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””

Growing doubts about QASA

Plans for the introduction of the “Quality Assured Scheme for Advocates,”  generally pronounced “quasar” like the incomprehensible heavenly body, are coming under sustained attack from both solicitors and barristers.  In the latest broadside the highly influential Andrew Keogh, editor of Crimeline, has called for the scheme to be delayed until at the earliest 2015.

Like so many legal questions, it is not an issue that immediately sets the pulse racing for those not directly affected.  But it is, in fact, something that – in combination with associated changes – threatens to destroy both branches of the legal profession as we know them. Continue reading “Growing doubts about QASA”

How much should criminal barristers be paid?

After writing last week about how it was ridiculous to compare the income of legal aid criminal legal aid barristers to the Prime Minister’s income (as Chris Grayling proposed), perhaps we should think about the question – how much should they be paid?

Although it is on the face of things a very boring question for almost everyone except barristers, it does matter enormously. We cannot expect to have a properly functioning justice system without adequate lawyers to prosecute and defend. Our jury system can only function if competent advocates for the prosecution and the defence are available to test the evidence for each side. And we cannot expect to recruit good judges unless there is a pool of good lawyers from which they can be selected. Continue reading “How much should criminal barristers be paid?”

Mr Grayling’s attack on the Criminal Bar

The Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling has announced he is to take yet another “axe to the criminal legal aid budget”. Despite the fact that legal aid fees paid to criminal barristers have already been cut by 13.5% since 2010, and are planned to be cut further, his new idea is that no barrister should receive more from public money than the Prime Minister’s salary of £142,000.

But Mr Grayling’s assertion that the Prime Minister’s overall remuneration should be the measure of a top criminal barrister’s earnings only works in his favour if we ignore Mr Cameron’s actual earnings. Continue reading “Mr Grayling’s attack on the Criminal Bar”