Debating Legal Aid Proposals. Why are ministers frit?

Anyone listening to Lord Justice Hooper debating the Government’s legal aid proposals with Bob Neill MP on the Today programme this morning will have wondered two things: who is Bob Neill, and where is Chris Grayling?

As far as the first question is concerned, Bob Neill is an ex-criminal barrister who briefly held a minor ministerial post until he was sacked last September. Known to his admirers as “Little Bob” he is apparently naturally charming and shrewd but on the radio this morning he displayed a rather off-putting combination of rudeness and insincere chumminess. Continue reading “Debating Legal Aid Proposals. Why are ministers frit?”

Ministry of Justice to treat dogs better than lawyers

It is not often that Inside Time, the newspaper run by and for prisoners, gets a scoop but it has cleverly managed to publicise information that the Ministry of Justice would probably rather have kept quiet about. The crafty cons at Inside Time somehow managed to obtain details of the Ministry’s 2012 expenditure figures. They make for fascinating reading. Continue reading “Ministry of Justice to treat dogs better than lawyers”

Is Mr Grayling’s legal aid consultation genuine or a sham? Ask an interpreter.

The Ministry of Justice consultation on plans to cut the cost of criminal legal aid ends on June 4th. Some may believe that it is not really a consultation at all, but a sham in which the responses will be swiftly binned because its outcome has already been decided. Their fears were heightened yesterday when the Justice Minister, Chris Grayling, declared that “unless someone’s got a stunning alternative it’s going ahead in some form.” Continue reading “Is Mr Grayling’s legal aid consultation genuine or a sham? Ask an interpreter.”

Whole life tariffs for police murderers – a serious suggestion or political posturing?

Theresa May proposes a mandatory whole life tariff for anyone who murders a police officer.

It made a good headline, and enabled her to get through her annual speech to the Police Federation without the ritual debagging normally given to Home Secretaries at these rather boisterous occasions. One does wonder why, if her idea is actually going to be introduced, the proposal was announced at the Federation conference instead of being included in a notably thin Queen’s speech last week. Continue reading “Whole life tariffs for police murderers – a serious suggestion or political posturing?”

Barbara Hewson is wrong. She must be defended.

One of the most important qualities a barrister needs is courage, and nobody can accuse Barbara Hewson of lacking it, although it is not obvious that she has the same amount of wisdom.

Her characterisation of Operation Yewtree as “an inquisition,” her likening of it to Soviet style justice, her description of Stuart Hall’s crimes as “low level misdemeanours,” her call for a statute of limitations, and most of all her call for the age of consent to be lowered to 13 have attracted fire from all sides, including even her own chambers which has described itself as “shocked” by her article in Spiked. Continue reading “Barbara Hewson is wrong. She must be defended.”

Bring the RSPCA to heel

The RSPCA is behaving like a delinquent corgi. Her Majesty should be advised to obtain a spiked choke chain and tug it sharply to heel. Yesterday we learnt that the organisation which proudly proclaims its Royal seal of approval has yet again racked up eye-watering costs, this time in bringing an unsuccessful prosecution against blameless members of the Avon Vale Hunt.

£50,000 of these costs are said to have been incurred by the RSPCA itself, with the defence costs (which the judge ordered should be met out of public funds) estimated to be about the same. Continue reading “Bring the RSPCA to heel”

Should there be anonymity for rape defendants?

Today it is announced that Stuart Hall has pleaded guilty.  Last week Rolf Harris was arrested, yesterday Bill Roache,  and soon  other famous old men will be feeling Knacker’s hand on their collars to the evident delight of the press and sleb websites.

And at the weekend we learnt that Operation Yew Tree investigators have charged the Svengali of spin himself,  Max Clifford, with historic offences of indecent assault against teenage girls. The country’s most famous PR consultant was quick to stand outside his front gates to protest his innocence to the cameras, and some may see it as grimly appropriate that the once feared maestro of the media – the nemesis of various “sex fiends” over the years – is now exposing himself to trial by media as well as trial by jury. Continue reading “Should there be anonymity for rape defendants?”

Nigel Pascoe’s advocacy secrets

Nigel Pascoe QC
Nigel Pascoe QC

He is one of the living legends of the criminal bar: perhaps the greatest jury advocate of his generation, as well as a notable actor, playwright and all round polymath. (Should you ever get the chance to see one of his plays jump at it: his one man performance of the Trial of Penn and Mead in particular is a tour de force). Nigel Pascoe QC is certainly someone you want on your side and I am delighted that he has now kindly revealed some of his advocacy secrets to readers of barristerblogger.  Read him here on the art of examination in chief and here on cross-examination.

 

Juries, bomb detectors and homoeopaths

After the inane questions asked by Vicky Pryce’s first jury, the conviction of James McCormick of fraud by selling fake bomb detectors shows that our jury system is, after all,  in robust good health.

It also shows the Avon and Somerset Police to be a great deal less gullible than, amongst others,  the Royal Engineers (which publicly endorsed the detectors), the United Nations (which bought a few before realising their mistake), as well as security forces in Iraq, Kenya, Thailand, Hong Kong, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, all of whom were taken in by the McCormick’s ludicrous blarney. Continue reading “Juries, bomb detectors and homoeopaths”

Barristers “on strike”

It is not quite correct to call yesterday’s meeting by barristers on the Northern Circuit a strike, but it was certainly symptomatic of anger across the whole criminal legal profession.

The Ministry of Justice’s “consultation” paper on proposed changes to criminal legal aid has achieved in two weeks what for two centuries was unimaginable: the unity of criminal solicitors and barristers. Continue reading “Barristers “on strike””