President's Report

President's Report

PUBLISHED September 25, 2013

Over the last two months, we have seen the true strength of this association. Galvanised by the destructive nature of the proposals for reforming criminal legal aid, past presidents and members alike have come together to volunteer their support for the PCT sub-committee.

Large meetings were held in all four corners of London to ensure that all practitioners, both members and non-members, had an opportunity to learn about the proposals and contribute to the discussion on how we should respond.

I was invited to the West London Law Society dinner where the keynote speaker, the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, suggested that "if the changes lead to a lowering of professional standards [the government] will have failed?. It was made clear that this is precisely what these proposals will achieve ? as well as irreparable damage to our justice system.

I attended the Criminal Bar Association dinner and heard speeches from barristers who spoke about their fears for the future. Michael Turner QC reminded his audience of the importance of unity between the two professions.

On 14 May, Greg Powell and I attended the roundtable meeting with the Lord Chancellor, who was told in no uncertain terms that his proposals were unworkable.  I was invited by Sarah Forshaw QC to attend the south eastern circuit meeting specifically convened to discuss the proposals. On behalf of the LCCSA, Greg Powell addressed this meeting of over 400 barristers, skilfully exposing the flaws in the proposals and passionately warning of the consequences of this attack on the checks and balances which prevent the state abuse of power.

That the considerable effort put in to ensure that the demo on 22 May was effective can be seen from the national coverage that our cause has received. It was this demo that kick-started the media interest in the issues. I was also pleased that Sir Anthony Hooper accepted my invitation to speak at the afternoon meeting.

Each week, I have been attending a number of meetings to discuss various aspects of this campaign with colleagues, politicians and other organisations. Members of the sub-committee have worked extremely hard on drafting a number of documents, including briefing papers for MPs, the press and judiciary, as well as a guide to the consultation for members, and the response itself. Written submissions were provided to the Justice Select Committee, highlighting issues that affect London practitioners.

I attended the Justice Select Committee hearing on 11 June and later that day I spoke at the Society of Asian Lawyers meeting at the Houses of Parliament. A number of politicians and leaders of organisations also addressed this meeting.

While the campaign against PCT is the primary focus, the regular work of the association continues. I managed to fit in a conference in Maastricht which focused on detention in police custody.

It has been an intense time ? to say the least ? but one during which the burden has been substantially lessened by Paul Harris, Greg Powell and others, to whom I am very thankful.