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”