Friday, 2 May 2014

Lawyers have government nuts in vice

We have grown used to seeing bewigged and begowned barristers demo'ing outside courts because the fees they earn from legal aid have been cut by a government fighting a £100bn budget deficit and a trillion pound plus national debt. The money barristers can get has been reduced by about 30% and some of them are struggling to afford the private school fees and golf club membership.

The public has been amused by seeing these wig-wearers out in daylight since they are normally reserved to TV drama. But the public has not been much concerned for their plight since the public doesn't care to have its taxes spent defending villians.

But the lawyers have been sneaky. They have waited until just the right case same along and then they have refused to take it. It's not a bloody murder where all public sympathy would be lost if a monster walks free to kill again, it's a £5m land fraud case where high pressure persuasion was used to sell plots of land to greedy persons who hoped to make a "killing" when permission to build houses on the land was granted. So it's a big case but there is no grieving widow on the steps of the court.

The CPS put up a QC, a couple of "junior" barristers (junior does not necessarily mean junior is legal world, it just means one of the 90 percent of barristers who are not QCs) and flung 50,000 pages of evidence at the eight defendants, as well as nearly 200 Excel spreadsheets. Clearly the defendants would need some equally high-powered representation. They approached 70 different chambers of barristers but every single one turned them down saying not enough money for the work involved. They even went to Wales and Ireland to see if they could get a barrister. One QC did agree to take them on but then backed out - one imagines someone had a word and told him the score.

So then the defendants when to the court and said (via QC Alex Cameron, brother of the prime minister, working pro bono) that they could not receive a fair trial because they had no lawyers. The CPS wriggled on the hook and suggested the judge just postpone until a lawyer became available, or the defendants could make do with some non-QC barrister. But the defendants argued that they needed a barrister of the same calibre that the CPS had (ie a QC) and that such a person would never be available because the government had no plans to increase legal aid.

The judge (who is also a QC) agreed with the defence and stayed the case, ie, threw it out, probably forever.

So take that government! The lawyers have you over a barrel. Criminals are going to walk free unless you put more cash on the table. How the government will respond is quite unknowable at this time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well if the UK was Napoleonic Code based the CPS could just leave the buggers in jail to rot, pending trial (maybe). Probably just as well it isn't.