Posts Tagged ‘racism’

There can be no doubt that the CPS treat racially aggravated offending very seriously indeed. That has sometimes led me to find myself in trials that I can’t believe have come to Court, not because they’re not serious, but because there’s very little evidence. But the CPS guidance makes it almost always in the public interest to prosecute in such cases.

And, you can see why. Racism is in any form unacceptable. Racism does not have a place in 21st century Britain.

But how do you feel about paying for the prosecution of John Terry.

Let me do something which feels unusual, let me try and put this neutrally:

The everyday trial

Section 5 of the public order act is one of the most simple offences in our criminal law. In fact, it can be dealt with by fixed penalty notice.

The racially aggravated version of the offence cannot be dealt with by fixed penalty notice but remains an offence which:

a) Can only be tried in the magistrates’ court.

b) Can only result in the accused being fined.

Even if you were on a low income you would not be guaranteed legal aid to defend the charge as it not considered to be sufficiently serious in all cases to justify legal aid.

To prosecute this charge you would be prosecuted by either a CPS prosecutor employed directly by government, or by the lowest level of barrister, a Grade 1 prosecuting barrister.

To give you an idea of fees, the defending barrister on legal aid would receive between £75 and £150 for the half-day trial. The prosecution barrister generally is on between £150 to £250 for a day for the CPS. So, again, between about £75 to £125 for that half day trial.

The average trial of this type would be heard by 2 or 3 magistrates (who receive their bus fare and a chocolate biscuit and weak tea) and would probably take half a day of a Magistrates’ Court time.

The Court house itself would be guarded by the contracted security guards.

The celebrity trial

John Terry is being tried in the Westminster Magistrates’ Court. This is the Court where some of the most high profile cases in the country are heard. It is the extradition court, it deals with the cases of public protest and disorder in the capital and deals with the most humble shoplifting from Oxford Street.

The Court has a number of resident, salaried District Judges including the Deputy Senior District Judge and the Senior District Judge.

The John Terry trial is being heard, we are told for five days, by the Senior District Judge, the Chief Magistrate of England and Wales.

He is being prosecuted by Duncan Penny, Duncan Penny has been a barrister for 20 years, he is from the top prosecution set in the country. A set of chambers which advise MI5 / MI6 on policing terrorism.

His fee for the trial will reflect his expertise and his 20 years experience. This is being paid for by the tax payer.

Terry is being defended by George Carter-Stephenson QC, he is a barrister with over 30 years experience and has the magic two letters after his name. Of course, Terry is paying for that expertise.

I add, if Terry is acquitted then the tax payer will be liable to pay for those fees, although probably not in full, they will be required to pay a  signficant part.

The Terry trial has required the deployment of a large police presence.


The cost, in lawyers, court and policing is huge compared to the everyday trial.

If you had the choice? Do you think it’s worth the cost? This is when less and less people receive legal aid, courts are closing, there are less bobbies on the beat, cautions are preferred to prosecutions in a number of cases.

Or, is it worth the money? Is it worth showing all society that footballers are not above the law, that racism will be prosecuted doggedly and that the CPS will deploy the resources necessary to fight this ill.

As I say, I’ve tried to keep this neutral, I’d love to know what you decide.


Love me for a reason, let the reason be love…

Well I won’t be briefed for my music taste. Somehow Boyzone got on my iPhone again. Those bloody mac viruses, so irritating.


Barristers receive their instructions from solicitors (unless they’re set up and qualified to take work directly from the public). The solicitor generally chooses the barrister.

When I was the briefer, I picked barristers who I trusted, who I got on with and I knew would do the job. They’re twitter pals now, people like @HumanRightsQC , @NJBArmstrong and @Leoniehirst.

Now I’m the briefed rather than the briefer, I wonder why people pick me rather than another similar barrister, or one more experienced.

Taking the mystery out of it

It’s the mystery when you start at the Bar. Why me! And, several of my solicitors definitely book me for results.

Some go for chambers for their ethos and their reputation.

Some go on word of mouth and recommendations.

I’m comfortable with that.

Customer is king

And here we are in a capitalist country. Choice is everything. You can choose who to get your electricity from, your water, your groceries, your broadband – your legal services.

But sometimes I start to feel a bit uncomfortable…

I’ve had diary sheets that read: ‘must be represented by a man, can be aggressive’ – sensible for the solicitor to warn I suppose. Nothing to say thought that a female barrister couldn’t keep a client just as calm or do just as good a job.

Or what about people charged with sexual offences. A lot of the time they ask for female barristers to defend them. How do you feel about that?

Or what about this, when deciding between me and a colleague the solicitor would apply the following formula: ‘you see for the old lags and the proper villains I instruct you as you’re like a stereotypical old school brief. And if they’re young gang lads or foreign blokes, I give them to X, she’s young and pretty.’

I didn’t like that.

Or, how about this

‘must be white, male, British barrister’  a diary note once said in my old chambers that I didn’t like.

A friend at another chambers had a Jewish female pupil, their clients would quite clearly not take to her for their beliefs, it caused a real ethical headache.

I don’t get to ask why I have been briefed by a solicitor, or by a client. Some have simply looked me up on the website and picked me. Others have been sold me by the clerks. And others just get me because I happen to be free that day of the week.

I can’t reject a client because they have picked me because I am white and British. That I don’t like at all.

How far should a lay client be able to choose?

How far should a solicitor be able to choose?

To what extent should the clerks facilitate that choice?

I really don’t know the answer.

But what about when I do? What about when I find out why a client has chosen me? Is it ok they chose me because I went to Oxford? Is it ok they chose me because I’m at a certain chambers. Is it ok they chose me because I know X county, or because I represented X person. Is it ok they choose me because I’m a man? Is it ok they choose me because I’m a white man under the age of 30?

I don’t know. We live in a society when customer is king.

I don’t suppose Sainsbury’s ask when people buy Pepsi and not Coke.

It doesn’t mean I have to be comfortable.