Legal Aid

A week on the frontline

PUBLISHED April 28, 2013

Being a criminal lawyer should be about looking after your clients, going to court, attending police stations and making prison visits. But suddenly, it's become about fighting for the right simply to do our job. Fighting to stop Chris Grayling removing your right to choose your own lawyer. Fighting to prevent him selling off our justice system to the cheapest bidder.

The Lord Chancellor/Secretary of State for Justice should, in my mind, be the most senior lawyer of the land. The judge of judges. A wise and reasonable individual. However when I read the minutes of his meeting with the bar, and his shallow overtures to them, it felt like our justice system was being divvied up like a lorry load of dodgy TVs in the Queen Vic in Eastenders. The bar were not fooled, and the minutes and reports of the meeting spread like wildfire.

The London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association have been campaigning hard on a number of different fronts. They have met with a number of MPs, none of whom I will name, but who seem to be completely ignorant of Grayling's desire to remove choice. Were they aware of his stated desire to ensure that the service provided is no more than "adequate"?

Imagine being told by your GP that the government have insisted your medical treatment is no more than adequate. Imagine your local school telling you that the government have insisted your child's education is no more than adequate. We rightly expect the best from our doctors and teachers. We should expect nothing less from our lawyers.

It appears that many MPs are not aware of the extent of Grayling's proposals. David Cameron seems more worked up about the Suarez bite than Grayling's plans to swallow our proud justice system and then spit it out in bits. They need to take heed before it is too late.

The LCCSA has met with the press who are also sympathetic and have provided some coverage. They want real life case studies focussing on innocent people inadvertently caught up in the justice system. Of course, innocent people can only be protected by the justice system if that system is robust, accessible, and fair to all. If you do have relevant case studies that might assist the campaign please contact me at

The "northern bar strike? attracted some coverage, but what is clear from twitter, blogs and interviews is that Chris Grayling has achieved the impossible. He has united us all, solicitors and barristers. Thank you Mr Grayling.

This week, I attended a Court Users meeting where judges told story after story of trials and hearings being disrupted due to problems with translation services. They spoke about victims forced to give evidence twice because trials had to be stopped and restarted due to issues arising with interpreters. When the MOJ calculate the savings made on their cheap interpreter contract I doubt they will factor in all the wasted costs caused by the disruption to the courts of this arrangement.

Anyway its the weekend now, we are all still tweeting and blogging and we will keep fighting. Cheap Justice is not Justice. It's not about the lawyers. It's about the individual's right to choice when their liberty is at stake.