Chris Grayling is planning big changes to the English (and Welsh) legal system, among them further cuts to legal aid, and allowing competition for legal aid contracts.
It seems to me that if the State takes upon itself the right to prosecute individuals, and ultimately to remove their liberty, it ought to at least allow a level playing field – that is, it ought to fund the defence, properly.
The upshot, she says, is that outside firms like Serco and, oddly, Eddie Stobart will end up running defence work – and that they will be under commercial pressure to get defendants to plead guilty, as the employed lawyers involved will earn the same fee for the firm for a quick guilty plea hearing as they would for a two-day trial.
The Bar does have an image problem. Everyone thinks that barristers are pompous, overpaid, bewigged windbags, and in the case of my sister they are certainly correct*.
Chris Grayling also blames them for a lot of the delays in court. This idea, says my sis, is
breathtaking, particularly from a Minister who bears ultimate responsibility for the delays occasioned to justice daily. I regularly work until 2am or later when in a trial, to ensure that admissions, legal arguments, and editing of statements and interviews, as well as my preparation for witnesses and speeches are ready. I do not ask judges (nor would expect to receive) time for this at Court. I also am regularly left sitting for hours at court mid-trial, case delayed, if not completely adjourned, or jury dismissed. Why? Because the interpreter has again not turned up, on time or at all, or has been discovered, part way through a four-week trial, not to have been interpreting correctly. Or the defendant has not been put on the prison van, or, if he has, he has been brought to X Crown Court from Y prison fifty miles away, via Z, forty miles in the opposite direction. These are not exaggerations. Last year I defended the rape of a five-year-old child, who was made to wait at court for several days whilst an interpreter was persuaded to attend. No one was held to account for this. I could give example after example from personal experience.
It’s almost like there’s a book in it!
Anyway, if you’re interested in stopping this devastation of a legal system copied around the world, you can sign a petition here.
Meanwhile, The Bookseller is still worried about the future of publishing, and eBooks – the future is all about piracy, self-publishing and library lending, apparently.
*Joke. She’s not pompous, or overpaid. As she says, she regularly works through the night on cases – I’ve been at her house while she’s doing so, and it’s quite boring for visitors. On some cases, depending on how they progress, she can earn a per hour rate not far off the minimum wage, out of which she must pay VAT, chambers rent and tax. She is a windbag, though.