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Archive for June 20th, 2009

I interviewed Des Hudson, Chief Executive of The Law Society, as part of a series of podcasts for a client to be announced shortly and we talked, among other matters,  about the increasing  threat posed to justice brought about by cuts to legal aid.  The threat to justice is rather more wide ranging, however, and I thought I would begin my postcard this week, unusually, with a bit of commentary on the law.

Roger Smith, director of Justice, wrote recently in 28th May edition of  the Gazette ” The old argument about justice being without price may be eternally valid  – it is just that no-one will hear it any more.” Roger Smith states that the legal aid budget is £2 billion but that £800 million of that is allocated to civil legal aid and could be cut ‘at the stroke of a pen’, Criminal legal aid can’t be cut, he argues, because of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human rights – guaranteeing a fair trial.

The issue of fair trials has been thrown into sharp relief recently by the House of Lords judgment in Home Secretary v AF and the decision of the Court of Appeal reported by The Times::  Four men accused of being part of a gang that stole £1.75 million in a raid at Heathrow face the first criminal trial without a jury in England and Wales for 400 years after an historic Court of Appeal decision on Thursday

Today, I did a podcast with BabyBarista author, Tim Kevan about the importance of the Jury. He makes some telling points and I got to play the role of devil’s advocate.

It seems fairly obvious that we have given up any pretence of trying to improve access  justice in this country at a political level, replying instead on the good work of magistrates, judges, pro-bono units, law centres and other voluntary organisations.  Acquitted defendants will not be reimbursed for the pleasure of being wrongfully prosecuted by the state.  Those acquitted will get the legal aid rate which is roughly one third of the rate charged in private practice.  Family Lawyers may be leaving the profession in droves because the rates are simply not high enough and a judge recently refused to make a confiscation order because the defendant could not find a barrister prepared to represent him for the rates paid by the state.  We have seen this government erode civil liberties systematically over the past ten years or so – anonymous witnesses, control orders, trials without jury, secret trials, Terror law, CCTV camera coverage on an industrial scale, ID cards, etc etc etc….

I am doing a podcast with Diane Abbott MP on Thursday about her secret evidence campaign – so, if you would like to suggest some questions on this theme for me to ask her – please put them in the comments section below.

Well… enough of this.  You are familiar with it…  but it does not hurt to draw attention to it in a blog post from time to time

There is a wonderful story in The Sun today where a judge went ballistic at the extraordinary waste of public money by a local authority.

A JUDGE has blasted a council for wasting £5,000 of taxpayers’ cash dragging a teenager to crown court — over a dropped mint wrapper.

“Judge Roger Scott was stunned when she appeared before him at crown court — where murderers and rapists face trial. He asked the council’s barrister Austin Newman: “Can you explain to me why this charge was ever brought? She has dropped a single sweet wrapper. “Is it controlled waste? I’ve looked it up and I don’t see how you could possibly argue it is.”

The judge refused to allow the young girl to be put in the dock and invited her to sit in the witness box. She didn’t have to pay the £75 fine, took a caution and the judge said to her ” “I hope you enjoyed your day in court.”

Good effort Judge Scott. Sensible judging.

This week we also saw a Times ‘journalist, Patrick Foster, outing Nightjack the hitherto anonymous and popular blogger.  The poli bloggers ranted and raved – rightly – and commentators and bloggers across the country and beyond pilloried The Times for doing this.   I also wrote  Blogger off! You’re not welcome here… a short piece about law bloggers not being welcome at the Bar – risible, really.

It hasn’t been a brilliant week for Alex Salmond and his SNP Party.  First we had the absurd tale of an SNP office airbrushing The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh out of a picture to replace them with William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.  I’m not a serial Monarchist and adopt a fairly loose republican stance on the issue of Monarchy – but even I thought this was crass.

Then we had Alex Salmond claiming expenses for legal fees in his equally ludicrous attempt to impeach Tony Blair when he was prime minister. The Telegraph had the story. What was even more ludicrous was the the fact that Matrix Chambers were alleged to have charged a pitiful £150 an hour to look at two ring binder files and racking up 35 hours on the project.  Matrix Chambers was chosen by the Scottish First Minister in an attempt to embarrass the Prime Minister.  Cherie Booth QC, his wife, is a member of the set.

I had a most enjoyable morning, today, doing a podcast with Time Kevan, the author of BabyBarista about his book. I’ve read it and it is good.  I am doing a review to come out soon, so I shall say no more at this stage.  Tim is an enthusiast for the profession – hardly surprising given that he was a successful barrister and may well yet return to practice when he has finished his surfing and writing BabyB 2… listen to the podcast and find out why he wrote it.

Well… a busy week ahead… but now I must spend a bit of time with my wine… and plan posts for the morrow.

Best, as always

Charon

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Lawcast 144: Tim Kevan, the author of BabyBarista

“BabyBarista provides an entertaining and highly amusing insight into the mysterious world of wigs and gowns. Right from the start the gloves are off and the fight for tenancy is no less dramatic than a top class boxing match. It’s a terrific read which makes you both laugh and keep the pages turning. It also confirms what I’ve always suspected – that the courtroom is not so different from the boxing ring.” Barry McGuigan MBE , former World featherweight Boxing Champion.

Today I am talking to Tim Kevan, a barrister, author of the babybarista blog and forthcoming BabyBarista book and co-founder of the legal training company CPD Webinars”.

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for iTunes

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Lawcast 143: On the importance of Jury trials

Four men accused of being part of a gang that stole £1.75 million in a raid at Heathrow face the first criminal trial without a jury in England and Wales for 400 years after an historic Court of Appeal decision on Thursday

The Times reported “ The ruling means that the new trial, which would normally be tried by a jury, will be the first of its kind in England and Wales under legislation that took effect in 2003 to prevent jury nobbling. The only other judge-only trials for serious cases, known as Diplock trials, have been in Northern Ireland.”

Today I am talking to Tim Kevan, a barrister, author of the babybarista blog and forthcoming BabyBarista book and co-founder of the legal training company CPD Webinars”.

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for iTunes

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Saturday Insite: 20th June

Editor pick of the day
20th June 2009

Alex Salmond billed taxpayer £14,100 to try and impeach Tony Blair
Telegraph: Alex Salmond’s attempt to impeach Tony Blair for taking Britain to war in Iraq cost the taxpayer more than £14,000 in legal bills, the First Minister’s expenses have revealed. And the Chambers?…. Matrix, would you believe!

Douglas Carswell MP: Who would you like to be Speaker?

Tom Harris MP: ‘Order, order! Before Questions to the Prime Minister, I wish to read a message from our sponsor…’

Political Betting: The Speakership: tracking the horse race

A brief Saturday edition of Insite Law is now up.

Editor
Mike SP
Email

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