Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.
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Tuesday, 22 October 2013
CRIMPING CRIMINAL LEGAL AID LEADS TO EMASCULATION OF CRIMINAL LAWYERS AND FEARS OF IMPOTENT JUSTICE
We have long been accustomed to film and T.V. series involving police. Indeed for those old enough Dixon of Dock Green was required viewing in the 1950s. Unsurprisingly antics within the legal profession have long been a theme of the written word and laterally the small screen with often fictional accounts of real mayhem suitably enveloped in a screenwriter’s narrative. As time has moved on reality television has become a staple part of the major channels` output and a major part of that has been the fly on the wall series on many aspects of policing from police patrol to police cell via umpteen scenarios from motorways to town centres.
From Rumpole to Kavanagh QC via Perry Mason and Judge John Deed we have had a surfeit of fictional legal expertise but until last year, as far as I know, reality T.V. had not reached inside a solicitor`s firm. Tuckers holds itself to be the largest legal aid firm in the country. Even without that accolade its turnover is such that the opinions of its senior partner must be worthy of a hearing. And for those who listen his opinion that the future for firms undertaking legally aided work is limited. There are now about 250 magistrates` courts after the decimation in numbers over the last three years. If Franklin Sinclair is right there will be a single firm offering services at most courts. My own bench comprising three former benches sits at two venues and two firms offer well over half the cases I`ve sat on.
Previous governments sanctioned the privatisation of energy companies, the denationalisation of train company BR, steel company British Steel and others including the National Probation Service, the Prison Service and as of last week Royal Mail by the current administration. I believe in capitalism. But in order for capitalism to work there must be strict laws against monopoly supply or attempts to procure such which is the natural target of capitalists. That is where this government is failing and it will fail in its grotesque attempt to emasculate the earnings of mostly poorly remunerated criminal lawyers. There is no doubt that the quality of representation for many defendants will be diminished and for those deemed to be ineligible for legal aid, time and costs for courts endeavouring to see justice done will increase in proportion to the complexity of what government might consider “simple cases”.
I have more faith in the accuracy of Franklin Sinclair`s predictions than any emanating from the Ministry of Justice.