Rant

Excuse us if we rant in a direction you do not agree with. A quote from Megarry J in the case of  John v Rees [1970] Ch. 345, Ch D and which was re-used in Moss v The Queen [2013] 1 WLR 3884, PC sets out a philosophy that we like:

“It may be that there are some who would decry the importance which the courts attach to the observance of the rules of natural justice. ‘When something is obvious,’ they may say, ‘why force everybody to go through the tiresome waste of time involved in framing charges and giving an opportunity to be heard? The result is obvious from the start.’ Those who take this view do not, I think, do themselves justice. As everybody who has anything to do with the law well knows, the path of the law is strewn with examples of open and shut cases which, somehow, were not; of unanswerable charges which, in the event, were completely answered; of fixed and unalterable determinations that, by discussion, suffered a change.”

If you look at what has been happening to the Criminal Justice System (as well as the civil system) for some years you ought to wonder how consecutive Governments can get away with concentrating on the administration of the systems to the undoubted detriment of Justice. It has become more important to Government to convict members of the public quickly and cheaply. Not only are defendants and their lawyers put under pressure to prepare the cases against them rather than trust the crown prosecution service and police to do their jobs. No longer are the prosecutors expected to do their job; Government seems to have given up on them and decided that the best, easiest, cheapest way of convicting people is to get the people to carrry  out sufficient work for the prosecution that they evenutally convict themselves – guilty or not.

The protection people had was with defence lawyers who would stand up for and protect the person’s rights. Government sorted that one out. The legal aid system is being destroyed so that those who cannot afford to pay for representation have to make use of lawyers who are underpaid and overworked. It might be denied by Government and by legal aid lawyers but it is simple business sense that you get what you paid for.

Not only has Government reduced remuneration for the legal aid lawyer to a ridiculous level but they intend to do the same again and also to reduce the number of firms able to carry out the work on legal aid. The service is to be reduced to a level most people will not believe until they (unexpectedly) find themselves in need of the assistance and discover that if they want to see their solicitor outside of the Court to prepare their case and take advice so that you are ready for the hearing then you will probably find you have to travel to the other end of your county where you will see a young, inexperienced, support staff member because the firm will not be able to afford to employ enough solicitors of quality to service the work at the level people will need in order to assert their rights.

In order to achieve what the government wants to see happen to criminal defence work it is essential that they not only reduce the number of firms, they also need to ensure firms have the minimum number of solicitors and maximum unqualified support staff and then to get the price even lower the firms will not be required to have any offices. Those who can afford to instruct good firms like ours will do so much better than those who have to manage on legal aid. That is not in fact the criminal justice system we like to see. It is not the system our government should be forcing upon us.

In order to see the ways in which Government has managed to increase the burdens on defendants to convict themselves you only need to study the Criminal Procedure Rules that are carefully drafted to add to burdens for defendants in a way that ignores and overrides their statutory protections. Notwithstanding that the prosecution takes months usually to bring a case to court for the first hearing, they are encouraged to give minimum disclosure of the case the defendant is expected to meet at the first hearing but the defendant is then expected (compelled) to identify all issues they will want to rely upon notwithstanding the disclosure is inadequate and there has been no opportunity to investigate matters, check availability of witnesses, seek any expert evidence or just generally give decent instructions and take good advice. There is no leeway given for people whose first language is not English or have mental health and/or learning difficulties.