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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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

NO LONGER EQUALITY BEFORE THE LAW

Is it at last time for the senior judiciary to make public with some force its concerns regarding the removal of legal aid for many defendants in the magistrates` courts  and participants in the family courts?  There will of course be a constitutional element to that question which I am not qualified to answer but there is also  an enormous public interest factor and misreading that ephemeral concept can cause misgivings and recriminations at the highest level as has been recently demonstrated.   Michael Gove is already over his honeymoon period as Justice Secretary.  Any goodwill  he had with natural Tory supporters from his long period at the Dept. of Education is   rapidly evaporating.  The legal profession is virtually united in its opposition to the latest situation regarding fees.  What smooth faced intern in his department who suggested he incorporate into his recent speech that wealthy criminal lawyers should offer to work for nothing thought might be the result?  In the past I have had a pro bono barrister offer assistance to me when I was appearing before their Lordships at an Appeal Tribunal.  He appeared prior to the hearing having, unknown to or uninstructed by me, been assigned my case by his clerk as a matter of his chamber`s policy.  His total contribution was that reading the papers he considered I had no chance of success and therefore left me at the door of the courtroom.  I won my case. But he had not been offering his services as a result of prompting by a justice secretary.  Imagine if, to increase the through flow of NHS patients, his counterpart at Health told medical consultants to reduce their private practices by half and spend the time saved at their NHS posts.  

Any successful business manager knows how to separate the wholesome and productive wheat from the unneeded chaff when making financial cuts to his/her organisation.  Michael Gove must convince his colleagues sooner rather than later that his department cannot be treated as the others are being treated.  Red ink on the Justice budget has not and is not going to bring blood to the streets but it is and increasingly will damage beyond repair what this country once held beyond price........that everybody is equal before the law and there is a level playing field upon which our adversarial system could be the place where the verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt meant just that for the yeoman as well as his master, for the poor as well as the rich and for the uneducated as well as the educated.

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