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.



About utterbarrister

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