Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

MRS PUTNAM: You think it God’s work you should never lose a child, nor grandchild either, and I bury all but one? There are wheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires!

Replace Mrs Putnam with Phillip Schofield, he handed David Cameron a list this morning on This Morning and Cameron’s response: “There is a danger, if we’re not careful, that this could turn into a sort of witch-hunt, particularly against people who are gay and I’m worried about the sort of thing you are doing right now – giving me a list of names that you’ve taken off the internet.” Bravo, David Cameron.

Message boards, twitter, facebook are becoming the new finger pointed by the Salem girls and they’re picking on men, several of whom are gay.

I think the danger is real that there will be a witch hunt. And, I applaud the Prime Minister for warning of the risk.

My applause there endeth.

DANFORTH: The pure in heart need no lawyers.

So said Governor Danforth as he presided over the witch-hunt.

My applause ends for  the Government because at present there is a problem. The problem is that in the past we have not properly looked into child abuse claims. And when I say ‘we’, it is all of us because the child abuse has occurred within institutions, those institutions at present being identified as the BBC, various social services and so on. I say, ‘we’, too, because the institutions we employ to consider the abuse claims have failed to consider them properly. It would seem that is true for various police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Here is the problem.

So, the abuse has happened within institutions and there is an institutional failure to detect, prevent and cure (by which I mean remedy) the abuse.

The unfortunate reaction has been this:-

1 x Scotland Yard Inquiry

1 x BBC Documentary

1 x ITV Documentary

3 x BBC investigations

1 x Department of Health investigation

1 x Director of Public Prosecutions Review

1 x National Crime Agency investigation

1 x Judicial led inquiry

Numerous individuals who are pointing the finger with the fervor of Abigail Williams.

PROCTOR: Your justice would freeze beer!

Everytime, one of these reviews, or investigations, or documentaries goes out and starts poking about it should not be seen as getting to the truth. Quite the opposite. Instead, it is trampling over a crime scene. And we all know, when you trample over a crime scene you destroy evidence, taint evidence and it can lead to perverse results.

So back to my original headline problem: the abuse has happened within institutions and there is an institutional failure to detect, prevent and cure (by which I mean remedy) the abuse.

My solution. All current investigations are frozen.

Instead,

Operation Yewtree is expanded. To beyond Jimmy Saville. Operation Yewtree will investigate any allegation of institutional sex abuse that a party wishes to bring. The Met Police can be supplemented by officers from local police forces. No police officer involved in the case will have been involved in previous investigations which were discontinued/stopped for any reason.

Operation Yewtree’s evidence will then be reviewed. Firstly, by CPS specialist sexual offences prosecutors. Should they find that there is a case to answer then the matter is referred to independent counsel. My suggestion is a small team of around 5 barristers led by a QC. Let those barristers be at the independent bar, let none of them be Treasury Counsel and let them make the decision whether to prosecute individuals independent of the DPP, the AG/SG.  (This avoids the suggestion of bias, avoids the CPS being accused of a cover up, or Treasury Counsel being encouraged/discouraged to prosecute).

Experts investigating, experts prosecuting. All experts with relative independence.

Now as to the institutional failings. Expand the remit of Mrs Justice Macur. She can investigate: the BBC, the Health Service etc etc and their failings. To do so, she’ll need investigators and she’ll need lawyers. So:

Team approach:

Justice, investigate the failings of the police and CPS. Lead lawyer: Actions against the police specialist with, Investigators: IPCC investigators and seconded CPS inspectorate. Lawyers: Independent barrister reviewing charging decisions.

BBC, investigate the failings of the BBC/Media. Lead lawyer: Employment lawyer/whistleblowing expert with, Investigators:  PCC (or whomever replaces them). Lawyers: Independent barrister reviewing employment/disciplinary/child protection decisions.

Health, investigate the failings of health social care providers. Lead lawyer: Childrens lawyers specialist, with, Investigators: Independent social workers, Local Government obudsman investigators. Lawyers: Independent barrister reviewing employment/disciplinary/child protection decisions.

All of whom report to Mrs Justice Macur in an open hearing. All interested parties are entitled to be represented. All evidence given under oath. Mrs Justice Macur has the power to order and require disclosure and summons witnesses.

PROCTOR: I have given you my soul, leave my name

Without proper, centralised investigation people will be accused of being child abusers when they are no such thing. Other people, will walk free of child abuse claims because evidence has been trampled over by amateurs.

Cameron, I applaud you for stopping a witch-hunt. Stop that and instead put something sensible and just in the place of it.

FTD

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‘Hang on, so you’ve represented fascists?’

‘Yep’

‘But, you’ve also represented that lot up St Pauls?’

‘Occupy, yeah…’

‘Ang on, I’m strugglin’ with this, but you must ‘ate one lot?’

‘I could hate both, wouldn’t matter.’

As we drove  around the back streets of Kensington, the cabbie got even more confused. How on earth could a person represent businesses one week and occupy the next. Or, how could one represent fascists one week and then communists the next.

By the time we got into Marylebone, I came up with the obvious answer and reminded him of the Cab Rank rule. He suddenly sort of got it.

Spats

I got myself in another spat about freedom of speech on facebook. In short, chap breaches Special Branch security cordon and shouts no public sector cuts to David Cameron. Scottish Courts get hold of him and stick him with 100 hours community service.

Something which chills me, fine remove him, but you’re effectively punishing him for expressing his opinion in public.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-20181601

The expression of opinion, freedom of speech, have been live subjects in society for as long as we have had hackney carriages. Hansom cabs were about from 1834 and speaker’s corner existed in one shape or another from 1855.

Both concepts of a paying taxi and freedom of speech have existed since before 1834, they’re both very British concepts.

And it’s strange the sort of conversations you can find yourself getting into in the back of a black cab. Anything from the traffic on the North Circular to the make up of the United Nations Security Council.

Encouraging speech

You cannot have a true democracy if the participants in that document do not feel inclined or able to participate therein.

The BBC are keen to encourage younger people to participate in the political process. Depending on where you read on the BBC website, if you’re between the age of 18 to 26, or 18 to 30 then you are in the target market for ‘Free Speech’ on BBC3.

It’s basically like Question Time with a younger audience, younger panel and a better twitter and online interface.

I’ve been trying to get into it, but I can’t. Maybe I’m a year too old, maybe I just don’t really like the panelists.

Give you an example:

Luciana Berger – 31 year old, member of Labour Co-operative party, MP for Liverpool Wavertree. Would appear to have acquired most attention because she may have been Chuka Umunna’s girlfriend and because she spoke about tweeting during a Parliament Debate. Oh, and there is a recent allegation of ‘cash for questions’ which she refutes, see here:

http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2012/10/19/luciana-berger-mp-hits-back-over-cash-for-questions-allegations-99623-32062923/

Fingers crossed not true.

However, at least she’s a young MP, so that is something. And she’s a shadow minister too so she has some relevance.

As too, can Alok Sharma MP have something to say. He’s Vice Chair of the Tories and has had a variety of jobs before coming into politics and is Indian born.

But then…

Michael Heaver, head of UKIP’s online engagement… sigh…

And Stacey Dooley, of ‘Stacey Dooley investigates’… who was given a TV show on BBC 3 having been on a show where she was exposed to what British consumerism does abroad.

The New Statesman sums up my view of the quality of the documentaries she presents:

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/broadcast/2012/07/bbc3-documentary-broke-all-rules-reporting-suicide

It all to me feels a little bit, Question Time Press Packers. Or worse, Question Time Yoof.

I don’t think it engages young people in the democratic process or shows much of active participation by younger people in expressing themselves.

However, my problem is all a bit chicken and egg. More widely, the BBC News has a particular age demographic in terms of journalists as do print media. The professions and Parliament have a similar age demographic in terms of those given ‘speaking roles’.

Berger is an exception as are the likes of columnist Owen Jones or self-made man Dominic McVey

Question Time Lite

So, I think I would have rather the BBC 3 not have produced a lite version of Question Time. Rather instead, should have thought of a new format.

Put a camera in a taxi, get Jake Humphrey to do the knowledge and send him out in London to convey younger people around town. There’s a lot to discuss between Piccadilly and Pimlico whilst in traffic.

FTD

I said as a caveat on twitter that Tuckers is not a typical firm. That’s for two reasons: (1) they’re national, (2) they do virtually all their advocacy in-house. They are the type of firm that the Government want to replicate, because they hope eventually they’ll be able to get them to contract out large amounts of the system and squeeze them.

That said, my first ever brief was from Tuckers….!

And of course, they are the biggest recipient of criminal legal aid in the country.

Personal touch

When you watch Frank Sinclair visiting the 63 year old woman accused of drug dealing you know why Tuckers is a success. Like all good businesses, they look after their customers.  There is no doubt that the vast majority of my clients do not choose their solicitor because of their legal prowess but instead because of the relationship they enjoy with them.

90% of Tuckers work is returning customers.

Coleen’s camera

Well forget if the jury believe this chap, the narrator sure as hell doesn’t.

‘I’m pleading not guilty anyway’ – we’re not like doctors, people all too often don’t take our advice.

We need more quantity

That’s what worries me. ‘We need more quantity’ says head of the police station reps team. But, they’re not going to get any more staff. This is simply put the worry – that quality it put at risk by the need to increase quantity.

This isn’t going to be a problem for just Tuckers but for all our firms.

To maintain their income levels their staff are going to be expected to increase their caseloads.

Governments cut fees, they’re going to cut quality.

 Has he got a current mobile

I would say 25 to 30% of my legal aid Magistrates’ Court clients did not turn up to their criminal trials. We would always make the same call to the solicitors, ‘hi, you got a mobile?’

The disconnected number message and tone is a familiar sound.

Who do they believe on the day

People often don’t believe me when I tell them this, the evidence of one person is enough to make magistrates sure that you are guilty.

Juries… less so

Personally, one word against another – no other evidence,  it should rarely result in a conviction. Being ‘sure’ is a high threshold, although it seems a lot lower in the Magistrates.

The prosecution want to adjourn their case because they have no witnesses

Damn right the Magistrates ought not be adjourning these matters. The public really need to see what goes on in Magistrates’ Court. They need to see what the CPS actually do.

Not warning witnesses to attend? That’s basic. That’s the next step on from, getting the prosecutor to Court.

Feel quite deflated

At the end of Briefs episode 1, I feel quite deflated. It has certainly been very accurate in some respects but not in others. ITV have certainly spun the programme as ‘everybody is guilty’.

The Defendants shown as well are not likely to garner that much sympathy from the general public. Perhaps it’s worth noting that several of our clients are just like you, not alcoholics, or elderly drugs pushers. Although I had the twinge, when she said ‘you’ll be alright Dad’.

I also, and I really mean this, find the fact that Soham: A Parents’ Tale being advertised throughout really lacks taste.

My end conclusion, a very ITV take on our world and no doubt not reflecting on all the good work that criminal defence lawyers do nor the fact that not everyone is guilty.

 

 

 

Tonight on BBC Question Time, Dr David Starkey described the NHS as the ‘Holy Cow.’ Something which politicians can’t think about sensibly.

I think it’s quite the contrary. I think people spend too much time thinking about the NHS.

The NHS seems to have become our country’s new religion. There are different versions of the same church. There are those who believe that each hospital should be gilded, there are others who believe that it should be there as a bare minimum.

From the ashes of World War II, it became a new focus of hope. No longer were people about securing an afterlife, but instead, securing a long a life as possible, avoiding death as long as possible.

Health is really important. Everybody deserves to be happy and healthy. But,

There are other things

The Government is not established as an executive board of the NHS, they are the executive board of the United Kingdom.

The tune of this blog is about the justice system. The law in this country is important. The law requires radical change. I’m going to stop there, I write about that virtually everyday.

But there are things we don’t spend enough time (and indeed money) on.

Homeless people

We have been trying to deal with homeless people in this country since the 16th century. We have had 600 years of trying different models and we have failed to solve the problem.

I wish we spent more time talking about those homeless people.

Education

Since the 14th century we have had two of the most impressive academic universities in the world. We now have even more, the Russell Group of universities are 20 of the world’s finest educational institutions.

But, despite this, there are towns and cities which have no good public funded schools. There are individuals who leave the school system without any proper qualifications. There are children who leave primary school without basic literacy skills.

I wish we spent more time talking about the educational divide.

Military

We have had a standing army and navy in different forms for probably, what, 800 years? The purpose of that military still is not clear. I have written about this previously.

I support the maintenance of a military force. Do you? What do you think the military is for?

We have the third highest military spending in the world. We have young men and women dying overseas in that military. But let’s be clear why we’re spending the money and why those individuals are dying.

I wish we spent more time talking about the purpose of armed forces and our covenant towards our service personnel.

International matters

If I want to, I can speak to somebody in China instantly. I have recently been instructed by a foreign government. I am often instructed in cases where my client is wanted by a foreign government.

We live in a global community. Economic problems have been global problems for the last 80 years. Climate change and energy security are global problems.

International institutions are on the rise, surely we need to talk about that?

Question time

Is a great programme. It frustrates me how much time is spent talking about our new domestic religion. I think most of us are worshipers in the Church of the NHS, yes, we have our different sects, but we wouldn’t give as much air time, or column inches, or indeed money to deciding on whether Catholicism or Anglicanism is the right version of the same religion.

More time needs to spent considering other issues. I can guarantee if we dealt with some other issues we would actually save NHS money and airtime.

There we go, my Starkey moment,

Calm down dear.

FTD.

Coppers has become compulsive viewing for anyone who works in the criminal justice system. It is by far the most honest portrayal of policing. And, refreshingly it shows the view of individual police officers without the PR spin of senior ranks.

Tonight’s episode is the first where I haven’t shouted or screamed at the TV.

Why? Because I felt some of the frustration that those officers described. Barristers and solicitors on either side have to deal with ‘community crime’. Often we cannot believe how something has got to Court. Particularly neighbourhood disputes. Harassment. Low level public order offences. Why are we here?

These offences too generate hundreds of pages of paperwork and it would seem hours of police work.

Then, we see as tonight, a neighbourhood dispute where one of the parties refused to engage in mediation. I rolled my eyes. I remember doing a case similar, in a rural Magistrates’ Court. I was paid privately, it cost my client a lot. It cost the tax payer even more. On the second day the Prosecutor had simply had enough. He invited the Magistrates to bind both parties  over and they were sent on their way. Told to keep the peace.

PC Porter

Is the police officer who has to spend time trying to solve this dispute. I have a great deal of sympathy. He was there trying to invite the parties into mediation. One party wouldn’t give.

At the same time, the chair of the Magistrates’ Association has been talking to Frances Gibb of the Times about the role of the Magistracy in this century, outside of Court rooms.

An easy solution in my view is this: train the Magistrates to be mediators. Magistrates could directly engage with community members. They can warn individuals what the consequences might be if they continue in their behaviour. And, the cost of training and their deployment would be less than that of deploying police officers or lawyers.

Indeed it could well be an attractive qualification for younger people and bringing them onto the Bench.

Soft touch

There was a slight hint that PC Porter was a little soft. But, when it came to dealing with the Mother and Son on tonight’s episode I think he was bang on. A number of London areas have a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence. The young lad who had hit his mum was an example of domestic violence. It is policy often that arrest is inevitable, despite the wishes of the victim.

PC Porter’s intervention had helped the family. The lad clearly has issues. What would be gained from dumping him into the criminal justice system? This was an example of proportionate, clever policing.

Again, my lawyer readers will have been there when they’ve been instructed to represent a son or daughter  alleged to have thumped or threatened a parent. Court often turns into an episode of Trisha. Or, one of the parties does not attend. Time and money are spent in the Courts which often has no real positive outcome.

You’re under arrest Danny

Local alcoholic and drug addict Danny was well known to the police. His ASBO caught him out on each occasion. The local police did genuinely seem to want to help but as their Inspector pointed out they don’t have the training.

Again, ASBOs provide very little protection to the public. Instead, they’re an expensive means of taking problematic people off the streets.

Having worked with individuals who misuse substances before and during my time at the Bar, I think treatment must be rapidly rethought. Some individuals want to change and can be motivated sufficiently to get help. But, some aren’t. Rather than lock them up in the generic prison system, why not think about secure community facilities where they might detox?

Again, expensive, but surely cheaper than police time, court time and prison places.

Muggers, rapists and murderers

PC Porter said, the public want him to deal with the muggers, rapists and murderers of our society. And of course we do. But I’m happy too for him to act as a peace officer. Keeping the peace in these more minor disputes avoids escalation. Escalation to more serious violent offences.

Preventative measures in the community require sometimes unpopular decisions. It means not prosecuting some people. It means talking to people rather than punishing them for doing unpleasant things. It means trying to force some people to act in a way which is good for them.

It is also means capital expenditure. But capital expenditure now will save budgets in future.

If Magistrates are looking for a role in the heart of communities then it could be as mediators.

No need to scream at Coppers tonight as it would seem that some agree with a pragmatic and proportionate approach like me.

FTD

Dr Cliff Arnal (interestingly qualified psychologist) says that today is the most depressing day of the year. Aspirant barristers take note, this was my day:

Just another manic Monday

Wasn’t a terrible start. I packed my suitcase, robes, wig, laptop, papers, spare tunic shirts, a week’s boxers and socks. And I started to rolllllllll the plastic suitcase into the most depressing day.

You see, I’m meant to be up North. But for reasons I can’t discuss right now, Monday was a no go.

Before I leave the Housemate is pottering. Bothering because we’ve got someone coming to house. He starts to rearrange my desk. PUT THE FUCKING PAPERS DOWN – NOW.

The Clerks booked me on Monday, even though I’m mid case. Quick job, short application, privately paying, no bother.

Or so we thought, Court Clerk was trapped in another Court, so was HHJ. Client didn’t arrive. Solicitors hadn’t been told everything. Urgent phone calls follow. Back and forth with Judge. He was very nice. Still lost. But by the time we finished, it was gone 1pm.

There was a bonus

I saw Silk Cut my mentor (and the man I blame for my love for the wig), he was in same Court, doing something very important. Being led by a gentleman QC from my old set.

But of course, was manic Monday, so I said hello to QC and to Silk Cut. Neither of us could talk. He was dashing about, I was trying to get my iPhone to work indoors (every Court has a sweet spot).

Can you be a hero

Note to self, if the Clerks ask you to help you say yes (even Silk Cut has to). If the Clerks ask you to be a hero, then you put your suit jacket over your head and pretend it is a cape.

Can you go to ‘Other End of City Inconvenient’ Magistrates’ Court? Yep, was off. But of course was late. And there were no rooms and the client didn’t want to give instructions through the wicket.

The District Judge gave the exact sentence I had advised the client.

By now it was 4.30pm.

No lunch, and I’m meant to be up North.

Heavy suitcase. Down ramp. Up ramp. Upstairs. Downstairs. Shoulder hurts.

Other end of London.

Organic sandwich

If I have an organic sandwich I’ll feel better.

Why is there a sun-dried tomato in my all day breakfast sandwich? Urgh.

Elderflower presse – I’d rather have a bottle of full fat coke and one of those massive richmond cigarettes that clients get from somewhere.

Training

As soon as the train board lights up, I leg it to train. Get one of the disabled friendly seats. Loadsa leg room. Yes. Train empties out at Stevenage. I have pre-booked ticket, saved legal aid fund money, feel righteous.

Odd couple get on and keep eyeballing me. WHAT.

Pre-booked ticket apparently doesn’t work on that train. It’s a peak time. But the train is empty? £70. I’m a lawyer and I don’t understand the ticket terms and conditions.

Feel depressed.

Yay – smutty text from ‘Lad’. Smiled.

Wonder about texting ‘Pretty Boy’ – no, it’s a Monday he’ll have to work until at least 3am.

Yay – amusing series of texts from ‘Banter & Hedges’ – she registers a complaint, her relationship survived pupillage – there you have it, noted.

Oh, the lights have gone out in the train carriage.

Legal question from ‘Favourite Solicitor.’

Arrive in Leeds, phone call from ‘Favourite Solicitor.’

Is this a real Park Plaza?

‘Welcome to the Park Plaza’

‘Yah, hi’

‘Name?’

‘FTD’

‘Two nights?’

‘I may be staying all week’

‘You’ll have to pay’

Oh right, you don’t say, I have to pay to stay in a hotel. Thank you.

Grrr.

My hotel room smells. Why does it smell. Why are there pieces of card with costs on every surface. I’ve already paid. The man made me pay. Leave me alone.

Room service? Hmmm, no I don’t want that. Mini bar? £2 for a kit kat chunky. Yeah, alright. Probably should eat something proper.

No, I’ll have a burger king.

Then I’ll shout at Coppers on Channel 4.

‘Oh you can’t do that.’

‘No, that’s illegal.’

Ho hum.

… Favourite solicitor is ringing…

Life in a wig

It’s better most days – honest.

FTD

 

You may have just spent an hour of your life watching the first episode of Eternal Law. If you missed it, in short, two angels have been sent from heaven to practice at the criminal defence bar,  they’re not allowed to have sex with the locals. On the other hand, the local prosecutor is an agent of the devil and can have sex with whom he pleases.

Verisimilitude is low.

Life is crazy enough without the wings

Since Rumpole, television has tried to recreate the life of the criminal barrister. The wonderful John Thaw as the passionate common sense silk: Kavanagh QC. The charming Rupert Penry-Jones as womanizer Alex Hay in North Square, then older and more coke addled Clive Reader in Silk. Julie Walters as chain-smoking (scarily realistic) Emma Watts QC in the Jury.

Real serious actors, real serious money dramatising a profession, and a particular part of a single profession.

We’re all portrayed as being wealthy unless you’re a pupil. But don’t worry, pupils knock back a bottle of champagne in Daly’s after their first dangerous dogs trial in Camberwell Mags.

We’re all portrayed as being overly emotionally involved.

We’re all apparently public schooled, Oxbridge educated and have plummy 1920 BBC pronunciation.

The non-wigged reader will know it aint so.

Justice is interesting enough

Clip the wings of Eternal Law. The life of the criminal barrister is interesting enough, honest. The criminal bar (although not as diverse as it ought to be) is more diverse than our portrayal.

My clients have ranged from the drug addict to the international businessman; a freedom fighter fleeing oppression to a farmer; shoplifter to murderer. All have  fascinating stories.

Most criminal barristers do the job as it is incredibly interesting.

The devil is in the detail

OK so all the television programmes I have mentioned are fictional. They are designed to entertain.

But the Bar is a mystery. Television cameras don’t enter our courts. We wear a wig to work. We eat in candlelight in the Inns of Court.

I imagine most people will come into contact with the criminal justice system in their lifetime, be it as a witness, Defendant, professional or juror. Their expectations are partly built by our dramatised portrayal.

If the portrayal of criminal lawyers and criminal justice was more realistic then perhaps jurors wouldn’t shirk, witnesses would come forward, expectations would be different.

If the portrayal of criminal lawyers and criminal justice was more realistic then perhaps a wider group of people would consider a career within, or different people would come forward to sign up.

I guarantee TV producers that they don’t need the wings and horns, Sam West’s talents could be used in a better way.

The battle for justice is epic enough.

FTD.