Archive for May, 2013

Come on then…you…

Posted: 30/05/2013 in Civil Rights, Legal aid

It’s usually followed by a four letter expletive. I’ve noticed, in witness statements, charge sheets, nicking sheets, that a particular expletive will be in fashion for a time, before being replaced by something new to challenge the authorities with.

The changing expletive is usually the only matter of any interest in one of those trials. It quite sunk in to me how boring those trials were, when a prosecutor, a year or 18 months ago, with great theatrics, repeated back to a police officer,

‘And then the Defendant said to you, come on then you pussio’

No doubt the prosecutor was expecting a reaction from the three female Magistrates’, none of whom even batted an eyelid and could have yawned in unison.

And, I’m sorry that it’s boring, but I am going to do what my clients do.

I am going to posture. Chest is puffed out.

I am going to bend at the knees. Braces holding.

I am going to gesture with both hands. Cufflinks chafing.

And, I am going to exclaim:

Come on then Grayling… you….

Sarah Forshaw says I’m not allowed to be abusive. And, I don’t particularly want to be hauled up in front of the Bar Council for writing nasty words so…

Come on then Grayling you coward

Because more I reflect on the Government’s proposals for legal aid, more I realise it’s not really about the money.

Whole legal aid budget is something like £2.2 billion, before the knifing.

Foreign aid, which let’s face it, the general public like even less than legal aid, gets £8.8 billion and is nicely ring fenced.

I think £2.2 billion is around less than 0.5% of GDP.


But you know what legal aid costs the Government most in? Oh it’s capital, but of the political variety.

Grayling’s pathetic spin

Grayling is spinning the legal aid cuts to his back benchers and Daily Mail constituents as: stopping wasteful and frivolous legal challenges by naughty people.

Yes, that’s right, I spend my days in chambers, penning judicial review grounds on top of judicial review grounds,

Judicially review the police for not giving my client a plaster after he tripped getting out of a police van.

Judicially review the prison service for not giving my client the correct tog of blanket in his cell.

Head to Strasbourg  first class to argue before the European Court of Human Rights that English prisoners should get playstation 3s.


It’s all propaganda and it’s cheap and rubbish propaganda at that.

But, it’s in response to something

You see, the problem with legal aid is this: at the moment, the financial reward is such that you can just about tempt decent graduates (with enough passion and interest) into legally aided work and away from privately funded work.

But the problem with decent graduates with passion, is they turn into pretty handy lawyers.

And handy lawyers can deposit a large amount of egg on a Governmental face.

Prisoners’ votes, Abu Qatada, Gary McKinnon, Julian Assange, bedroom tax  and so on…

Government loses in Court is hardly an attractive headline.

The cuts, especially in prison law are arrogant. The Government says, you don’t need judicial review, prisoners can sort out these problems within establishments. Well that is complete rubbish and well documented rubbish when you consider that the likes of HMP Rochester has a huge drugs and bullying problem. If they can’t sort out drugs and bullying, one doubts their capacity to sort out the nuances of securing a prisoner’s rights.

The cuts in prison law are about stopping prisoners challenging the decisions of prison authorities. They’re not about saving money.

And, can I just correct another piece of propaganda. High Court Judges do not hand out judgments for prisoners, or criminal defendants like sweeties to children. It is rare that any challenge succeeds.

And when does a challenge succeed? When a Government department has erred in law.

Being able to hold a Government department to account in Court is essential for maintaining the rule of law. And maintaining the rule of law, is the soul of democracy.

With Treasury Counsel commanding higher fees than we legal aid lawyers, with a conservative Court who does not quickly interfere with Government decisions and a prisoner-rights skeptic public, then Grayling has it all on his side.

It seems rather cowardly in the circumstances to take away the ability to challenge the Government away.

A cynic would wonder whether it was simply a case that the Government doesn’t want to risk losing face in the Courts anymore…

… or worse, that democracy and the rule of law come second to the view of the sky news red button.