In protest at the proposed legal aid reforms, the LCCSA and CLSA (supported by The Law Society) invite all criminal practitioners to attend a training session at Islington Assembly Hall on 6 January 2014 at 11.15am when Raj Chada will be speaking about public order offences.
The practitioner groups are grateful to the Law Society for supporting criminal practitioners by making a grant towards the cost of the event with the result that there will be no charge for attending. Click here to reserve your place.
Below is the protocol originally circulated in mid December to assist those with cases listed on 6 January, who wish to attend the training, together with answers to some frequently asked questions.
This is of course, an entirely voluntary matter for individuals, but the key to showing unity is strength in numbers.
This is a non-binding protocol to ensure that there is minimum inconvenience to the Courts and to clients.
Those who decide not to attend Courts on the morning of the 6 January 2014 should give notice of their unavailability.
If you are already engaged in a case that is listed for that morning but do not wish to attend until 2pm you should: -
- Write to your client (making it clear that the obligation on the client to attend court is unaffected); and
- Ensure that you notify the court that you are not attending court that morning.
(If you have not already done this), you should do this immediately so that you will have given the court notice.
If you do not have a fixed case that day, and intend not to attend court that morning, then you may want to inform the local court that you will be unavailable until 2:00pm that day. You may wish to avoid listing or adjourning hearings to the 6 January.
Some cases that day may be particularly sensitive and simply cannot be moved until 2.00pm. These though will be rare. If you are in a case involving the young or vulnerable and the court will not accommodate the case being put back to 2:00pm then you should attend on the morning of the 6 January 2014.
There will of course be a Duty Solicitor in attendance at court during the morning who will be able to advise and assist those Defendants who are not already represented by their own solicitors.
If you have cases listed in the Crown Court where Counsel is already instructed, it is likely that Counsel's chambers will contact you, if they have not already done so, to confirm that they are not available to deal with the case until 2pm. If you are not available either because of the training morning, then you are advised to let the Court know that Counsel will not be available until the afternoon session.
If you have cases listed in the Crown Court where your own in house Advocate is instructed and he/she wishes to support the bar and attend one of the local or national meetings that morning, then you are similarly advised to contact the Crown Court to request the matter is stood down until the afternoon session.
A draft letter which you may wish to use as a pro forma letter to send to your local Court can be downloaded from here.
Is this compulsory?
It is a matter for individual solicitors but if you wish to join your colleagues in the protest you may wish to:
- Not instruct counsel or HCAs to attend the Crown Court until 2pm. Not to attend or instruct Counsel to attend the Magistrates Court until 2pm. Such cases include bail, overnight; remand cases and trials. You may wish to write to the court using the attached pro- forma requesting an adjournment.
- Contact the duty solicitor (details to be circulated) and advise that you are instructed to act for your client and will attend at 2pm.
- In respect of overnight cases, contact the cells to advise that you will be there for the afternoon hearing.
- As duty solicitor, not represent any clients who have their own solicitor.
- Attend the Justice Alliance Demonstration outside Westminster Magistrates Court between 9.30 and 10.30am.
- Attend training at Islington Town Hall at 11.15am for free CPD points, supported by The Law Society.
What about trials?
Write to the court and invite them to adjourn the trial due to non availability of solicitors/counsel. Firms will of course wish to avoid wasted costs. If the application is refused, ask for the matter to be listed in court to make the application. Following that there is little alternative but to attend.
What if I have a vulnerable client in court that morning?
It is a question of your own personal judgement as to whether this client is any more vulnerable than most of those we represent.
Do we attend the youth court?
Again a young person in custody is vulnerable enough to be an exception.
How can we be sure that other firms are not representing their own and our clients, thus defeating the object of the protest?
As well as the rota'd duty solicitors inside court, outside court there will be at least two members of the legal community handing out leaflets explaining to the public/clients what is happening . They will also be aware which firms are not supporting the protest. They will not be stopping individuals from attending Court to represent their own client's should they wish to do so. Many firms have expressed support for the protest and whilst some have not agreed to participate, they have promised not to represent other firms' clients.
The larger firms, including some members of the BFG are participating as it is universally acknowledged that the cuts will impact upon them.