Disdain, contempt & discourtesy – not holding my breath – UPDATE

Well, gentle reader, you have read my last rant in your droves (how many exactly is a drove? 1 or 2? who knows?)

Just to update you, as so many have very kindly supported my stance and understood my anger…

Having failed miserably to get the judge to accede to our request not to list this case until tomorrow or at least 2 pm, we have all trogged here for a 10:00 sharp start. Some from locally, others from London or even the South coast. One of our number took 8 hours to get up here last night; another suffered the ignominies of a Travelodge suffering a power cut. Your correspondent was up at 05:30, left the house,fortified by 3 strong espressi, at 06:00 sharp.

Took me over 4 hours due to rush-hour traffic – as feared, hence the request for tomorrow or a 2 pm listing. Get to court, schlepping all the impedimenta of a new trial start – papers, wig, gown, printer, coffee machine, stationery etc, just gone 10:00 due to the aforementioned traffic.

Is judge champing at the bit to start with us? Is he all ready to get the trial up and running? Is he hell!

We are immediately released until not before 14:15. So it looks like I will have to wait until after 2 pm for the judicial apology I so richly deserve!

Not holding my breath though!

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Disdain, contempt, discourtesy – The Court and The Bar – an entirely one-way street

I certainly don’t have hours of spare time to devote to ranting for my spiritual well-being, and (hopefully) for your fleeting entertainment. However, I am coming firmly to the view that unless we scream these injustices from the mountaintop whenever they occur, then our silence will be taken as acquiescence by the Stalinistic MoJ.

Thus have you all been subjected to my rants-du-jour, as each day brought another farce imposed upon us by the system. We are expected to work harder on more for less, each and every day. Yet the system works against us at every turn. Take as an example, your preparation for a trial, where you are first on the indictment, Crown are represented by silk and junior and special casework CPS lawyer, 7,000 pages of served evidence, and 108,000 pages of telecoms SERVED evidence but not so as it appears on the PPE (so no guarantee you will get paid for it). Trial starts imminently, and although the Crown reassured months ago that nothing significant would be forthcoming after end of February, you are inundated on a weekly basis with new, significant material. For some reason, despite being first on the indictment in an OCG Class A conspiracy trial scheduled to last 8 weeks, trial judge steadfastly and repeatedly refuses to give you a junior.

Well you are desperately trying to prepare for the imminent trial, so you keep yourself as lightly committed as possible – but the system works against you. Last week (see rants passim) should have involved
i) no POCA Mention (all parties agreed to do it administratively but Court listed it anyway) or if a POCA Mention – 3 minutes. But that cost me 1/2 a day because of ludicrous listing;
ii) a short(ish) PTPH – no arraignment, not a full hearing – should have been 15 minutes. That again cost me 1/2 a day because of ludicrous listing;
iii) a free morning as an historic sentence was meant to be listed at our convenience (see “I don’t bloody think so Your Honour”) but was put in without consultation. Even so, a 09:30 listing, not much to say for various reasons – not too much of a problem? The 09:30 sentence took so long due to late arrival of van etc that I left court at 13:10!!
iv) a short plea hearing at 14:00 but no, due to inability of Prison Service or Serco or HMCTS to follow order of Judge, one of defendants not produced and therefore 1 hour faffing around trying to get him “brought from the wing” to the PVL booth. So that again was almost all of Friday afternoon.

All because of the ridiculous inefficiencies of the CJS, the ludicrous listings, the lack of funding and resources, an entire week where I should have had time to work and prepare – *pouf*, up in smoke.

So, gentle reader, you may be exceedingly surprised to learn that I was not in the best of moods, nor prone to the sunniest of dispositions come Friday afternoon. So imagine the “improvement” to my mood to learn that the trial judge for our 8 week trial in Manchester, is overrunning (even worse than anticipated) and will be on summing up or even speech and summing up on Monday. My clerks, and my solicitors, all repeatedly try to get a time marking for all counsel not to have to schlep to Manchester for an early start when we know for certain that nothing can or will get done. In an 8 week trial, where the judge is still engaged in his previous matter, we asked for at least a 2 pm listing….

Ha, don’t be silly. Judge was when told that 3 London Counsel would find it onerous (and bleeding expensive), in those circumstances, to get to Manchester, with all the impedimenta for a new trial, for an early start. His response? Well it is reported that he said “I don’t care”. So listed for 10:00 we are. Also listed at 10:00 is his ongoing trial! With as much respect as I can muster – RIDICULOUS and RUDE! It is symptomatic of the disdain, contempt and discourtesy with which we are treated. We are expected to engage, work harder for less and expend hour upon hour of goodwill for the system, for the Court, out of courtesy to the judge. Yet so often do we get absolutely sweet FA in return, other than the proverbial two fingers as here.

Well, as you may have gathered, and as I have told you, gentle reader, before, I have had enough. I wrote a letter of complaint to the Recorder of that fair city. I don’t expect that to have any effect but, if I don’t how can I complain if nothing changes? Every time I discuss these iniquities with colleagues, with clerks, they all say, “it won’t help” to write, complain or whatever. But if we all concede that then we condemn ourselves. Rather if each time we feel that we want to complain we do…. Something might, just might, change. Can’t hurt? And it helps me vent and keep my blood pressure below 160/110!

Herewith the redacted contents of my letter, for your delectation:

“Dear Judge

It is with regret that I find myself writing to you in complaint at the conduct of the proceedings relating to CM et al T20157xxx.

This matter has endured tortuous progress to this point, with the trial listed to start on Monday 6th June (having had an earlier fixture of 4th April broken due to inability of the defence to deal with the substantial volume of the case). There are still outstanding Applications to Dismiss for CM and others. These applications are due to be heard on Tuesday, the currently slated second day of trial. This is an unfortunate state of affairs in any event, but it seems that there are further issues with timing that have arisen. We understand that HHJ W., designated trial judge, is currently presiding over a trial, in which the evidence has only today been concluded. It appears that speeches may conclude today but if not then on Monday, with summing up necessarily following on Monday, maybe into Tuesday.

Both those instructing and my clerks, have liaised with the Court to ask that, in those circumstances, the case not be listed on Monday at all, or if it must remain on Monday, then not before 2pm. This is in no small measure because three trial counsel, at least, are from London. As far as C (and I believe D) M are concerned, the LAA have accepted that Messrs A. were justified in instructing counsel from “off circuit” due to the nature of the case and my particular experience and expertise with telephone evidence. When we reiterated our request for a later time marking, we were met with a report from the List Office that HHJ W. said that, in effect, he did not care. This leaves London Counsel having to leave London at 5 or 6 in the morning, and expend hundreds of pounds in travel expenses, to come eventually from the public purse, for, with the greatest of respect, no good reason. There is clearly no prospect of the Judge being able to hear anything substantive in our case on Monday before lunch, if indeed at all.

It is, as I say, with regret that I write to express my concern at the manner in which Counsel are treated by the Criminal Justice System in the current climate. It is, of course, accepted that there are numerous considerations in the smooth, or in any event least inefficient, running of the Criminal Justice System, and Counsel understand that we must play our part therein. However, we do not appear to receive any consideration in return. There is limited if any consideration of availability, convenience or such matters. This is sadly the last in a litany of such instances, and amounts to the straw that is breaking the camel’s back.

I appreciate there is perhaps little that can be done, but if Counsel does not raise these issues and concerns, then they are brushed under the carpet and the (mis)treatment, if I may so characterize it, will continue unabated.”

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I don’t bloody think so Your Honour!

So, another day, another rant. Today, punter, who pleaded guilty, in April 2015, is finally up for sentence – listed at 09:30. Sadly he is in custody at Highpoint. Guess what…. He’s not here yet. There’s no eta yet. The cells have not got a clue, yet.

Judge sore unimpressed. Well a darn sight less unimpressed than am I, here at sparrowfart for a 09:30 listing, in the full knowledge that if by some miracle he was produced by 09:30, the cells would not have let me in to speak to him! And in the similar certain knowledge that of course he was never going to be produced by 10:30 let alone 09:30. Sure enough, it’s now 10:15 and no sign. No eta. No news!

Well another day, another set of hours wasted, another dollar, oh no maybe not another dollar.

But that ain’t all. There’s some more history to this! As I say, he pleaded last April – over a year ago. Sentence was adjourned until after trials 1 and 2 – so estimate of July.

Unbeknownst to us, a judge, on 11th May, listed the sentence for 31st May. Did anyone tell us? Take a wild f**king guess. Of course not. No notice to client, solicitors or clerks.

So we are ringing the court on a weekly basis trying to wring some information out of the list office – no, no news. No fixture. No nothing. Last week, 23rd or 24th May, we are told, no there’s another trial in June, you’ll be sentenced after that. Hmmm.

So come Friday 27th May, and clerks happen to check the “final” list at about 6 pm and lo and behold the case is listed. Didn’t appear in the “draft” list of course. Court error pointed out by CPS apparently. But not an error we could ever have known about as we were never told!

So Tuesday morning, I’m stuck forever in Birmingham on a 3 minute POCA mention – see rants passim. Solicitors, told for first time it’s in for sentence that afternoon, try desperately to track down punter – to no avail (hardly surprising as unbeknownst to any of us he’s inside serving for something else). My clerks are in communication with List Office all morning on Tuesday trying to sort it out… Eventually told that “we’ve done all we can”. The case will be relisted with counsels’ convenience in mind. Hogwash. Fixed without consultation for Friday at 09:30 (see above).

Judge today has hissy fit that no one was here on Tuesday – I told him that it was the Court’s errors that caused the problems. Still says we should have sent someone to “be there” at court, and represent the non-present defendant, at the ineffective waste-of-time hearing. And who, pray, would pay for that? I would, of course, I would have to fund stand-in counsel, from my ever-reducing brief fee. No, no, thrice no. Why on earth should I? Why should we? How do we tolerate this?

I told the judge as much. He may not have been happy. But frankly, I am beyond caring. I will do this “job” to the best of my limited ability. I will do it with integrity. I will go the extra mile. I will work on phone material until 3 in the morning, in the sure knowledge that I won’t get paid for it. I will appear pro bono on renewal hearings at the Court of Appeal in the sure knowledge that I will spend 1 hr on my feet “arguing” with their Lordships to be told that it was not arguable and therefore no remuneration. But I will not throw time, effort and money on ridiculous shit like this. The difference? What I will do, I will do for the client, to ensure he is represented as well as properly possible. What I won’t do, is bend over backwards for the MoJ, for the CPS, for the system, that is currently raping and pillaging its practitioners, and say with a smile on my face, please sir can I have another!

No, no more. I have had enough. I will never let my client’s interests be truly endangered. But neither will I window dress crap for the sake of the Judiciary’s ego or the Court Service’s KPIs and statistics.

Someone has to do something about this. The only reason I have time to pen this crappy rant is that client is STILL not here for his 09:30. ETA not before 12:00. Well that will make it easy to get to Snaresbrook for my 14:00 hearing, that’s also free. That is entirely occasioned by the inefficiencies of the CPS and the stupidities of the DCS.

AAaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

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Ongoing List Farrago

Tomorrow in Kingston upon Thames – any better?
Well gentle reader, have a guess….

Court 11 – sitting at 10:00 AM
HER HONOUR JUDGE COELLO

For Application
U20160217 POCA X 1

For Application to Vary Bail Conditions
T20160137 SMITH Joe G

For Application for Bail
T20160212 WOODERSON Perry S

Plea and Trial Preparation
T20160201 LEWIS Zac
T20160210 LEWIS Zac
T20160211 LEWIS Zac
For Mention (Defendant to Attend)
S20160092 LEWIS Zac

Plea and Trial Preparation
T20160260 MCEWEN Jake R

T20160262 WESTBROOK Nikolka

T20167160 EDEN Peter

T20167162 SHELTON Ricky

T20167159 ASPROIU RAZVAN Stefan
CALAPOD Costinel
NASTASE Leonard
OPREA Marius
STRACA Gabriel T

T20160259 FENEMORE Jack

For Mention (Defendant to Attend)
T20167072 CASEY James L

T20167075 PENFOLD Trelby-Thomas

For Execution of Bench Warrant
T20150622 OLIVER Robert P

So 9th on at 10.00 (counting that multiple Zac Lewis case as “one”). The last case of the morning will be 13th on at 10.00.

No one is suggesting that we will all be called on at 10.00. No one is suggesting that we can all be dealt with first. BUT how can the desire of the Court not to risk a pico-second of “non-sitting” time justify the discourtesy and effective “two-fingers” of 9th on at 10.00. Even if each of the hearings before us take only an average of 10 minutes – that’s nigh on an hour and a half. But bail applications and PTPHs take longer on average by the time everyone is in, settled then out again. So that’s another entire morning gone for one short hearing.

How can this happen? How can the judiciary not notice the iniquity of this listing procedure? How can the Advocates tolerate it?

Almost looking forward to starting my nightmare trial next week, without a junior currently for some reason best known only to our judge… But at least I won’t have to cope with listing idiocies like this!

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There’s a new second, longer list, and advocates are at the bottom of that one!

Another week, another listing farrago….

Birmingham Crown Court this time. POCA mention – CPS suggest taking it out of the list last week as no one’s ready and there are extra-jurisdictional enquiries still ongoing, but Court orders that it remain in. So three counsel have to rock up at Birmingham for a 3 minute mention, to adjourn the hearing to complete the enquiries that we told the Court about last week. Total waste of time, effort and money.

And then there’s the listing…
Court 7 – sitting at 10:00 AM

MR RECORDER GOODCHILD

Committal for Sentence
S20160384 ARNOLD Dwayne

NOT BEFORE 10:15 AM
For Sentence
T20151051 JONES Daniel L
GREER Tracey

T20158028 WOOD Robert C
T20158033 JACKSON George W
ROBINSON Curtis L

NOT BEFORE 10:30 AM
Breach of Requirements of Community Service Order
S20160365 BUSH Conor P

For Directions
T20147796 OWUSU-KYEREMATEN Kwasi
RE: POCA
T20148297 HARRIS Andre A
RE: POCA

T20148582 MORRIS Stephen R
MINOR David J
RE: POCA.

For Sentence
T20158015 WALFORD Mark A

T20150338 WOOD Stuart
AYAZ Syed
CORLESS Terry D

AYAZ REQ URDU INTERPRETER- AYAZ NOW REMANDED AT HMP WORMWOOOD SCRUBS

So we have a 10:00 sentence, followed by a two-handed sentence and a three-handed sentence at 10:15. Then another sentence at 10:30. Then our pointless POCA mention. But the court doesn’t start until about 10:30 in the first place. And the Court then takes the sentence that was meant to follow the POCA mentions before the mentions – without any reference to us. No consent, no consultation, no discussion.

We are now at 12:35 and we’re still not on, for our pointless 3 minute mention that could have been dealt with by email quite easily but no – let’s keep three senior(ish) counsel hanging around for over 2 hours, for 3 minutes in Court, after 1 1/2 hour travel there, awaiting a lovely 1 1/2 hr journey back. And they’ve just called something else on that is after us in the list….

How can a sensible and efficient Criminal Justice Service operate like this?
How can we be treated like this, we are professionals and you would have thought rather central to the operation of the CJS?
Why does no one do anything about it?

Had enough, oh Lord, have I had enough.

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Listing – how far down the list do the Bar come?

It has become increasingly apparent that List Officers given even less of a fig than ever about any semblance of assistance to counsel or common sense and fair play in day to day listing. They refuse to list mentions when requested, only after repeated and prolonged badgering does anything happen. They move things apparently at a whim, without consultation and with not much more notice.

However, it is perhaps the day-to-day listing that causes more inconvenience, anger and resentment than anything else.

I have a case in Manchester Crown Court at Crown Square tomorrow and a hearing in another case at Derby CC.  A pupil will have to cover my case at Derby and this is the list she will have to contend with:

Court 4 – sitting at 10:30 AM

MR RECORDER M STEPHENS

For Review

T20160154 KEELY James C
DCS CASE – PROBATION AND DEFENDANT ONLY TO ATTEND

For Mention (Defendant to Attend)

T20097138 DAVIDSON Joseph A

TO FIX POCA HEARING
For Mention
T20150364 HOPKINSON Antony
DEFT ATTENDANCE EXCUSED POCA
For Mention (Defendant to Attend)
T20150677 PALFREYMAN Lawrence

POCA MENTION
For Mention
T20150808 CRYANS Jack
FORFEITURE ORDER
T20160044 CRYANS Jack
FORFEITURE ORDER
For Application
S20160248 FREEMAN AKA BEST Michael A
APPLICATION TO REVOKE AND RESENTENCE
Breach of Order
S20160183 MCDUFFUS Shane D
S20160233 HUSSAIN Zunaib
S20160237 FINN Carl J

S20160236 MILLER Terence P

S20160245 ILIFFE Anthony A

S20160246 HICKLIN Matthew L

S20160247 ALLEN Charlotte E
Committal for Sentence
S20160184 MARSHALL Tracey M
DCS CASE LAPTOP REQ ALSO BOO

 

For Mention (Defendant to Attend)
T20167081 EMMS Samuel P
OFFER NO EVIDENCE DCS CASE LAPTOP REQ
Committal for Sentence
S20160135 EMMS Samuel P
S20160134 EMMS Samuel P
DCS CASE LAPTOP REQ
Plea and Trial Preparation
T20160239 BOOTH Lisa
DCS CASE LAPTOP REQ
T20167135 FATHOULLAH Nezar S
KARIM Ali Y
KADAR Hiwa
RASHID Alan A
AHMED Goran M
DCS CASE LAPTOP REQ – KURDISH SORANI INT REQ

All of those cases are listed at 10:30  – not one time-marking to be found.  Our case is, in effect, 20th on at 10:30, after numerous hearings, inter alia sentences, breaches of order etc – so not 2 minute jobs! An absolute farce. A complete and total lack of respect and consideration for the dozens of legal professionals who will have to attend in advance of 10:30 and then doubtless wait for hour after hour for no remuneration in most cases. Just rank discourtesy. As for my chambers pupil, it will also entail a train at silly o’clock and sillier cost. Why on earth could they not give some of the hearings a n.b. 11:00, n.b 11:30 or n.b 12:00 time marking?

The same applies to my Manchester case – we were 9th on at 10:30 – all lengthy PTPH hearings. No time markings in sight. Thankfully my clerks did manage to prevail upon the List Office to time mark our case at nb 12 pm eventually. It is a nightmarish little private prosecution with issues all over the place. Not an ideal case to be sitting waiting around for hour after hour.

We are all too aware of the total lack of consultation with the Bar and the complete lack of consideration to dates to avoid etc, but this daily two-fingers almost gets my goat even more.

Thank you. Rant over…. for now!

 

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Matthias, Son of Deuteronomy of Gath, has voted YES!

There are three realistic options of what the future holds for us:

  1. The doomsayers believe we are all screwed no matter what. By Xmas the fat lady will have sung. The independent Criminal Bar will be dead. The contracts will be up and running and everything, bar the leavings, will be in house.

OR that is wrong and the following two alternatives obtain:

  1. That doom scenario will obtain unless we derail the MoJ now. Unless we bring the system to a halt and wring concessions, unless we assist the Solicitors to survive, by kicking the MoJ in their Crown Prerogative Jewels, by derailing the system so Dual Contracting is shelved, defeated whatever, then we are doomed. But there is a chance of altering that outcome.

or

  1. That doom scenario will occur to the solicitors alone – dual contract is inevitable; solicitors 8+% cuts are here to stay. We are best placed to ignore their pain, imagine it does not affect us, to ignore that their only route to survival is curl up in a foetal ball, draw in on themselves and do virtually all the work themselves. To believe that we can ignore that, that we can survive that, that we can ally and align ourselves with our new best mate, Michael Gove and the MoJ – because we can think of them as a friendly mother figure with only our best interests at heart.

In that scenario – the solicitors implode, become a rump with the BFG and other contract holders triumphantly holding the field, but we will have all sorts of improvements, regulations etc to protect us, because Gove and the MoJ appreciate “quality” and “Independence”.

So what to do…. What are the down sides to action or inaction in each scenario?

As Matthias Son of Deuteronomy of Gath was warned – for the Blasphemy of saying “Jehovah” you will be stoned to death…. So be quiet because anything else you say will only make it worse for yourself. “Worse, how could it be any worse? Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah”.

So if i) if we’re all f**ked, then what harm can it do? How can we possibly make it worse for ourselves?

We can’t! But possibly just possibly we could change i) into ii) – if we have a chance of altering our futures, if we can muster action, if we can once more unite to demonstrate how invaluable we are to the proper operation of the CJS – how can we choose inaction? How can we choose disunity? How can we go quietly into the night?

The only reason for inaction, for voting NO, for taking no action, is if you realistically believe that negotiations with the MoJ will bear real and actual, as opposed to illusory, fruit.

What do the NO-sayers claim that we can hope to achieve from inaction? Keeping Gove and MoJ onside? For what? Does anyone actually believe what they say? Do we believe his wonderful weasel-words in his various speeches? If he is so in love with us, then why do we not receive an increase in fees – it won’t happen. The best we can hope for is the long-term avoidance of a further rate reduction.

So engagement apparently can claim as its success the avoidance of a further 8.5% cut. Do you really believe that is a reward for quality? A reassurance of recognition of our worth? I’d venture to suggest that would be naïve. It is nothing more than a delaying mechanism to keep us quiet, to keep us away from helping the solicitors in their battle.

The only movement we have ever wrung from the MoJ has not come from engagement it has come from action. Over how many years have we been shafted, rolled over and shafted once more? Only when we instituted “No Returns” (or “engaged” in them per Fenhalls) did the MoJ come to the table. Only then did they shelve cuts. Only then did they even pretend to listen.

We were so gobsmacked that we had got an inch, we immediately stuck, and struck the deal, and didn’t even try to get a foot, let alone a yard or heaven forfend a mile. Some agreed with it, many did not. It was a tad fait acccompli when presented to the Membership, but nonetheless the majority did take the deal – they bit the MoJ’s hand off in reality.

That deal is now over. It was never part of the deal that it last ad infinitum. It was to consider Leveson, Rivlin, Jeffrey. It was to take us to now. To consult.  The MoJ has apparently done that and they have agreed that we are worth at least what we are paid now. We have convinced them not to cut the further 8+% from our fees – or rather they have strategized that it is politically expedient, in the long term, to take the hit in the short term, because they know they will make more substantial savings when Dual Contracts roll out and we’re gone.

Now, however, the MoJ is engaged in a course of conduct that is aimed primarily at the Solicitors, in the front line, but do not be fooled, we will be next. If the solicitors fold under the pressure, under the wholly unviable financials, what do you imagine will happen next? The MoJ will pack up their tents, job well done? No they will carry on and flatten us too. Why wouldn’t they? Because they value the CJS? Because they want good (rather than acceptable) quality representation for criminals?

They don’t give two tinkers about us, about representation quality, about our clients. All they care about is their ideology, saving money to please Gideot and his Treasury. That’s it. That IS the bottom line. It’s about the bottom line.

My view, for what it’s worth, is that inaction, a No vote, will seal our fate. Gove will laugh all the way to the bank. We may be all smiles, all backslaps, all rhubarb rubbing for a month, two months, three months…. Come December, come January, the Solicitors, our colleagues, our Professional Clients, will be not just decimated, that’s only 1 in 10 gone, they will be carved apart, 6 or 7 out of 10 gone.

Don’t be fooled by those who say that voting Yes will only make it worse – remember Matthias son of Deuteronomy of Gath – worse? How can it be worse?

The Solicitors will be gone. We’ll be next. What are you going to do about it?

The Solicitors will be gone. We’ll be next. What are you going to do about it?

Solicitors will be gone. We’ll be next. What are you going to do about it?

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