Ministry of Injustice, Spin, Misinformation and Downright Lies

Ministry of Injustice, Spin, Misinformation and Downright Lies

 

When we all gathered in our masses, on 7th March outside the Mother of all Parliaments, for the mother of all Legal Demonstrations, Greg Foxsmith, our incomparable compere was rudely interrupted by a siren-blaring fire engine. The first thought that popped uncharitably into my mind was that our dishonourable Minister of Injustice’s pants were on fire again.

True enough, he’s been combusting his corduroys, petrol-bombing his pinstripe….. The Ministry of Injustice simply could not lie straight in bed.  What is the latest calumny, I hear you cry – there are so many it’s hard to keep up…..

Well thanks again to Catherine Baksi at the Law Society Gazette for the heads up – once more, you guessed it “[a]n MoJ spokeswoman said: ‘At around £2bn a year we have one the most expensive legal aid systems in the world.” Not heard that one before. Do they not tire of trotting out such a clearly proven lie? Clearly not…

But this is not, for once, the gravamen of their deceit, this week. The Day of Action fell on a Friday, customarily the busiest in the Crown Court week – PCMHs, Sentences, Mentions and Bail Applications all tend to find themselves shunted off to a Friday, for a variety of reasons. I cannot begin to comment on the Magistrates Court position re listing, capacity etc, and so will leave such analysis to others. But the Crown Court, hmmm, we were all at various demos, so how busy were the Crown Courts?  Let’s go to our own Delphic Oracle, that MoJ spokeswoman who said that “the impact of the action was ‘limited and manageable’ – 98% of listed magistrates’ courtrooms sat, as did 71% of Crown courtrooms.”

Clearly, we should all go home and give up. 71%. That’s over two thirds almost three quarters. What utter, abject failures we are…….If that utterance were true…. Is it, I hear you cry?

Of course not!

It’s couched in very careful terms “71% of Crown courtrooms sat”. That is intended to mean that even if there is one POCA mention, or conceivably the court is listed on Courtserve, even as “Reading Day” or “Administrative Work” (as many many did) then that counts. It means that if a 10 court centre has 10 cases listed on that Friday, and it spreads them 1 per court, then the MoJ can claim that all 10 courts “sat”.

Firstly, the figure of 71% is clearly untrue, inaccurate, false…

Secondly, the MoJ, a government department tasked notionally with two things i) ensure justice runs smoothly and ii) save the country as much money as reasonably can be saved, has failed spectacularly on both fronts.

A wholly unscientific anaylsis of the lists for 7th March and 10th March (mark you a Monday, not the busiest day of the court week as numerous trials will start, so many courts will have only that in the court, and will not be overburdened by PCMHs, Mentions etc) demonstrates that the 71% claim (even on the MoJ’s catastrophically misleading terms) is utter cock and bull.

The table below is as much as I could manage before the MoJ took off the 7th March listings, and where I could not find (for four court centres) the 7th March list, I have (out of an abundance of fairness) put the same courts sitting as the Monday (which appears statistically highly unlikely!). I have attempted as fairly as possible to count up, where I could all discrete and different cases, so multi-handers are treated as one case, multi-indictment hearings for one defendant are one case, as are linked cases, and I’ve ignored anything non-criminal. And NONE of this reflects which of the few hearings actually listed were effective. One of the hearings at Manchester Crown Square (a large, 10 hander) was not effective, as no counsel and I believe not one solicitor advocate attended. It is understood that no barristers attended at Maidstone Crown Court at all. So even the table below massively overstates the “success” of the MoJ’s business as usual stategy.

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LOCATION

COURTS SITTING WITH LISTINGS (not necessarily effective)

7th March

Comment

10th March

Aylesbury & Amersham

1

 

4

Basildon & Southend

6

minimal work

7

Birmingham

4

 

17

Blackfriars

9

most with 1 or 2 matters only

9

Bolton

3

 

3

Bournemouth

2

 

3

Bradford

5

 

7

Bristol

6

13 different discrete cases on 7th, 46 such cases on 10th!

9

Burnley

1

a mention, 2 PCMH & 2 sentences

3

Cambridge

2

 

3

Canterbury

4

8 different discrete cases on 7th, 56 such cases on 10th

5

Cardiff

4

 

7

Carlisle

2

 

3

Central Criminal Court

4

Stark difference at the Bailey

14

Chelmsford

6

No list for 7th so allow same number of courts

6

Chester

3

 

5

Chichester

1

 

2

Croydon

7

No list for 7th so allow same number of courts

7

Derby

3

4 different discrete cases on 7th, 28 such cases on 10th

4

Exeter

0

 

4

Gloucester

1

 

2

Grimsby

2

2 different discrete cases on 7th, 14 such cases on 10th

2

Guildford

4

 

4

Harrow

7

22 different discrete cases on 7th, 58 such cases on 10th

7

Inner London

5

14 different discrete cases on 7th, 33 such cases on 10th

6

Ipswich

3

 

3

Isleworth

12

23 different discrete cases on 7th, 53 such cases on 10th

12

Hull

3

13 different discrete cases on 7th, 28 such cases on 10th

4

Kingston

8

13 different discrete cases on 7th, 32 such cases on 10th

7

Leeds

7

32 different discrete cases on 7th, 72 such cases on 10th

9

Leicester

3

 

5

Lewes, Hove, Brighton etc

8

15 different discrete cases on 7th, 45 such cases on 10th

9

Lincoln

1

1 exceptional part heard trial on 7th, 23 different matters on 10th

4

Liverpool

6

16 different discrete cases on 7th, 76 such cases on 10th

15

Luton

4

 

5

Maidstone

5

 

5

Manchester Crown Square

9

 

11

Minshull Street

7

 

7

Merthyr Tydfil

1

1 short hearing on 7th, 7 different discrete cases on 10th

1

Mold

2

 

3

Newcastle

8

including some very strange listing

15

Newport IoW

0

 

0

Northampton

1

 

4

Norwich

3

No list for 7th so allow same number of courts

3

Nottingham

4

 

8

Oxford

3

 

4

Peterborough

3

 

3

Plymouth

1

 

2

Portsmouth

3

 

3

Preston (and acolytes)

11

 

12

Reading

5

 

8

Salisbury

1

 

1

Sheffield

4

 

8

Shrewsbury

2

 

2

Snaresbrook

17

 

20

Southampton

4

No list for 7th so allow same number of courts

4

Southwark

9

Including single prelims

15

St Albans (and acolytes)

5

 

6

Stafford

2

 

4

Stoke

1

 

1

Swansea

3

 

4

Swindon

1

 

2

Taunton

0

 

2

Teesside

2.5

Strange listings again

8

Truro

2

 

2

Warwick

1

 

3

Weymouth

1

 

1

Winchester

3

 

4

Wolverhampton

2.5

Strange listings again

7

Wood Green

7

 

9

Woolwich

7

 

9

Worcester

2

 

5

York

1

 

3

291

425

So, bearing in mind that the listing is actually carried out by relatively high-ranking MoJ employees (who do carry out an incredibly difficult task, we should recognise) even on the bare figures above, even on the most generous reading imagineable (with the extra allowance for the four court centres with no 7th March list online) the 71% of courtrooms “sat” is an exaggeration.

But when one actually looks at the detail, when one considers that Friday is the most heavily listed day in the week, and thus the comparison is in any event slightly MoJ friendly – the picture is even more stark.

Look at Harrow for example – 7 courts sitting on both days. So that’s 100%. But well under half the number of cases on a Friday as compared to the Monday – 38% in fact, nearer 1/3!

Bristol – busy court centre – still had 6 courts open, ok not quite Monday’s 9 but not bad….. BUT – under 1/3 of the caseload – 13 as opposed to 46.

Canterbury only one court down (4 compared to 5) but 8 cases as compared to 56. 1/7th – 14%.

Derby – only 1 court difference but 4 cases as opposed to 28 – so 1/7 again !!! 14% !

The list clearly goes on (before I ran out of steam and the lists came off Courtserve) – pattern repeated at Grimsby 1/7, Inner London under ½ , Isleworth under ½ , Kingstons Hull & Thames under ½ both.

Lincoln – a very busy court centre, overly burdened with cases and backlogs – on Friday 1 case – exceptional trial – overrunning, judge / juror problems if it went on longer, defendant having suffered two strokes, jury out in retirement. Only one case! Monday 23 matters!

Lewes and acolyte courts 15 cases on Friday, 45 on Monday.

Leeds – major court centre, fiefdom of the Hon Recorder of Leeds, HHJ Collier QC, who handed down a “show must go on” protocol – depends on what sort of show you want – penny dreadful? Despite keeping 7 courts open, compared to 9 on Monday, only 32 cases on Friday, as opposed to 72 on Monday. How many of those were effective on Friday we know not, but well under ½ the case volume on a Friday.

Liverpool – another very busy, major court centre…. Our 4 month fraud was not sitting, but were we alone? Not even the MoJ could pretend that 6 courts sitting on Friday as opposed to 15 on Monday is a signifier of a failed Day of Action. All the more so, when they heard 16 cases as opposed to Monday’s listed 76 ! That’s not 71% of normal capacity, that’s 79% LESS cases! Those rogue MoJ statisticians and spinners have obviously been at the KoolAid!

The Bailey – 4 courts compared to 14 – hmm that’s up to capacity then! Judges tripling up, no doubt sensibly saving on Court staff and electricity etc.

Southwark needs no introduction. Well the MoJ managed to keep 9 courts open, not quite Monday’s 15 but hey ho. Didn’t get to analyse the comparative lists before they came down, but there were a number of courts with a single Preliminary Hearing, yes you read that right, a circuit judge at Southwark CC of all places, coming in, having a court manned for a SINGLE PRELIM!!!

That’s the pattern…. There are three major points to be gleaned from this –

1.      1. Before we even factor in non-attendance and ineffective listed hearings, the Day of Action was excellently supported and brought the CJS, in the Crown Court, if not to a standstill then to a shuddering, grinding, go-slow.

2.      2. Shock horror – the MoJ are deceitful, lying propogandists ready to spread misinformation to all and sundry without shame or compunction, and they need to be called on it by the media and journalists far and wide.

3.     3.  The MoJ are quite ready to manipulate, not just facts and figures, but the Justice System for their own political aims and ideological ends. What other reason can there be for major court centres listing one or two cases in each of 5, 6, 7 or more courts, when often a single court will hear dozens of case a day. No other reason than to manipulate the appearance of the list, to give a superficial look of capacity, of a number of courts “sitting”. The cost of this is to the tax payer – the Bailey is perhaps the honourable exception, its few hearings were compressed into 4 courts, not spread over 10 like other centres. For a judge at Southwark to have to attend, robe and sit for 1 preliminary hearing is an outrage. What an appalling waste of public time and money. Once more the media and journalists need to call the MoJ to account for this. How much money was spent to support the MoJ’s ever-weakening grip on the Justice System? This is not in the interests of justice, it was only in the interests of the MoJ, Ursula Brennan and Chris Grayling – our shamed and dishonourable Minister of Injustice.

 The truth needs to be trumpeted far and wide. The Bar, the Solicitors, the Probation Service, the Interpreters, the Prison Service – not by coincidence are all of these under ideological attack. Not by coincidence does the MoJ seek to replace them with their cronies in big business, at vastly more expense and to vastly less efficient effect.

We, all of us, are happy to be scrutinised. We are happy for the media, for the public to look at the unalloyed truth, and see how the chips fall.

The same clearly cannot be said of the MoJ.

We call on the media, on the politicians, on the auditors, the scrutineers – scrutinise. Don’t fall for the words of the MoJ – don’t fall for their “statistics”. Invariably they are deceit and misrepresentation.

The Justice System of this country needs you. Scrutinise and debate before it’s too late.

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About utterbarrister

Long-suffering, hard-working barrister in Criminal Practice at Chambers of John Coffey QC, 3 Temple Gardens, London
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2 Responses to Ministry of Injustice, Spin, Misinformation and Downright Lies

  1. Pingback: Lies, Damned Lies and Chimneys. | A view from the North

  2. Pingback: CBA Day of Action – Media Coverage | St Edmund Chambers

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