Legal Aid

Letter to the Advocate

PUBLISHED December 30, 2013

On 17 December, with a large number of criminal practitioners, I took part in an unprecedented and historic vote of "no confidence? in the leadership of the Law Society. Like many of my colleagues, I have felt a huge sense of betrayal at the crassly arrogant and high-handed attitude displayed by that leadership.

Those "leaders? have failed us. We are the thin grey  line providing the minimum protection for some of the most vulnerable and under-privileged against the might and resources of the state. We are part of the checks and balances within our constitution. The Law Society have been failing us for too long. They must now  demonstrate that they deserve to be our representative body. To date, they have underestimated the strength of feeling amongst practitioners and their tactics have been hopeless. Yes, there needs to be engagement with the MoJ but that has to be backed up with direct action if, as is oft the case, the government refuses to accept logical argument and clear evidence. Rather than meekly walk away from the negotiating table, shrugging their shoulders saying they have done their best, the TLS must be resolved to advise and assist its members to take direct action.

Let us (and TLS) perhaps think a little more radically: rather than fighting cuts in rates of pay we should be fighting for increases in those rates. Perhaps not the monster increase MPs are getting, but, nonetheless, increases! I don?t hold with this idea of austerity, as it seems when the government needs money, it finds it. It is high time we had a greater feeling of self worth and belief. Let?s stop apologising and excusing our existence. We should be fighting our corner with greater vigour because protecting and defending ourselves ultimately benefits society.

The momentum of the resolve and unity displayed at the Law Society needs to be carried forward into 2014, beginning with the events on 6 January. Those who remain as leaders of TLS must now support the clear desire and mandate of its members to fight the nonsense that has been put forward by government. They must combine engagement with direct action.

There is no room for self interest and division to rear its ugly head (Big Firm Groups please take heed) as this will be exploited by the MoJ. The Law Society has already tried to use this as a mandate for their actions. We need to take a leaf out of the Bar?s book and display the unity and backbone they and their leaders have shown when opposing and protesting against this obvious injustice. If we can?t defend ourselves, how can any of us look a client in the eye and say we will defend them. If things are allowed to proceed as the MoJ plan, we won?t be able to. Enough is enough!

? Julian Hayes, Hayes Law