Welcome to our New LCCSA President, Kerry Hudson
Please see below a copy of Kerry Hudson's AGM 2019 Speech
Is there anything more frightening than standing in front of 100 solicitors drinking wine?
I am 50% excited, 50% terrified!
I would like to start with a big thank you to the past and present committee for nominating me and giving me the opportunity to be President this year.
I am delighted to step up in a year in which we celebrate 100 years of women in law.
A big thank you to Sara Boxer for organising tonight and for all the work done behind the scenes to keep the association running.
And thank you for the continued support of all our members.
So who am I and why am I putting my head above the parapet?
For those that don’t me, I’m one of the Directors at Bullivant Law.
We are an exclusive criminal defence practice and undertake 95% Legal Aid work.
Perhaps uniquely, I’ve only ever worked at one firm.
I trained as a barrister but I then got a Paralegal Job at Bullivants by chance and I’ve never been able to escape since.
I was “schooled and ruled” by the great Avtar Bhatoa – many of you will know from his involvement in the association.
Last year my fellow director Claire McGrath and I took the reins of the firm – we haven’t gone bankrupt yet!
I joined the committee in 2015, largely because I was fed up with working in a broken Criminal Justice System and I wanted to try and do something positive and pro-active about it, besides moaning about it in the pub every Friday night.
So what does the Committee actually do for you?
I’d been a member for many years attending various events but I didn’t really appreciate what was going on behind the scenes.
So I just wanted to share with you tonight what you get for your money besides a very useful ID card.
Between us, last time I checked, we were attending as LCCSA representatives over 20 different organised meetings. These range from CPS engagement, working groups to test out new pilots right through to meeting with the MOJ and LAA on fees reviews.
Many of these meetings are in the middle of our working days meaning we still have our day’s work to do in our own time. These meetings are unpaid – the committee are giving up their time to represent all of our interests.
Some of these meetings are very uncomfortable, with us often being the lone “Defence” voice in the room trying to inject some real life experience and common sense into whatever the next bright idea is from the powers that be.
Change in the CJS is often slow, but these efforts do generate some real positive change for the benefit of both our members and our clients.
Here are some of examples of Projects I’ve been involved in:
Laptops in prisons protocol – it took over 12 months of meetings and negotiations with the various prison estates to agree this protocol. Now we all take it for granted that we can take our laptops with us into prisons.
DCS changes – the introduction of the joint case procedure and making it more user friendly. We are now working on incorporating the uploading of unused material.
Flexible courts pilot – with the help of our representations, this has been kicked off into the long grass for crime (for the moment anyway).
Magnet – the testing of software which will change the way phone evidence is both analysed by the police and presented. Without our input, they would have simply forgotten that the defence need to have access to the same material.
The National Disclosure Improvement Plan (NDIP) post the Liam Allan case. Working with the CPS/police has led to the roll out of DMD’s. Phase 2 started earlier this year and we are now working on ensuring learned best practice is applied to Magistrates’ Court and “volume” Crown Court work.
Raymond Shaw, Peter Csemiczky and I gave input into the AG Review Nov 19 and we are now working on bringing in some of the AG recommendations, including rebuttable presumptions for the most common items of disclosure and the need for more meaningful pre-charge engagement.
And in more recent months:
The DSCC debacle – your examples that you sent me helped us highlight to the LAA an ongoing systemic problem that they have had to take action to fix rather than try to minimise as isolated pockets. There is still a way to go but there has been vast improvement since August as a result of this.
The RUI scandal – we organised a survey of our members in the summer and launched a “Legal Limbo” campaign in the national press. Those figures helped publicise the scandal outside of the profession and get the ball rolling for the recent announcement that there will now be a formal government review of RUI.
In addition to the meetings, our committee members tirelessly respond to many consultations, arrange training and social events, attend Practitioner Group meetings where we try to work together with the CLSA/The Law Society/CBA and others for the benefit of improving the Criminal Justice System as a whole.
So what do we want to achieve in the year ahead?
There has been so much recent uncertainty with Brexit and now the impending General Election.
The Politicians are eerily silent about Law, Order and Justice other than our current Home Secretary’s apparent obsession with locking people up. When they do mention it, for example Boris Johnson and his 20,000 police officers, there’s no real plan as to how it will work in practice. Quite where he will put them all given all the police stations have closed, I don’t know.
It is difficult to predict what may happen, but what do we aim to do?
Agree a position if no new money is to be invested in the Criminal Justice System.
Whatever happens, we will be here canvassing you as our members and making sure your views are out there and known. We are a campaigning association as well as a members association.
A large chunk of time has historically been taken up in fighting Legal Aid cuts. But this is not just about Legal Aid. Unless new money and investment is brought into the system, we will need to make some careful decisions early next year as to how to proceed whether you work in Legal Aid or private practice.
Work to forge stronger links with The Law Society/CLSA/CBA and others, and keep the dialogue open. We are stronger together.
The Government want to divide and rule us. We can’t let that happen again.
Work with all the other parts of the Criminal Justice System (“stakeholders”) to keep reminding them just how important the Defence are for the Criminal Justice System to work.
They have a habit of forgetting that without our clients, there would not be a Criminal Justice System and none of us would have jobs.
Encourage joining the dots to cut the “faff”/bureaucracy out of the system.
We as defence solicitors are in a unique position in that we see the Criminal Justice System work from start to finish. There is a lot of overlap and inefficiency within the system and we can help identify and change that.
Try and get back to a position of common sense around online pleas/video link hearings/speedy summary justice.
Focus on the ultimate outcome being more important than just box ticking.
Encourage the next generation to come in.
We are all aware of the looming advice deserts. What can we do to change this? At the CLSA AGM last week somebody had the idea of introducing grants akin to those offered to teachers in subjects where there is a shortage. Perhaps we can work together on encouraging this over the next year.
Encourage greater interaction from our members.
This is your committee. We want your input and ideas.
Keep the ongoing problems with the Criminal Justice System in the public domain.
The Secret Barrister had made an excellent start with this. Let’s keep it going.
But the Law is still broken.
Many of you have been doing this a lot longer than me; you have seen and heard it all before. You may feel what is the point in all these meetings, giving feedback, talking as they don’t listen to us.
But what is the alternative option? To go silent, not engage and let them keep targeting us for cheap savings. To let them keep making excuses for cuts and continue to decimate the Criminal Justice System until it breaks down entirely?
Or keep shouting about it. Keep putting the examples in their faces. Keep fighting against cuts and the next hare brain ideas they may have to save a quick buck. Together we can let them know that London Solicitors will not just lay down and keep taking it.
Hopefully, you are all here tonight and members because you like me still care passionately about the Criminal Justice System (whether you work in Legal Aid or private practice), you believe in fundamental fairness, the Rule of Law, equality of arms, access to justice and basic rights for all, no matter what your means.
We all want the same thing. A properly funded, working, fair and efficient Criminal Justice System.
We will keep shouting about it and fighting to save our Criminal Justice System regardless of the obstacles they throw at us.
But we need to hear from you. Call us, email us, Tweet us, carrier pigeon to us. Let’s draw on the hive mind and get our views and ideas out there. If its grinding your gears, chances are others are feeling the same way. Together let’s do something positive about it.
We have an excellent diverse, strong, active committee fighting your corner.
We have a good mix of those working in Legal Aid and private practice.
We have a good mix of younger and older generations.
We have experienced co-opted Committee members who have long memories ready to remind us newer members of past pitfalls.
It is going to be an exciting year ahead. Whatever it may bring, we will ensure there is a place at the table to represent the interests of our 700 and growing members.
Remember, this is your association. Without you, we don’t have a committee.
71 years fighting for justice! Here’s to another year.
Malcolm Duxbury awarded an Honorary Life Membership.
Guest Speaker Howard Riddle CBE introduced.