicitors’ firms).  The BFG is not entirely a natural ally of the other two groups.

And there will also be the Criminal Bar Association (CBA).  Until recently the executive of the CBA was persisting in a misguided (if possibly well-meaning) policy of “constructive engagement” with the MoJ.  In effect, this meant that the CBA sought to protect barristers’ fees and higher court advocacy, regardless of the interests of solicitors.  This suits the MoJ, which in turn played solicitors off against barristers.

Last week’s significant vote by the CBA membership changed all this.  The members defied the leaders and voted to adopt a “no returns” policy which, in effect, will bring the work of crown courts to a halt.  No returns will start on 27 July.  The date is now looming; and the policy will significantly escalate the effect of the boycott on criminal legal aid work which has been in place since 1 July.

Had the members of the CBA not voted against their leadership, it is difficult to see that Thursday’s meeting would be taking place, and that all four lawyer groups would be attending.

The best chance of resolving the current crisis, in a way acceptable to all sides, is for the meeting to succeed.

If a public confrontation is forced then there will be lingering damage. If one side “gives in” then there will be lasting resentment. If nothing is done, the criminal justice system will slide further into chaos.

Michael Gove has made fine speeches since his appointment.  He has said many of the right things.  But Thursday will be perhaps his first real test of substance: can the crisis be resolved so that the criminal courts can work again?

It may well be mundane; but the best practical meaning of “upholding the rule of law” is to make the court system work as well as it can, and to ensure people have proper access to that system.

 

 

The current criminal legal aid crisis: a timeline

19th July 2015

Last updated 20th July 2015

 

 

 

The current crisis in criminal legal aid has many starting points; I have chosen the April 2013 consultation as the place to begin this chronology.

This chronology is a work-in-progress.  The first draft of 19 July 2015 is incomplete; but rather than heed the counsel of perfection, it has been posted and will be updated/improved on a regular basis.

Significant additions (other than tweets) added after 19th July 20015 marked with *

 

 

9 April 2013

The Ministry of Justice (“MoJ”) published its “Transforming Legal Aid” consultation paper.

This covers “reforms” to legal aid in both civil/family and criminal cases.  It includes a proposal for a 17.5% reduction for criminal legal aid solicitors’ fees, as well as reductions in barristers’ fees.  It also includes proposals (which are swiftly dropped) for price competitive tendering and limiting the rights of people to chose solicitors.

 

4 June 2013

The MoJ consultation closes on the “Transforming Legal Aid” proposals.  There were over 16,000 responses.

 

5 September 2013

The MoJ publish its response to the consultation: Transforming Legal Aid: Next Steps.

In respect of the 17.5% cut, it is stated that this will not now be in one go. There will be a 8.75% cut in 2014, and a further 8.75% cut in 2015.

The MoJ also proposed a “dual contracts” model.  Criminal legal aid lawyers can bid for “duty provider work” (DPW) contracts and “own client work” (OCW) contracts.  There is a further consultation, which ends on 1 November 2013.

 

17 December 2013

*Law Society Gazette: ‘No confidence’ motion passed at the Law Society SGM

*The Lawyer: Law Society leadership in chaos as solicitors pass no-confidence vote

 

6 January 2014

*Law Society Gazette: Half-day protest attracts hundreds of demonstrators

 

27 February 2014

The MoJ states that its final decision is that there will be 525 “duty provider work” contracts.  (There are currently about 1,600 contracts in place.)  It also announces that the 8.75% cut will be in March 2014, and a further 8.75% cut in 2015.

 

7 March 2014

The Criminal Bar starts a “no returns” policy, which quickly brings the criminal courts to a halt.  This is called off on 27 March 2014 when the government announces that the cut in advocacy fees will be postponed.

Many solicitors are angry at the “deal” and say that they have been let down by the barristers.

 

20 March 2014

The first 8.75% cut in fees takes effect.

 

June 2014

1808 OCW contracts are awarded.  This are generally regarded as commercially of little point, as most criminal legal aid lawyers rely on duty contracts as the basis of their practices.

 

19 September 2014

The High Court quashes the decision to award 525 DPW contracts, as the respondents to the consultation had been unfairly denied access to the underlying consultancy reports on which the government was relying.  This forces the MoJ to re-open the consultation.

 

27 November 2014

The MoJ announces its revised decision, increasing the number of [contracts] by only two, to 527.

The MoJ also announces that the 8.75% cut is now planned for 1 July 2015.

 

 

 

23 December 2014

The High Court suspends the tender process for letting the 527 contracts, pending the result of a new judicial review of the 27 November 2014 decision to award 527 DCW contracts under the “dual contracts” model.

 

 

18 February 2015

The High Court rules that the 27 November decision to award 527 contracts is lawful.

This decision is upheld by the Court of Appeal on  25 March 2015.

 

May 2015

Conservatives win overall majority; Michael Gove replaces Chris Grayling as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.

 

5 May 2015

The tender exercise closes for the new 527 PCW contracts.

 

21 May 2015

The Criminal Bar Association publish a survey which shows its members are in favour of supporting criminal legal aid solicitors in combating dual contracts. (Reports: Law Society Gazette, Guardian.)

 

10 June 2015

The MoJ confirms that the 8.75% cut will take effect on 1 July 2015, and put the requisite statutory instrument before parliament.  (Report: Guardian)

The MoJ decides not to cut barristers’ fees.

Tony Cross, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, says:

“The Criminal Bar Association regrets the decision of the Ministry of Justice to press ahead with the Duty Provider Scheme and to impose further fee cuts on hard pressed litigators.

“The Executive of the CBA will be discussing our response at the earliest opportunity, including further consultation with our membership.

“We acknowledge the Secretary of State for Justice’s welcome recognition as to the critical importance of quality advocacy in our Criminal Justice System.”

Alistair MacDonald QC, chairman of the Bar, says:

“We are pleased that the Ministry of Justice has agreed not to proceed with the cuts to the Advocates’ Graduated Fee Scheme (AGFS). We are also grateful to the Lord Chancellor for listening to, and acting upon, the Bar’s concerns about the impact cuts to the AGFS would have had.

“The Bar Council continues to have grave concerns about the effects upon solicitor colleagues of further fee cuts and the implementation of the dual contracting scheme. We remain convinced that these measures are likely seriously to damage access to justice and the provision of high quality advocacy services in England and Wales.

“We will continue to advance the case with the Ministry of Justice and the Legal Aid Agency for robust measures to be taken to protect, maintain and enhance the high quality of the advocacy market in order best to serve the public interest.”

 

22 June 2015

The CBA executive decides not to take direct action about dual contracts.  Cross says:

“The fact is that the solicitors are not currently prepared to take decisive action over two tier contracts. Many firms want them; others feel they have no option but to sign up to them. We know that over 1000 tenders have been submitted for the 527 contracts available. Save for three procurement areas, the number of tenders outweigh the number of contracts available.

“It is against this reality that the Executive felt that action on two-tier contracts would serve no purpose. We have lobbied and argued publicly and privately against the introduction of two tier contracts. We believe they will be bad for the Criminal Justice System and be bad for the Bar. But we do not believe, however, that we can fight the solicitors’ battle for them. Fighting alongside is one thing, but our considered opinion is that taking direct action on behalf of solicitors over two-tier, when the solicitors organisations will not or cannot take decisive action themselves is doomed to fail.”

 

23 June 2015

Michael Gove makes a (widely approved) first speech as Lord Chancellor.

 

24 June 2015

Criminal legal aid solicitors and barristers in Merseyside meet and agree to take direct action after 1 July 2015. (Report: Law Society Gazette)

 

25 June 2015

Criminal legal aid solicitors and barristers in Cardiff meet and agree to take direct action after 1 July 2015. (Report: Law Society Gazette)

 

26 June 2015

The “Big Firms Group”, an alliance of the large criminal legal aid firms which do around 25% of criminal legal aid work, are reported to be supporting the action. (Reports: Law Society Gazette, Solicitors Journal)

 

27 June 2015

Solicitors in East Yorkshire are reported to be supporting action.

 

29 June 2015

Criminal solicitors meeting to discuss action in London, Kent, Manchester, Leicester, Derby, Leeds:

Law Society Gazette: Bar chief speaks against “self selecting meetings”

Law Society Gazette: Legal Aid Agency denies warning solicitors against direct action

 

30 June 2015

Formal statement that London legal aid solicitors will not act in legal aid cases after 1st July

Reports: Guardian, Law Society Gazette.

Solicitors Journal: Legal aid firms set to work after 1 July ‘will run at a loss’

Law Society Gazette: Courts order protest meetings off the premises

 

1 July 2015

The 8.75% cut takes effect.

*BBC: Legal aid work refused by law firms in cutbacks protest

Law Society Gazette: ‘Business as usual’, claims MoJ on first day of action

 

2 July 2015

Law Society Gazette: Solicitors’ ballot shows overwhelming support for action.

Legal Aid Solicitors send letter to Gove.

 

3 July 2015

 

5 July 2014 

Report about leader of the Merseyside lawyers Zoe Gascoyne at Liverpool Echo.

 

6 July 2015

Law Society Gazette: PDS lawyers move in as direct action bites

Law Society Gazette: Bar urges solicitors to withdraw legal aid tenders

Solicitors Journal: CBA chairman to vote ‘No’ in upcoming ‘no returns’ ballot

 

7 July 2015 

Law Society Gazette: MoJ ‘offers talks’ – but not about fee cuts

Solicitors Journal: CBA shown favour by Lord Chancellor over legal aid cuts

 

8 July 2015

*BBC: Legal Aid boycott ‘causing chaos’

Gove makes speech on legal policy at Lord Mayor’s Banquet, praises the Bar.

Law Society Gazette: Gove meets big legal aid firms

 

10 July 2015

Law Society Gazette: MoJ denies manipulating legal aid figures

 

13 July 2015

Law Society Gazette: firms consider duty boycott

Law Society Gazette: 89-call hunt for solicitor as protest bites

Chair of CBA urges “no” vote for ballot on “no returns” policy.

 

14 July 2015

Law Society Gazette: judges query absence of solicitors

Manchester Evening News: Defendants charged with serious offences might not be represented by a lawyer in court, warn legal aid protesters 

 

15 July 2015

The CBA membership votes in favour of no new work and ‘no returns’ to support solicitors’ action by 982 votes to 795 votes, equating to 55% in favour and 45% against

*Transcript of Michael Gove’s appearance before the Justice select committee

Law Society Gazette: Gove: legal aid ‘concerns are legitimate’ – but no concessions

Joint statement from solicitors’ leaders Jon Black and Bill Waddington.

Yorkshire Star: Legal aid strike ‘causing chaos’ in South Yorkshire courts and police cells

Channel 4: Barristers vote to back legal aid protest

Independent: Criminal barristers vote to refuse taking work in protest against cuts to legal aid

 

16 July 2015

Criminal bar announces date for legal aid action

The Times: Barristers back strike action over legal aid cuts

 

17 July 2015

Joint statement of LLCSA, CLSA, BFG & CBA.

CBA statement

*Huffington Post: Legal Aid Cuts – ‘If Stephen Lawrence’s Mother Walked Through My Door Tomorrow, I Would Have To Turn Her Away’

 

20 July 2015

*Liverpool Echo: Michael Gove blasted by Liverpool lawyers for “refusing to engage” with legal aid strike

*Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Solicitors strike causes concern for judges over case delays

*Hull Daily Mail: Sentencing of man who tried to abduct child delayed by solicitors’ strike
*Law Society Gazette: News focus on legal aid boycott

 

Any suggestions of new links and events welcome – please use comment box below.

 

 

Michael Gove and the Ministry of Justice’s change of tone

13th July 2015

Over at the FT I have just posted on the change of tone at the MoJ – is it a change of substance as well as of style?

 

To get alerts for my new posts at Jack of Kent and the FT, and anywhere else, please submit your email address in the “Subscribe” box at the top of this page.

“Lord John Marbury”

11th July 2015

So sad to hear of the death of Roger Rees.

His Lord John Marbury in the West Wing was wonderful, and this scene in particular was memorable.

“You are all frightened. As well you should be…”

 

The scripts did the work of, course; but Rees made the character alive and real.

SofaDiplomacy

 

You just wanted to know what he thought, what he would say next, and how he would say it.  You wanted to know how his worldly yet erudite British empiricism would supplement and put right the silly superficial idealism bouncing around the Oval Office.

Not bad for a cameo.

He also was a marvelous Peter Quince in the 1999 film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

A bad loss. RIP.

 

To subscribe to Jack of Kent, please submit your email address in the “Subscribe” box at the top of this page.