Goodwill Hunting

A lot has been written and discussed about our “goodwill” being withdrawn. Let us not kid ourselves, the system is still creaking along because we have only withdrawn a fraction of that goodwill.

I meant to post this at the time but had too much to do and not enough hours in the day to do it….

A few weeks ago, I endured a fortnight that encapsulates the fiscal nightmare into which we have allowed ourselves to fall.  In the Autumn of 2012, I led in a 10 week drugs trial in Preston. Sentence was adjourned to await another outstanding trial for a recently extradited defendant. For a number of reasons, that took an inordinate time. Thus, after conviction in November 2012, sentence was finally listed at the end of January 2014 – over a year later. I had to travel to sunny Preston for a con with my defendant, WA, at Preston Prison, the day before the listed 2 day hearing. So that Wednesday – a conference for free. Travel up, and hotel overnight. Thursday – Crown opening, mitigation by myself and some co-defendants. Preparation for all of this – over a year after the trial? Free. Appearance all day at Preston CC – free! I then had to hot foot it back to London on the Thursday evening (took 6 1/2 hours due M6, M1 nightmares) as I was in the Court of Appeal the next day.  My poor junior had to stay in Preston, for free, and hold the fort on Friday.

On Friday, I appeared at the CACD on a pro bono renewal of leave to appeal conviction and sentence. There was a lot of prep. Free. I spent about an hour on my feet in “argument” with their Lordships. Only to be told that hour didn’t happen because the 5 grounds of appeal against conviction (although Judge and Pros Counsel came in for due criticism) were not even arguable. Not just appeal refused but leave application refused. So Free!

The following Monday was spent preparing for a further Court of Appeal renewal hearing (funnily enough for WA from Preston) and for a further 2 day sentence hearing in Birmingham this time. So, Monday – Free.

However, as the CACD was Tuesday, the first day of the sentence hearing, and as I was No 1 on the indictment of a large multi-commodity drug ring, it was difficult. The Judge at Birmingham was understanding – as long as I sent stand-in counsel, I could mitigate on the Wednesday. This I did. So not only was I working for free on Monday in prep, but I was appearing at the CACD for free as well, AND paying stand-in counsel to travel to Birmingham and hold my brief for the day. So Tuesday – worse than Free – negative.

At the Court of Appeal, there was an issue, long presaged, of non-disclosure. Material had come to light – thus after 1/2 hour’s argument, the renewal application was adjourned with a strict timetable from Treacy L.J. as to disclosure, work, applications, skeleton arguments, hearings etc. However, that notwithstanding, my application for a Representation Order was refused at that stage. So Tuesday free / negative.

Wednesday – travel up to Birmingham for a further day of being paid nothing to prepare and mitigate for a very demanding client, in a large and demanding drugs case. Free / negative.

The case went so slowly that the judge needed until the Thursday to pass sentence. I drew the line there at the end and asked someone already there to hold my brief just for the sentencing remarks, as my solicitor would be there as well. I had a conference to attend in London (on old VHCC so at least I’d earn something in that fortnight).

So that was two weeks where my previously inexhaustible goodwill was stretched to near breaking point. What other job, what other profession would be asked to, expected to act in that way. What other job, what other profession would countenance that as a business model.

We must be barmy. Our goodwill is at an end. They can hunt for it all they like.

They are after all akin to the Berkshire Hunt.

Yours in unfathomable annoyance




About utterbarrister

Long-suffering, hard-working barrister in Criminal Practice at Chambers of John Coffey QC, 3 Temple Gardens, London
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