Welcome to the South Eastern Circuit
The SEC have completed their reply to the AGFS consultation.
We have negotiated with the government over AGFS in good faith. We continue to do so.
The AGFS needs significant investment, obviously. And we will keep pressing our cause with principled, reasonable, accurate and powerful argument.
We maintain that the £15 million promised to the scheme back in June is nothing like what is actually required to remedy decades of savage cuts.
We agreed only to suspend action in June this year on the express condition that the £15 million was put into the system in October 2018. That has not happened. We were told that October was the window this year for the laying of the Statutory Instrument. Indeed, we are told this may now happen in December 2018.
Every single day that passes until this payment is made saves the Government more money, that should be paid to the Bar. Every single day costs the Bar more. It is no wonder that the Bar are increasingly angry, tired and depressed. And the Bar are tired of being angry and depressed. They simply want to get on with their work, but be paid reasonably for it.
The £15 million must mean £15 million in real and immediate terms.
There will be a Heads of Chambers’ meeting called by myself in conjunction with the CBA shortly to bring the HOCs up to date. The HOCs will then be invited to convene further chambers’ meetings to ensure the feelings of their members are heard, understood and collated, before a further HOC meeting occurs to best inform the SEC (and of course CBA) as to the way forward.
It is essential that we continue to communicate, unite with and support the CBA.
In the meantime, sets of chambers must please continue to collate payment data across the board, to show what is working and what is not. We can then objectively keep illustrating the money we seek to address the injustices.
Why are the Bar now past breaking point?
In addition to the lack of delivery of the promised money in October, people strongly feel that the government continue to fail to understand what hard work goes into a criminal case, to prosecute it properly and to defend it properly, to do justice to a victim/complainant or a defendant.
They feel this as daily more and more is asked of the independent Bar, nearly all of which is done for free;
- More and more evidence /mobile phone data-heavy cases that need careful analysis and cross-referring because it is accepted and history painfully shows, that it is simply not safe to rely on “disclosure.”
- The Bar have to do the work because they are the safety valve, the only barrier between the state and injustices that affect citizens. It is time that this is respected, and financially respected too.
- Constant streams of demanding emails that trespass into our days earlier and earlier, and deeper and deeper into our nights.
- Bad character applications/replies, hearsay applications/ replies, Skeleton arguments, Opening notes, poring through thousands of pages of unused material in their free time, helping Judges with their legal directions. The list goes on. Time frames to comply with what is required are more and more onerous.
- Sitting hours get longer and longer and more unpredictable, affecting all those who have caring responsibilities for others or indeed have other work to do on many other cases to ensure their oiling and progress in the system.
- Accounts of LAA claims being submitted for them to be often rejected in whole or in part totally incorrectly.
- Wasted and Special Preparation claims properly set out and submitted with hours then either wholly refused or randomly slashed.
- Most courts so filthy and woefully inadequate with basic facilities, such as simple furniture and the ability to buy food and water. And when we have a rare court that works and has some facilities (Blackfriars) it’s closed. After a consultation. (It’s not just about selling the court to get lots of easy cash. Promise.)
- Mentions are still being unnecessarily listed in open court (rather than have a sensible time saving telephone hearing). They are often not even listed by Judges but by “case progression officers” and in many far-flung courts where the Bar are paid far less than the (inevitably peak time) train fare to get you there that early, and back.
- The Bar even have to provide their own property to display eg Clickshare through their laptops to courts.
It is relentless and it is free. But at our cost and cost to our wellbeing.
Talented people, and not just our able youngsters, who are the QCs and Judges of the future, are leaving the profession in droves due to perniciously inadequate pay, lengthy hours and discourteous treatment.
Some judges are really trying hard to keep their courts afloat and do the best they can but are pretty powerless. Nearly all judges fully support the Bar and believe in the importance of an independent Bar. They are not magicians. I continue to be dismayed at the lack of protected time for our Judges and Barristers. Thinking time, downtime, family time = wellbeing and therefore more effective Judges and Barristers.
This whole culturemust change if the Bar (and Judiciary) is going to properly serve the public and dispense justice of which we can all be proud. We used to proudly boast having the best justice system in the world.
Are we so confident that we do now?
In life we spend a lot of our time worrying about finding solutions to problems. We don’t always know or agree what those solutions are.
However what is so sad is that, in this situation, we do all know what the problem is and what the solution is:
INVEST PROPERLY in the criminal justice system now as it’s becoming increasingly embarrassing watching it die pitifully in front of us.
Kerim Fuad QC
Church Court Chambers
Leader of the South Eastern Circuit