Legal Aid Fees Dispute: “necessary to go outside Northern Ireland to bring in other lawyers”?

As the BBC reports, Northern Ireland Justice Minister, Alliance Party leader, David Ford, has detailed the number of cases where solictors have come “off record” to date in the dispute over legal aid fees [134 between 13 April and 27 May].  Although the Minister adds that

It is not the court practice to record the reason given by a solicitor for coming off record so it is not possible to state categorically that all of these cases represent the outcome of a protest against the introduction of the new legal aid fees.

Indeed.  And the same BBC report notes the NI Justice Minister’s additional comments [in the Assembly?]

He said he was trying to see which solicitors and barristers in Northern Ireland were prepared to carry out the “normal range of legal aid work under the new rates”.

Mr Ford added that as some said they would not do that, he had to see if it was “necessary to go outside Northern Ireland to bring in other lawyers”.

[‘Brits’ in, then? – Ed]  You might very well think that…

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  • Crubeen

    This may not be easy … barristers have to be “called” to the Bar to have rights of audience in the Courts here. solicitors have to be qualified in accordance with the requirements laid down by, within and for N Ireland. I doubt these”formalities” can be readily or easily overcome in the present situation.

    Mine own opinion, for what it’s worth is that the Justice Minister’s instincts as a former Social Worker have taken over and that any views or objections contrary to the will of the State, are not to be taken seriously. You really do have to see Social Workers in action to understand that – but I’ll give one example, of a Social Worker who stormed out of a meeting with a “client” when the “client’s” representative turned up to render moral and other support.

  • granni trixie

    I have neither a social workers’ nor a legal professionals instinct but that of the ordinary public….one which DF seems to be in tune with.

  • Neil

    I wonder will you be still singing from that hymnsheet should David preside over a total disaster in the justice system, which is beginning to look a distinct possibility?

  • Lionel Hutz

    Does anyone else find it surprising that the latest publication showed the legal aid bill to be in budget? it dropped from £100 million to £70 million last year. Thats under the old fees.

    By the way, one cost drivers of legal aid is travel. Thats not so significant for NI lawyers particularly as most solicitors operate in their local court and dont get paid for travel and Barrsiters dont get paid travel for Belfast and surrounding courts like Ards etc where most cases are done. However, if you call in lawyers from across the water, you’ll be paying for flights + accomodation. Why would english lawyers come over if their expenses were not covered?

  • Lionel Hutz

    Mine own opinion, for what it’s worth is that the Justice Minister’s instincts as a former Social Worker have taken over and that any views or objections contrary to the will of the State, are not to be taken seriously. You really do have to see Social Workers in action to understand that – but I’ll give one example, of a Social Worker who stormed out of a meeting with a “client” when the “client’s” representative turned up to render moral and other support.

    ———————————

    Brilliant comment.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I have neither a social workers’ nor a legal professionals instinct but that of the ordinary public….one which DF seems to be in tune with.
    ———————————-

    Granni,

    The above is probably true. The only thing I’ll say is that the ordinary public have been ill-informed by the DoJ and NICTS. If David Ford is in tune with the ordinary public, then thats because the view of the ordinary public has been shaped that way by giving a one-sided look at the Legal Aid Argument.

    For example, on Hearts and MInds David Ford admitted that he didn’t want the Criminal Justice Sytem to be reduced to the level of England and Wales and that is why he is keeping the budget higher here. Yet, in most every response he plays on the unfavourable comparison with the England and Wales system to make it seem like we are so unreasonable.

  • Cynic2

    “preside over a total disaster in the justice system”

    …created by the greed and myopia of some members of the legal profession?

    But that wont happen. Davy need to advertise an open framework contract for legal aid defence work for the next 3 years. All lawyers satisfying a basic minimum quality / qualification standard can contract in to do defence work. In doing so they guarantee to do the work – all the work – at the new rates.

    Leave this open for say 4 weeks. After that the list closes and no-one outside the framework gets paid legal aid for defence work.

    Its fair, its legal, its reasonable and it forces legal firms to decide.

  • Lionel Hutz

    …created by the greed and myopia of some members of the legal profession?

    ————————————-

    The professions have offered a cut of over 50%. Greed?

    And Myopia? Surely that is the charge that should be levelled at david Ford. Short political gain for longterm disaster.The professions had spent the time and money to come up with proposals to get in budget. Withing a month or two, DoJ snubs the proposal and rushes through their own. Surely the idea of cutting costs and ecouraging a rush to the bottom for lawyers in terms of the quality of representation is the real short-sighted action?

  • Comrade Stalin

    This may not be easy … barristers have to be “called” to the Bar to have rights of audience in the Courts here.

    This didn’t seem to prove much of an impediment to the English legal firms who made £millions out of the Saville Enquiry.

  • Crubeen

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/jun/06/legal-aid-cuts-chaos-courts

    Perhaps this is Ford’s dream … a paradise for legally funded state sponsored social workers but not children or their families and the present round is the preliminary to what is coming.

    When one sees the same names topping the list of wellpaid legally aided lawyers year after year, there can be no doubt that there is massive greed at work. The answer to that is to cap fees – especially for the fat cats and use the funding saved to assist younger barristers who don’t have rich families to support them when they first go to the Bar.

    Comrade Stalin,

    With loot to be made from Saville doubtless there were a lot of professional courtesies that could be extended to English lawyers … in the name of fairness lest it be argued that the legal profession here was unwilling to share the trough. These are different and difficult times however and professional courtesies only go so far.

  • backstage

    Cartels, closed shop, monopoly – call it what you will.
    – medics and their trade union the GMC
    – being ‘called to the bar’ in Northern Ireland
    – conveyancing in a house sale having to be performed by a solicitor (is this still the case in NI?)
    – one electricity provider
    – one water provider
    – one public transport provider (allegedly)

    It’s all about wringing more and more money out of us poor sods. With all of these advantages you would think the private sector would be thriving here – just how unfair a playing field will they need to actually succeed?

  • Lionel Hutz

    - medics and their trade union the GMC
    – being ‘called to the bar’ in Northern Ireland

    What do these two mean? Are Architects a cartel also? Nurses?

    Basically what you are saying is that any profession that is charged by Government to oversee the standards of its members and discipline them if they fall short, is closing the shop. In what way are medics a cartel or a closed shop? Do you just simply want anyone to be able to diagnose you or cut you open to save your life? Do you want just anyone to be able to advise you on the law?

    Or do you, as the consumer, want to know that thse people have done the years of training to get the appropriation certification to be in that position?

  • http://nicentreright.wordpress.com/ Seymour Major

    There are some that think that Lawyers are greedy, earn too much and ought to be cut down to size. Most of the Lawyers see it the other way around.

    The job of the Justice minister is not to see the matter in emotive terms. He has to ensure that we have a justice system which is compatible with human rights and the needs of society whilst at the same time operating within the resources available. Not easy.

    Tactically, I think Mr. Ford made a mistake in insisting upon the extra £3m of cuts, after achieving the agreement on the abolition the enhancement fees in certain crown court cases. I believe he could have achieved the £3m savings in some of the civil areas of the legal aid budget and as Lionel points out, the latest figures show that Legal aid last year was within budget.

    Unfortunately, we are now in a position where matters have become entrenched and the stakes have been raised such that this is now going to be a battle with winners and losers.

    I have said previously that I think solicitors should accept the new rules. Mr. Ford has, after all, promised a review and I believe that a review will advance their best position in the longer term.

    If matters remain entrenched, the Lawyers might force a climbdown but if they do achieve that, will it not be a pyrrhic victory? Will it not be more likely that they will be hit somewhere else in the legal aid budget? Will it not incerase the likelihood of a public defender system (albeit limited to begin with) being introduced?

    The idea of bringing over lawyers from England and Wales to help break the strike is presumably an idea for bringing over barristers and not solicitors. To recruit the latter would really be a non-starter. The extra expense would not be the only problem. Solicitors have to take on the bulk of lawyer-client contact. They could not physically do it if they were obliged to retain their existing practices at the same time.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I have said previously that I think solicitors should accept the new rules. Mr. Ford has, after all, promised a review and I believe that a review will advance their best position in the longer term.
    ——————————————————-

    I think the problem is that there is no trust now. Its not so much David Ford, he is just taking his advice. I think there is little trust between the professions and the NICTS.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Also, any review will need ‘enough cases to have gone through the system.’ DF has said he will take it forward but realistically, how many cases that start in June will have gone through the system to payment by the end of the year?

  • Crubeen

    Lionel,

    The problem is David Ford. He is the Minister. He is supposed to listen to advice critically and then make a decision. From his answers on Hearts and Minds I gathered the impression that he was only listening to advisers within the Civil Service and not at all looking at other points of view.

    The Civil Service has a narrow view on life … one entirely centred on its own aggrandisement. No original ideas or thoughts have ever emanated from the Civil Service. To get a fresh look wee Davy will have to look outside the Civil Service and the legal professions to the public … or even the voters, distasteful though that may be. There are original ideas out there that would work. Unfortunately they never see the light of day as the “experts” talk them down – “experts” who are more committed to expanding their own little empires. Take the number of consultants employed – none of them will ever state the obvious is to cut down the number of consultants by utilising the experience that is, supposedly, within the Civil Service and establish a culture of responsibility through ownership of schemes. The whole edifice is constructed on nobody being responsible for anything – that is bad management and too damned expensive by far.

    Somebody within Government is looking for a fight with the legal profession with an agenda that is not yet apparent. If it were otherwise this dispute would have been settled by now.

  • Cahoon

    Coming fairly fresh into this debate – I’m incredulous at the action of David Ford and the DOJ. Anyone who believes this is the appropriate manner in which to decide government policy on something as important as access to criminal justice is quite frankly absurd. One might reasonably suggest that the Minister or more accurately, his advisers have lost the run of themselves.
    The proposition that flying in lawyers from England and Wales would be a viable option because they can book their flights through budget airlines is ridiculous and shows a gross lack of judgement and understanding. Perhaps the Minister should consider how well that option worked with the health service, both in terms of budget and waiting lists.
    The fact that a ‘personal injury’ solicitor is stating that he will work the new rules in Crown Court cases shows that there is no consideration being given to ability or standards of service. I would also contend that someone who canvassed with the Minister in the recent election is compromised in their ability to be objective.
    On an aside, I was particularly struck by the Bar Chairman’s comment about the Minister looking for compliant lawyers. I agree that this is particularly worrying as to the role of the state in seeking to fetter the ability of the legal profession to challenge them on behalf of ordinary citizens.
    Whether the other parties have decided to give the Minister enough rope to hang himself remains to be seen.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Crubeen,

    The problem is David Ford to an extent. The point I make is that it is NICTS who have been running this agenda for years. I’m guessing you have some sort insight into this (not sure if you are a lawyer or not). But if you do, you will know it has been going on for some time. David Ford is listening to his advisors. He was flanked by them in the Justice Committee briefing on it and often times he would ask one of them to answer the question for him.

    I wonder whether David Ford would have done this had he been in the post for more than a year. He may well have done. Many of these Minister’s are jsut puppets. But I do believe that Ford, although he annoys me, is a fair and independent mind. I think he is intelligient enough too. Just my impression. i could be wrong. The problem is that he has created a situation which would mean that any reconciliation of the sides would involve either crisis in the criminal justice system or one of the embarassing political climbdowns the Assembly has yet seen. The lawyers will nto allow the first one, and I’m not sure Ford could do the second. This could last for a long time.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    Mr Hutz

    Why the pretence? Why not admit that legals are just the same as the rest of the professions with their snouts in the trough wanting to scoop up as much as they can. Is there anything to be ashamed about in acting in your own best interests? Ask a pharmacist or a medic, now they really get down and dirty.

  • http://nicentreright.wordpress.com/ Seymour Major

    Articles,

    There is nothing wrong with acting in one’s best interest. I would not blame any union, professional body or other organisation for doing so.

    There is nothing wrong with being on the other side of the argument and criticising the rates as being too high either.

    However, when people use terms like “snouts in the trough” it debases the whole debate. It is also unfair.

    All legal aid payments to lawerys are approved through an assessment process. Whether you like to think of it as otherwise or not, this is money that is earned. It is also earned legally. That is something that you could not say about many MPs when similar phaseology was used to describe some of their expense claims.

  • Neil

    Bit more of the same here…

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/legal-chaos-warning-as-solicitors-drop-134-cases-16008806.html

    All things said and done it does appear to be being handled badly. with a 30% cut already achieved in a year, one would think that this decision could have been approached in a more sensible manor. Attempting to get some consensus would have been a start, anything to prevent the situation occurring where a large number of people end up having their cases thrown out because they’ve been denied their right to a trial in a timely manor, or that they could possibly (as mooted in the press last week) have a case under the European human rights legislation.

    Effectively if it’s not dealt with soon, victims could be denied justice and perpetrators could be rewarded under the human rights legislation. All the while it appears as if Ford’s determined not to allow any room for maneuvre and is willing to pay through the nose to avoid a climbdown by flying and accomodating English lawyers.

    It reminds me of Catriona’s handling of the ending of the 11+. I agreed with the ending of the exam, but consensus is better to have before the big change arrives. That way you don’t have a large group of people against you when you need it least. Personally I see parallels between the two situations.

  • http://nicentreright.wordpress.com/ Seymour Major

    Neil,

    I almost completely agree with you.

    I think it is too early to compare Ford with Ruane.

    Nonetheles, I dont think we have very far to go before Ford is able to judge that the strike will break. If Ford then reaches a conclusion that wont happen, then he would be acting in a very incompetent manner (like Ms. Ruane) if he allowed this action to continue. My belief is that Ford would then back down (unlike Ms. Ruane).

    Whether the Lawyers win or not depends entirely on their ability to keep the vast majority of their membership on board. If they can do that, they are likely to win. The (England and Wales) Law Society Gazette has provided some guidance from past disputes

    http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/blogs/news-blog/lessons-lawyers-northern-ireland-past-lawyer-strikes

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    Hello Seymour

    Please re-read your response to me. It comprises eight sentences, the first seven of which are completely undermined by your last sentence. Furthermore just as there are crook MPs there are crook legals who are not representative of the whole.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Seymour,

    One interesting aspect of Ford’s strategy has been the deadline of 14 days to reply to his letter. The solicitors deadline will be up by some point this week. Will the attempt at hardball backfire. I think so. 14 days is not a long time in the criminal justice system.

    Incidentally, I got my letter today. And it says that Barristers in England who do work in NI have also been asked.

  • vanhelsing

    Pete – Francis Urquhart?

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    Thus far in this thread social workers, politicians and civil servants have been damned by our legal friends. The general public it seems have simply been ill informed.

    Is everybody to be damned who does not follow their learned arguments?

  • Lionel Hutz

    Articles,

    What does £70 million spent on legal aid mean without context? It’s alot of money, but anyone know without some comparison and context whether it represented value for money? I wouldn’t.

    The public have been provided with context by the DoJ. The ‘most generous legal aid system in the world’. More expensive legal aid system that England and Wales. Statements like that have been put out to shape public opinion. And it has been unbalanced and misleading.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    And it would be quite unthinkable, given the subject matter, for either or both sides to prosecute their arguments and seek to influence the jury – in this case the public. You would almost think that we didn’t have an adversarial system and well practiced protagonists.

  • Lionel Hutz

    And it would be quite unthinkable, given the subject matter, for either or both sides to prosecute their arguments and seek to influence the jury

    ————
    As long as you know that’s what’s happening. Perhaps you like your representatives to present an unbalanced view. Ofcourse, in this case the DoJ is playing prosecution judge and Jury. They have also not made proper disclosure of their figures.

  • Crubeen

    Articles,

    “Thus far in this thread social workers, politicians and civil servants have been damned by our legal friends. The general public it seems have simply been ill informed.”

    Or perhaps the general public is being steered away from the real crisis at the DOJ – a prison system that has been described as “unfit for purpose” and where expenditure is gross.

    Perhaps Davy and/or his advisers have decided to pick a fight with the lawyers to obscure that nasty piece of news. The major cuts to legal aid had been agreed – the DOJ wants more and figures the lawyers will fight and will lose because the general public doesn’t care. Meanwhile back at the prisons …

    And while we are at it … somebody ought to take a long hard look at social care, social workers and the neo-Fascist modus operandi of that bunch of buzzards. then reflect that Davy was trained as one and spent his working life as one. So don’t tell me that he doesn’t think like one and is therefore in the wrong job! The DOJ needs to be run by a lawyer – or some professional who understands the concept of evidence and the need to be briefed and not rely on one’s officials to answer the questions.

    Social Work is a Marxist philosophy with no rigid academic or intellectual basis – it is also a parasitic occupation dependent on the input of genuine professionals to allow of its assembling their reports and waffling interminable socio-psycho babble about families, vulnerable individuals etc etc ad nauseam. It is obsessed with the latest theory based on questionable research (Cleveland and anal dilatation down to the “if there are more than two cot deaths, then it has to be murder”). Society pays over the odds for this claptrap and does so without those responsible for the expenditure being held to account due to “confidentiality” and the “need to protect clients.”

    As for politicians and specifically ministers, none of them do other than obey their officials. They dutifully trot out what they are told to trot out; they never question it or appear to put the right questions to their officials. For example – has anybody ever asked if increased regulation is value for money or is there a cheaper way of achieving the delivery of quality?

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    From one courtroom speech to another, not altogether dissimilar in delivery or tone.

    “Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have more responsibility here than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. I know deep down in places you dont talk about at parties, you don’t want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then question the manner in which I provide it. I prefer you said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand to post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!” [Jack Nicholson, as Colonel Jessup]

    Jack Nicholson (Col. Jessup): “You want answers?”
    Tom Cruise (Kaffee): “I think I’m entitled.”
    Jack Nicholson (Col. Jessup): “You want answers?”
    Tom Cruise (Kaffee): “I want the truth!”
    Jack Nicholson (Col. Jessup): “You can’t handle the truth!”

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    More seriously if someone would like to point me in the direction of a more balanced exposition of the legal aid fees dispute I’ll happily read it. Lay on Macduff.

  • http://jamember.blogspot.com Procrasnow

    Ford does not have to go outside northern ireland, there are many qualified LLB’s who cannot get placements here in regular practices, a great friend of mine being one.

    He should set up a province body such as “Public Defender” and give careers to great people who have the what-you-know, but lack the who-you-know

  • Comrade Stalin

    The DOJ needs to be run by a lawyer – or some professional who understands the concept of evidence and the need to be briefed and not rely on one’s officials to answer the questions.

    The whole problem is that the response that people like you have is basically “I’m a lawyer, you’re not, you don’t know what you’re talking about so fuck off”. You have no comprehension of how that kind of arrogance dooms your case. Equally you have no notion of how it may be more appropriate for a government minister to be uninfluenced by small matters such as conflict of interest – by your logic we should appoint a City banker to look after the Treasury.

  • Crubeen

    “From one courtroom speech to another, not altogether dissimilar in delivery or tone.”

    Hardly … in my case, as I’m not a lawyer (or ever have been).

    But courtroom speeches are far more interesting than regugitated abstracts from screenplays that more often portray the leanings of their authors than real life. Isn’t that so Commander Queeg? Well, Inspector Callahan – “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” Do you realise, Captain Smith, that if you don’t sink this ship, James Cameron will not be able to make the biggest movie of all time and the Titanic Quarter will never be built?

    And, at least, you’ve got that whole ‘semper fi,’ ‘gung ho’, jarhead, leatherneck, ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ crud out of the way … sure beats doing your own research and formulating if not expressing opinions … with some evidentiary basis for them being optional.

  • Crubeen

    Comrade Stalin,

    I’m not a lawyer and I despise the arrogance you refer to every bit as much as you, having endured it from many self styled professionals who happened not to have done their homework.

    By my logic there should be no self-regulation of any profession. At the same time however regulation has to be informed of the norms within a profession such that it can intelligently comment thereon. I’m not making a case for the gross fees paid to certain individual barristers and firms of solicitors. I am laying questions as to why there was an agreed way to cut the legal aid budget (with which I am in accord) and then the situation escalates out of control when, seemingly, the DOJ decides, arbitrarily, to go beyond what was acceptable and accepted. I also think that the DOJ ought to point its collective horns at the problems within its own department and not make scapegoats of lawyers (among whom are good bad, clever and stupid etc). If the intention is to make lawyers more compliant then society as a whole will suffer if that succeeds.

    It is the gradual encroachment upon and the sustained but gentle erosion of rights that enhances the power of the State and is least noticed and most detrimental to the individual’s well-being. Next time some officious officer of state tells you that he/she is empowered to do that you never thought was possible you may well remember what I have noted here.

  • http://nicentreright.wordpress.com/ Seymour Major

    “Ford does not have to go outside northern ireland, there are many qualified LLB’s who cannot get placements here in regular practices, a great friend of mine being one”

    Procrasnow,

    With respect, that is not a solution. Ford need advocates to represent the Defendants. Only qualified barristers and Solicitors with higher court advocacy accreditation have rights of audience in the Crown Court. Solicitors are also essential because barristers can not conduct their work without a solicitor instructing them.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    The solution is to fully implement the new system, let it bed down, and then review it, just as Ford has promised.

    Alternatively you can remain on strike, the option of a go slow as a manifestation of industrial action not being available having been adopted as the default speed some time ago.

  • Lionel Hutz

    The solution is to fully implement the new system, let it bed down, and then review it, just as Ford has promised.
    —————–

    The problem is a lack of trust. To agree to that, the professions have to believe that the system will be properly reviewed and that such a review will result in changes. Let’s see the terms of reference.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    The problem is a lack of trust.

    Let it go Articles,I’d only get red carded.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Funny.

  • DC

    David Ford could bring in recently retired barristers for the purposes of both setting up and working in a Public Defender Office, same goes for solicitors – in conjunction both groups could train up new recruits – esp those unemployed solicitors just out of university.

    I’ve heard also that high flying (or not so high-flying) solicitors have been caught up in the property crash and are having problems getting credit themselves.

    Just goes to show the drawbacks when leaving things to the market; firstly legal aid fees, secondly on housing. Even solicitors have been caught out in negative equity trap thanks to the way global markets interferred with domestic house prices – now defendants can’t get any legal representation at courts because these ‘private sector’ solicitors and barristers want more money.

  • DC

    Just to add I don’t see how bringing in British lawyers to work in the NI legal system can actually work – surely it’s a complete non-runner?

  • Lionel Hutz

    It looks like the lawyers do have friends:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-13693692

    The defendant said the row was being discussed among prisoners who “were very worried about its consequences”.

    In a prepared statement read from the dock, Mr Fullerton told the judge he did not have the money to phone legal firms to ask if they would represent him.

    He said he did not want to be forced to pick a solicitor who did not have any criminal experience and who “will mess up my case”.

    …………………………..

    The defendant’s former solicitor Kevin Casey accused David Ford of trying to play hardball.

    “We have a large number of clients who are being left in a state of limbo by Mr Ford and the court service’s intransigence, and the refusal on their part to discuss with us in any meaningful way a way to resolve this issue,” he said.

    “Mr Ford has had numerous opportunities to meet with us, he’s demonstrated incredible bad faith and I would also say serious errors of judgement in the way he’s handled this matter.”

  • Lionel Hutz

    interestingly, there was supposed to be a meeting yesterday. No word about it though.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    Apparently after he had read out the prepared statement the guy was asked if they were his own thoughts to which he replied:

    ” Strike me pink, that’s not a fair cop, I swear on me mother’s urn that these ‘ere words are mine and mine only,and no one put me up to it”

  • Lionel Hutz

    DC,

    When you read a story such as this:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13699911

    http://m.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jun/07/mark-kennedy-surveillance-tapes-cps?cat=environment&type=article

    Do you think there is wisdom in having both the Prosecution and Defence as arms of the State?

    We need independent defence lawyers!
    .

  • Crubeen

    Lionel,

    I agree!

    If Davy thinks he can bring in barristers etc from outside he really ought to take a look at the rules governing, for example, admission to the Bar. A qualified barrister from England and Wales has to present certain papers and have his Memorial signed by a member of the Northern Ireland Bar of at least ten years standing. Does Davy think that his introducing “blacklegs” will be nodded through?

    I didn’t look but I would assume the Solicitors have similar rules.

  • Crubeen

    Articles,

    I doubt very much that you will find any “Billy Goat Gruff” in attendance hereavbouts

  • Vincent Hannah

    I have found the arguments offered by members of the legal profession in this debate woolly, vague and arrogant – and I’m due to become a solicitor in just over three months!

    This is a profession which is meant to translate complex legal problems into a language that can be understood by lay people. That is why it is so baffling that it’s so-called leading members are doing such a shocking job of making any sense of their arguments. Those from the legal profession who have had plenty of opportunity on the airwaves to make compelling points, have thus far failed miserably. They have made this whole debate become a matter of ‘it’s not fair’, ‘but why is it not fair?’, ‘it just isnt’.

    To most of the public, the belfast legal profession has become a bubble within which there exist people who are concerned primarily with driving the right car, living in the right house in south belfast. Their ability to fund this in recent years has been largely due to the highly litigious society we have become and a legal aid system which can be relied upon to pay out for anything, if one knows how to ‘work the system’. To most of the public, they are people who see legal aid forms and cheques and not people and problems.

    I am not tarring them all with one brush, but there are a great number of people for whom this lifestyle has become something of an entitlement.

    Those who have been put forward to explain why the legal aid cuts are injustice have done nothing to dispel the notion that it is all about this ridiculous sense of entitlement. Believe me, i would be delighted if someone could do the simple job of explaining why we need all this legal aid funding, and why we need all these barristers AND solicitors, and why we need all this litigation in the first place. Please tell me, after all the burden of proof is with you on this one.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    …and answer was there none.

  • Lionel Hutz

    To most of the public, the belfast legal profession has become a bubble within which there exist people who are concerned primarily with driving the right car, living in the right house in south belfast. Their ability to fund this in recent years has been largely due to the highly litigious society we have become and a legal aid system which can be relied upon to pay out for anything, if one knows how to ‘work the system’. To most of the public, they are people who see legal aid forms and cheques and not people and problems.
    ————————————————-

    Vincent,

    If that is what you believe, you are in for a rude awakening when you enter practice. You will have heard the stories as I did just a few years ago when I was entering the Bar about how difficult it is to make a living in professions. Even the handbook for the IPLS contains a very accurate health warning. Do not expect to make large amounts of money.

    ————————————————————-
    Those who have been put forward to explain why the legal aid cuts are injustice have done nothing to dispel the notion that it is all about this ridiculous sense of entitlement. Believe me, i would be delighted if someone could do the simple job of explaining why we need all this legal aid funding, and why we need all these barristers AND solicitors, and why we need all this litigation in the first place. Please tell me, after all the burden of proof is with you on this one.

    ———————————————————–

    I would agree that some of those arguing this have done a poor job. It is a very complex system and it would be very difficult to distill it in a three minute segment on the radio. TO be fair, I thought that Adrian Colton did a great job on Hearts and Minds last week.

    You are asking a very general quesiton. But I’ll do my best to explain it to you. The budget cuts which David Ford is seeking to implement are being made to one distinct area of the legal aid budget – Crown Court Legal Aid. The cuts to that type of work amounts to approximately a 54% cut on average.

    There have been negotiations between the professions and the NI Courts and Tribunals Service with regards to legal aid for a long time now. In 2010, after the devolution of Policing and Justice, the Justice Committee suggested to the Bar and Law Society to come up with a joint proposal for new legal aid rules that would come within budget. The budget given was £79 million follwoing the Hillsborough Agreement. The Bar and Law Society drew up proposals to get it in budget at considerable expense, instructing forensic accountants.

    However at the last minute, the budget was reduced to £75 million. For example, here is a hansard record:

    http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/record/committees2010/Justice/110125_DraftBudget2011-15.htm

    About a fifth the way down, this passage from Conall McDevitt and a Mr Harbinson from DoJ:

    McDevitt:

    “Chairperson, I share your desire to get a straight answer out of the system at some stage. Mr Harbinson, there is something that is definitely under your control at the moment. Your paper today has figures for the Legal Services Commission (LSC) in year 3 and year 4 of £75·2 million and £75 million. Elsewhere in the paper, you remind us that the baseline against which you are operating for 2012-13 is in fact £79 million. In last week’s paper, you gave us a breakdown on how you proposed to achieve what you describe as savings to deliver of £3·749 million in 2014-15 on that same budget, and £3·399 million in 2013-14. This seems to be an amount of money that has dropped off the edge of the cliff after the Minister made a commitment in a letter on 22 December 2010 that he was going to stand over a £79 million budget. That figure is central to negotiations with the legal profession about the publicly funded legal services. When, out of the blue, did you decide to raid that budget for £4 million?”

    Mr Harbinson:

    “The Minister always said that the £79 million was the upper limit of that budget. That was the amount that was set by Treasury as part of the devolution process when they increased it for a number of years but then said that they would cut it back to £79 million.”

    Mr McDevitt:

    “You have been negotiating with the legal profession for about nine months on the basis of a figure of £79 million. Now, in the past two weeks, you have just decided to lose £4 million.”

    Mr Glyn Capper (Department of Justice):

    It is important to realise that the savings figure for the Legal Services Commission includes, for example, back office savings of £2 million. So, that sits outside negotiations with the legal profession. A number of elements make up taking that budget from £79 million to £75 million.
    Mr McDevitt:

    OK. Maybe you could give us the breakdown, Mr Capper. Even though you have £79 million, as outlined in the Prime Minister’s letter, and it is yours to spend on publicly funded legal services, at what point did you decide, “Actually, no, we are not spending £79 million even though we have been negotiating with the legal profession on that figure for nearly a year. We are going to spend less.”? How much less, and what criteria did you apply to come up with those savings?
    Mr Harbinson:

    All our savings proposals have, of course, been based on the outcome of the Budget 2010 process. All budgets and baselines are being reviewed to reflect the money that we have as the settlement.
    Mr McDevitt:

    Yes, but you have £79 million. That is not a problem; you have that to spend. You have a commitment — I checked it just before I came down here — from the Prime Minister securing that budget. At what point did you decide to raid that for savings, and what criteria did you apply to identify those savings?
    Mr Capper:

    The negotiations with the legal profession are about living within the legal aid budget, which is part of the overall Legal Services Commission’s budget. As I said, there are other elements of that budget in which we are looking for savings, for example, back office administration costs.
    Mr McDevitt:

    I accept that. I am sorry for asking the question again, Mr Chairman, but it is quite important. You are reducing the legal aid budget in your latest iteration of your spending plans. What criteria did you apply to arrive at those reductions? How did you arrive at that proposed figure? When did you decide that you were going to do that? The Minister wrote to the legal professions on 22 December and, at that point, he did not talk about savings but repeated the figure of £79 million as being the budget in which they were negotiating.
    Mr Capper:

    Without wanting to repeat myself, the £79 million budget for the Legal Services Commission has a number of elements —
    Mr McDevitt:

    No, I understand. A series of negotiations have been ongoing with the legal professions since devolution. As I am sure you are aware, those negotiations are based on a budget of £79 million. On 22 December, the Minister wrote to the legal professions and reiterated his commitment to negotiate within that budget, not within a reduced budget. However, we do not see a budget of £79 million for publicly funded legal services in the draft spending plans from the Department; we see a budget of £75 million for the whole Legal Services Commission. Again, I understand that you have heard some back office stuff out of the Legal Services Commission. At what point did you lose up to £4 million, if not more — if I am to follow the rationale of your argument, there is another £2 million, in which case there could be £6 million — specifically from the publicly funded legal services budget? What criteria did you apply to lose that money and when was that decision taken?
    Mr Harbinson:

    The criteria would have been based around the Minister’s priorities. We have made it plain that we are trying to achieve the Minister’s priorities at all levels. The £79 million is part of the overall DOJ budget. It is then part of the budget that goes to the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service, which is further split into the legal aid element of that budget for the LSC. Every area has been taking cuts right the way through. The £79 million was set, as you said, as part of the Hillsborough agreement for maximum funding. My understanding is that, throughout the negotiations with the Bar and the Law Society, it has always been indicated that £79 million is the maximum amount of the budget that could be used for publicly funded legal aid services. Each area has been asked to take a cut, and those are the savings that have come up as part of the Budget 2010 process.
    Mr McDevitt:

    So, they have been offered up by Mr Crawford’s team?
    Mr Harbinson:
    Yes, through the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service.

    Mr McDevitt:
    Frankly, I am still very confused. I do not understand how the Minister can write letters saying that he is negotiating around £79 million and Mr Crawford’s team can be offering up savings that would undermine that negotiating position. However, maybe that is not a question that you can answer any further.

    Mr Harbinson:
    No. We can get some further detail and write to you.

    Mr McDevitt:
    The specific detail that I would be interested in is the criteria that were applied to seek the reduction, the rationale for the savings and when exactly that decision was taken. I would also be curious to find out where the £4 million to £6 million has gone.

    Mr Harbinson:
    We will find out and come back to you.”

    I know its alot to read, but its interesting. Basically since the devolution of Policing and Justice, the Department, in particular the NICTS (who are leading these cuts), had been negotiating with the Bar and Law Society to get a legal aid budget within £79 million based on the moneys guaranteed by the Hillsborough Agreement. However, in the Draft Budget of this year, David Ford made an additional £4 million of cuts.

    The Bar and Law Society’s proposals were therefore snubbed. Worse still, the Department have refused to show the Bar and Law Society the costings for their own figures. Then on the last day of the last Assembly in March, David Ford rushed through the new rules. So after well over a year of talking and nine months of negotiating with a figure of £79 million, the Department made a further cut of £4 million and then rushed through new rules.

    The cuts to Crown Court Fees represent an £18.3 million cut. The Bar and Law Society have accepted the abolishion of the Very High Cost Case certification which amounts to £15.3 million. That is an enhanced rate given when a crown court case lasted mroe than 25 days and was particularly complex. It is now gone.

    On top of that, David Ford has made a cut of 25% to standard fees to solicitors and a 20% cut to the standard fees for Barristers. The overall cut is around 54% per cent. Its massive.

    It has poorly managed by the Justice Minister. It is his poor management that led to the “strike”

  • Lionel Hutz

    With regards the comparison with England and Wales, I do not know how Crown Court Fees are said to cost more in Northern Ireland than there.

    For a start, in Northern Ireland, a significantly smaller proportion of cases go to the Crown Court. This is because, in England and Wales, less serious cases go to the Crown Court that in Northern Ireland would stay in the Magistrate’s Court. So our overall spend on Crown Court Fees is considerably less per capita than in England and Wales.

    The NICTS have drawn comparisons showing some cases that would cost twice as much here than across the water. The lie is that those cases would not be in the Crown Court in Northern Ireland.

    In fact, the more serious crimes which do go to the Crown Court in NI actually cost less than in England and Wales.

    Beyond all of that, the DoJ has never produced any evidence that legal aid costs more here than across the water. They have not shown it to the professional bodies. Given their actions, why would the Bar and Law Society trust them.

    There are two other points about England and Wales:

    – Over there they introduced a Graduated Fee Scheme recently. This completely changed the crown court fees system and involved a massive cut. The result has been that young Barristers are running cases over there that they do not have the experience to run. The Public Accounts Committee and several other bodies have widely criticised the cut that has severely impacted upon the quality of representation in England. So why we would we follow them?

    – The overall budget for Legal Aid in E+W is around £2.1 Billion. In N.I. the budget was currently £86 million. we have approximately a 1/30th of the population. So it is true that our system costs more than theirs. it is estimated that this is around 20% more. However, in addition to point I made above, I would also point out that there will be wide variations across E+W with regards to legal aid expenditure. In more rural areas it will cost more. There are economies of scale. Generally as you will be aware, the administration of all types of government and public service costs more here than in England and Wales. We have a much more sparsely populated areas which involves additional cost in delivering a service. That is represented by the fact that our PPS costs about 40% more than the CPS in England and Wales. Our NICTS costs around 40% than HMCTS in Enlgand and Wales.

    We spend more on Health. It doesn’t mean we pay our doctors more – we dont. Similarly, just because we spend mroe on legal aid here, doesn’t mean we pay our lawyers more.

  • http://nicentreright.wordpress.com/ Seymour Major

    Vincent,

    If you have read my comments, you will know that I am not in support of the strike but neither can I say that any particular rate or set of figures is too high, two low or just right. I am sorry if I appear “woolly”

    I have criticised Mr. Ford’s tactics. I also believe that the lawyers are wrong to refuse David Ford’s offer of a review. Lionel says that Mr. Ford can no longer be trusted. If that is the case, it is unfortunate that they did not cut him more “slack” in the process. He is, after all, still a relatively inexperienced minister.

    I don’t see the Lawyers’ demands as a defence of a “sense of entitlement.” They (who decide to take on the client) are not employees, after all and this is really about finding the right rate. Lawyers don’t have any obligation to do the work if they don’t want it. Working out the right figure should be a matter for negotiation. Both sides will know that the Government is not a “bottomless pit of money.” At the same time, both sides also know that Lawyers have to be paid a reasonable rate consistent with the Lawyer’s very high level of skill, care and responsibility involved.

    The Lawyers want as much money as they can get. I see nothing wrong with them seeking to achieve that. We are all human. However, by refusing the review and continuing with the “strike” the lawyers are taking serious risks.

    Apart from the obvious risk of losing income, they are also risking the reputation of the legal profession. Some cynics would argue that such a reputation is dismal or does not exist.

    That is not true. It is a profession of heroes and villains. If you are on the winning side, the client regards you as a hero. If you are on the opposite side, you are zero. Many members of the public tend to have selective memories when it comes to thinking about the profession. You will tend to hear the bad stories, not the good ones. The really important point though is that lawyers, together with the Judges, are the ultimate guardians of justice and human rights. That is an important mantle that lawyers wear which underpins the respect that people have or should have for the legal profession. When I say that the lawyers are putting their reputation at risk, this is what I am really thinking about.

    As I have said, Lawyers (who own a legal practice) are self employed. They don’t have to take on the work but they need to take a long hard at themselves. They should know that if they push this too hard, they will face accusations of abusing a position of faith that society has in them to maintain the criminal justice system. They should also know that they are risking the establishment of a public defender system – something that the majority of lawyers feel strongly against. If they secure a “victory” as a result of the strike, I believe it will be a pyrrhic one.

    Finally, may I wish you success and fulfilment in your future career.

  • Lionel Hutz

    “The £79 million was set, as you said, as part of the Hillsborough agreement for maximum funding. My understanding is that, throughout the negotiations with the Bar and the Law Society, it has always been indicated that £79 million is the maximum amount of the budget that could be used for publicly funded legal aid services. Each area has been asked to take a cut, and those are the savings that have come up as part of the Budget 2010 process.

    Mr McDevitt:
    So, they have been offered up by Mr Crawford’s team?

    Mr Harbinson:
    Yes, through the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service.

    Mr McDevitt:
    Frankly, I am still very confused. I do not understand how the Minister can write letters saying that he is negotiating around £79 million and Mr Crawford’s team can be offering up savings that would undermine that negotiating position. However, maybe that is not a question that you can answer any further.”

    Thats the important part. It seems to imply to me that it is the NICTS who manage the budget for the Legal Aid. They decided to cut it by a further £4 million. Presumably, that means thta this £4 million remained within the NICTS budget.

    By the way:

    http://www.dojni.gov.uk/index/publications/department-of-justice-budget-2011-15_1_.pdf

    at page 7, please note that the NICTS is not getting any cut. So it seems some services are immune from these cuts across the board

  • Vincent Hannah

    I appreciate your answer Lionel and i hope you didnt type all that out!

    So essentially, the Justice Minister has failed to consult properly regarding amendments to the agreed budget. This is the thrust of the argument, which is getting lost in all the jargonistic hand-wringing!

    So, if i could ask, how does this £75m budget sit with the 25% and 20% standard fee reductions? Are those fees paid out of that budget?

    How does the 18.3m Crown Court reduction work? You mentioned the 15.3 reduction from Very High Cost cases, where is other 3m coming from – is that the 3m that has ‘dropped off the cliff’? How will that impact CC cases?

    If you could provide a sort of real example of how these reductions would affect the running of a hypothetical criminal case that would be really useful. Only if you’ve time now!

    I realise its difficult for people to come on the radio and explain this, and therefore its equally difficult for those listening to grasp the importance/relevance of what they are saying. I can see from the debate above (and fairly play to C McDevitt) that there is genuine and justified frustration at the DoJ’s handling of this.

    Just to point out, im more than aware that it is not a profession to earn alot of money in, and – cliched as it may sound – thats not why i got into it. My point was just that there are many of those in the profession who give off that vibe – i have to say barristers in particular – and i dont think its healthy, and it certainly doesnt help those who are attempting to further their point this debate.

  • Crubeen

    “If you could provide a sort of real example of how these reductions would affect the running of a hypothetical criminal case that would be really useful. Only if you’ve time now!”

    Well, Vincent, if you don’t mind it coming from me: –

    http://www.u.tv/News/Lawyers-hadnt-read-papers-in-drugs-case/94602cce-0194-4650-a182-bbbc2ad908ea

    According to the BBC Davy has a little list of solicitors willing to act and this list will begiven to defendants who are currently unrepresented. Supposing a defendant doesn’t want to instruct anybody on the list, what then? I pose this in light of an understanding that a defendant is entitled to a solicitor of HIS choosing.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    If you could provide a sort of real example of how these reductions would affect the running of a hypothetical criminal case that would be really useful.

    Good point Vincent. In addition pl explain

    Is the Counsel on the standard fee less likely to turn to his junior counsel for the answer to a perfectly simple question?

    or

    Is the Counsel on a reduced fee more likely to turn to his junior counsel for the answer to a perfectly simple question?

  • Crubeen

    Lionel,

    Read that exchange you posted with relish. Looks as if not even the advisors knew what they were talking about.

    It sure does simplify matters – Davy told the lawyers the Budget was £79 million and they agreed terms to work within that. Then he changed the goal posts and wonders why nobody trusts him.

    It sure does remind me of a typical social worker.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Well, Vincent, if you don’t mind it coming from me: –
    http://www.u.tv/News/Lawyers-hadnt-read-papers-in-drugs-case/94602cce-0194-4650-a182-bbbc2ad908ea

    According to the BBC Davy has a little list of solicitors willing to act and this list will begiven to defendants who are currently unrepresented. Supposing a defendant doesn’t want to instruct anybody on the list, what then? I pose this in light of an understanding that a defendant is entitled to a solicitor of HIS choosing.
    ——————-

    Holy fuck!

    Also is that the same solicitor who was criticising the strike in the BelTel.

  • Crubeen

    Lionel,

    Love the expletive. Can’t answer the question.

    Hopefully somebody will ask wee Davy if that’s what he means by “access to justice.”

    And fair play to Crown Counsel in that case.

    I noted that the Beeb websire this morning was running with DOJ press releases and UTV wasn’t … coming up with this one instead.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Editorial decisions. Lol.

    That will be a problem. With the papers, the Irish News and BelTel in particular have invested so much in the ‘fat cat’ lawyer narrative that they will never change their position.

    I’m a little bit shocked. I won’t comment about that incident anymore. It would be wrong and on this issue I don’t believe everything I read. Amazing.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Vincent,

    The £75 million budget will be the entire legal aid budget for all kinds of criminal legal aid and civil legal aid (which includes civil litigation, family law, judicial review etc). The percentage of the total budget that is paid on Crown Court work fluctuates wildly from year to year. My understanding is that in the year 2009/2010, Crown Court legal aid accounted for over £40 million of the £104 million spent that year. However, my understanding is that both these figures are exceptionally high. Legal aid is currently over budget.

    The difficulty I have is that the Legal Services Commission have not been properly auditing expenditure for about five years. I’m fact I think the NIAO will be reporting on that scandal soon enough. Anyway, exact figures are very hard to come by.

    My understanding is that Crown Court Legal would usually have accounted for about £35 million. This cut is £18.3 million from that total. It’s estimated to be a total cut of around 54%.

    £15.3 million of that cut comes from abolishing the VHCC
    The other £3 million comes from the cut to the standard rate (20% for Barristers, 25% for solicitors)

    The impact this will have in the short term will mean that it will be unviable for solicitors in particular to invest as much time and energy into a case. That could range from spending the time get the proper expert evidence to simply not spending enough time preparing for cases. I think it will immediately affect solicitors more. There will be no profit margins in it.

    Overall you will see young lawyers like you and I choosing other areas of practice. The best will look elsewhere. Quality of Representation will fall. The romance of crown court work still attracts the admiration of the Bar and solicitors. There’s a high regard for the ability of those who do that work, in spite of the fact that it’s not well paid. That will go!

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles
  • Lionel Hutz

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/40-lawyers-break-ranks-to-take-on-abandoned-cases-16010272.html

    Seriously, why is it that every time I read of a solicitor breaking ranks, it’s this guy?

    A personal injury lawyer comes from antrim to newry to take a case? How did he get the case? Has nobody in Newry ‘broken ranks’? Why is this solicitor getting all this publicity? Why are the BelTel running with the line that this was proof of breaking ranks? How got them to print this story (we all know how this works)?

    I would love to know if this solicitor was a member of any political party to get this ‘special’ treatment!

  • Vincent Hannah

    Cheers for your answers!

    I can’t see this story getting too much coverage – that would be very unfair and potentially damaging to those involved. But also to focus on it is to deflect attention away from what is the real issue here – that you are concentrating on what is happening while the dispute is ongoing, not on the reasons behind the dispute itself.

    What is striking about this debate is that the sides are so close – 79m on your side, 75m on DF’s side – that any review is likely to end in some sort of agreement. I think we can acknowledge that there were communication problems from our new justice minister – to give him the benefit of the doubt as there is no evidence there was anything more underhand behind this.

    Therefore, surely the solicitors/barristers should put their energy into pushing for a review as early as possible and coming up with new proposals, not criticising those who are – whatever their motives – choosing to represent unrepresented clients?

  • Lionel Hutz

    What is striking about this debate is that the sides are so close – 79m on your side, 75m on DF’s side – that any review is likely to end in some sort of agreement. I think we can acknowledge that there were communication problems from our new justice minister – to give him the benefit of the doubt as there is no evidence there was anything more underhand behind this.

    —————

    They really cannot acknowledge that. It was quite underhand. The passage I quoted to you was in January. It was pointed out then. The Minister pushed through the legislation on the very last day of the assembly and it avoided proper scrutiny. The Minister has acted quite appallingly.

    Anyway, there are almost 2500 solicitors. Only 40 have broken ranks. There are over a 1,000 CC cases in a year. They cannot handle that.

  • Lionel Hutz

    On this complete farce, here is another justice committee meeting from December 2010.

    http://archive.niassembly.gov.uk/record/committees2010/Justice/101207CrownCourtRem.htm

    The NICTS had been leading the negotiations. This was the head of the public legal services at NICTS, Mr Crawford, giving evidence before the Committee. I have said before that they moved the goal posts from a budget of £79 million to a budget of £75 million. This seems to be the point when the goalposts were moved. Its an interesting read.

    As Mr Crawford says,

    “The legal aid budget of £79 million was agreed in 2009 in the settlement between the then Prime Minister and the Northern Ireland Executive. Unlike other areas of public expenditure, it has not been targeted for further reductions”

    He would have needed £16 million in savings to get to £79 million. Instead, the savings they were recommending went further:

    “The budget that we are aiming for in 2013-14 is £79 million. We would overshoot that, possibly, by a little over £2 million. The original figure was £16 million in savings. This would take us to £18·5 million.”

    Conall McDevitt (my new favourite MLA) remarks as follows:

    “I am a bit confused. I presume that we have all heard informal feedback on this issue, and people in the professions have suggested to us that the goalposts have been moved. I looked through the record, and I cannot find a single instance on the public record, up to as far as two weeks ago, when the Minister has said anything other than that his sole objective is to get within budget. Not only is he saying that, but he is seeking to reassure us that this is not a cost-cutting exercise.”

    And there is a little exchange following that:

    “Mr Crawford:
    The first objective is to get within budget. I should have said that DFP is yet to give approval to our business case. The Minister is also mindful that he is under pressure to make general savings in the justice budget. Therefore, the first objective is to get within budget. Until the early part of the summer, it was not clear that we would do that. We had come up with proposals that were eventually published; they were produced at the start of July. That was the first time that we believed that it was possible to meet the budget.

    Mr McDevitt:
    Do you accept that the Goldblatt McGuigan report, which forms the basis of the Bar Council consultation response that you received on 26 November, delivers a solution within budget?

    Mr Crawford:
    Technically, it does not quite do that. The report counts in staff savings, which, in the end, our accountants told us we could not count. However, to be fair to Goldblatt McGuigan, we had given it a figure for staff savings, although it was not quite as high as the one that it used. To some extent, it could be forgiven for that. However, the £300,000 is very close to the actual figure.

    Mr McDevitt:
    Does it deliver the solution within the negotiating objective?

    Mr Crawford:
    It delivers a solution at or about the £79 million.

    Mr McDevitt:
    Was that the negotiating objective?

    Mr Crawford:
    It was the first and primary negotiating objective.”

    So you get this. The NICTS, acting on behalf of the Minister, ask for a report to get them within budget. This is their first and primary objective! They got what they wanted and they decided to go further!

    As Mr Crawford says, “In a way, we are getting what is a bit like a windfall”. Indeed, but it has lead to a crisis in the criminal justice system.

  • Lionel Hutz

    And whats it all for? What does it save the tax payer? I thought the gap between the Bar and Law Society and the Department was around £3 million. In fact it is:

    “Mr McCartney:
    The difference between your proposals and the Bar Council’s is, therefore, less than £1 million?

    Mr Crawford:
    At the moment, we are taking around £3·2 million out of it on 20% and 25%. That works out at about 22·5% on average. Therefore, a little bit less half of that is £1·5 million, which is perhaps a better figure.”

    About £1.5 million. But that is a massive persentage cut to the lawyers and all for the saving of £1.5 million over and above the savings that had been originally sought!

    As John O’Dowd pointed out:
    “It goes back to my original question. The debate is almost about how we match up the percentages rather than how we match up the delivery of justice in the courtroom or during preparation for the courtroom. I accept that there is a need to live within a budget of £79 million, but my concern is how you live within that £79 million.

    I am a former Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), so every time I see a PAC, report I take great interest in it. A recent Westminster PAC report expressed concern around the quality of justice being delivered in England at the minute because of the very fact of barristers withdrawing from the system and the greater use of solicitor advocates in courts. Are we going down that road? ”

    …………..
    “I have no doubt that people will work for it. I would work for it. That does not mean that I would be the right person to do it.”

    ………………..

    “From the public’s point of view, and by any measure, barristers are well paid. I accept that. However, it is a profession that looks after the rights of the individual in a courtroom, so pay has to be commensurate with that. I am concerned that, in the mathematical equation that has been set out in front of us, justice has been missed. If we come up with a different mathematical equation that includes justice and keeps us within the £79 million budget, I am prepared to support that, or, if I am convinced that justice has been brought into this equation, so be it. I am concerned that justice has not been included. ”

    Well you could argue that maybe the Department of Justice thought the lawyers would roll over but then this exchange between Mr Crawford and Raymond McCartney:

    “Mr Crawford says

    However, I accept that there is always a risk that some people will not work at those particular rates.

    Mr McCartney:

    At 10%, you will get support only from those who are going to represent people. That is the big difference. At 20%, you may be at odds.

    Mr Crawford:

    Yes; we anticipate that. ”

    They knew it would happen but they did it anyway. They decided to go to battle with the Legal Profession. They do want “yellow pack justice”.

  • Lionel Hutz

    They had everything they wanted with the Bar/Law Society proposal. As Alban McGuinness pointed out:

    “Mr A Maginness:
    Yes. I thought that there was some reluctance to agree that.

    Your objectives have been achieved in so far as you are achieving budget, a reduction in fees in standard cases and are getting rid of the very high cost cases. In addition, there are other aspects that have been proposed by the Bar and the Law Society that are within your objective of predictability. Is that right?

    Mr Crawford:
    Predictability in any standard fee regime is better —

    Mr A Maginness:
    Yes; so you are getting predictability, which you did not have before and you are getting accountability in so far as the Courts and Tribunals Service can properly administer the scheme by reference to specific objective parameters that are laid down in the proposals. Is that right?

    Mr Crawford:
    Yes. I mean that —

    Mr A Maginness:
    So, you have accountability and predictability. You also have familiarity in the extension of the grid for standard fees under the 2005 rules. So, you do not really need to change the rules that much. Is that right?

    Mr Crawford:
    That is right. That was, of course —

    Mr A Maginness:
    So, you have got that. You also have lower implementation costs.

    Mr Crawford:
    Yes.

    Mr A Maginness:
    You also have workability as an agreed scheme that the Bar or the Law Society can recommend to its members.

    Mr Crawford:
    Can I say that all of those —

    Mr A Maginness:
    I want to make the point that you have achieved an awful lot in your negotiations. Is that right?

    Mr Crawford:
    I was going to ask whether I could also say that —

    Mr A Maginness:
    Sorry. Did you, or did you not, achieve an awful lot in your negotiations?

    Mr Crawford:
    No, and I will explain why.

    Mr A Maginness:
    Right, well, tell me why.

    Mr Crawford:
    Because, with the exception of the timescale for implementation, all those things would have been achieved by the graduated fees scheme that was proposed a year and a half ago.

    Mr A Maginness:
    So, you saying that you want to go back to the previous scheme?

    Mr Crawford:
    David Lavery wrote to the chairman of the Bar in June to state that, if agreement were not reached, that would be the Courts and Tribunals Service’s fallback proposal.

    Mr A Maginness:
    So, you are actually saying today that you will go —

    Mr Crawford:
    No, we are not saying that. We prefer what we proposed. However, I am saying that the things that you mentioned are not outcomes or advantages that are met only by a 2005 scheme.

    Mr A Maginness:
    But they are met.

    Mr Crawford:
    Yes, but, to make it clear: this is not the only way of meeting them.”

    But THEY DID HAVE EVERYTHING

  • Lionel Hutz

    “Mr McDevitt:
    Having listened to the guys for an hour, I am bit confused about what test we are expected to apply. They are telling us that they have shifted the goalposts, but they cannot point to any evidence on the record from the Minister or any statement to allow us to say what the new negotiating objective is. Reading the correspondence between you and the professional bodies that is available to us, the records of the House or the Minister’s statements in the press, the only test that I can find is that the legal aid budget needs to be within £79 million. Therefore, Mr Crawford, that is the only figure against which I am able to test any submission. I will struggle to make a fair test if you are saying that, in all good faith, two professional bodies have made proposals to you that meet that criteria but that, frankly, you would like more just because life is life.

    Mr Crawford:
    That is a slight exaggeration, perhaps. As I said before, the primary test had to be to get to within budget. For a long time, it did looked as if we would not get —

    Mr McDevitt:
    That is not what the Minister said, Mr Crawford. For months and months and months, he had ample opportunity to say that reducing the budget to £79 million is not the game and that he is also interested in A, B and C. However, he is saying the opposite. He is saying that it is about the £79 million and that this is not a cost-cutting exercise. In other words, the objective is not to drive down costs.”

  • Lionel Hutz

    LAST ONE I PROMISE:

    “Mr McDevitt:
    I am trying to figure out who is making policy here: you or the Minister?

    Mr Crawford:
    In all negotiations, you may have somebody who is negotiating —

    Mr McDevitt:
    And, that is your job.

    Mr Crawford:
    — but I do not think that it helps if you lead people to believe —

    Mr McDevitt:
    With the greatest respect, and I will leave it here, Mr Chairman, but that is what I am struggling with. We are being asked to make a value judgment on this, but it seems to me that the goalposts have been shifted during the process. You have ratcheted it. That is fair enough; you are perfectly entitled to do that, but the Minister has not been ratcheted accordingly. You are entitled to negotiate the best deal, but do you think you have been a bit too successful?

    Mr Crawford:
    I am not sure that I have been successful at all, yet.

    Mr A Maginness:
    Oh, you have.

    Mr McDevitt:
    That begs the final question: has either of the two professional bodies indicated the consequences of failure to reach agreement?

    Mr Crawford:
    In a sense. They have certainly made the point that it might be
    difficult to persuade the members to take on work, if that is the point you are making.”

    Why is the media not looking at this? Am I the only who thinks that this is all totally wrong?

    They ask for proposals. They get proposals which give them £16.7 million of cuts. The proposals satisfied their requests. They decided to go further even though the Legal Aid Budget was secured by the Hillsborough Agreement. They knew that this would result in a crisis. They were forewarned. And they did it anyway.

    And all for £1.5 million?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Guys,

    Before you get too hung up on the whole question of the promised legal aid budget, have you considered the fact that the budget (which was only agreed at the end of 2010) had to slash all kinds of budgets right across the board in the government ? Are you guys arguing that the legal aid budget is supposed to be some sort of exception ?

  • Lionel Hutz

    I’d point out to you:

    As Mr Crawford says,
    “The legal aid budget of £79 million was agreed in 2009 in the settlement between the then Prime Minister and the Northern Ireland Executive. Unlike other areas of public expenditure, it has not been targeted for further reductions”

    It is being cut by 25%. there were to be no further cuts. The hillsborough agreement guaranteed the budget for legal aid. It was a specific part of the agreement. And yes, the draft budget may not have been agreed but the DoJ knew they had to make the cuts throughout the latter half of 2010. This has not been used to justify the cut.

  • Lionel Hutz

    CS,

    For example, in the record I noted first at 6:16 yesterday, see this:

    “This seems to be an amount of money that has dropped off the edge of the cliff after the Minister made a commitment in a letter on 22 December 2010 that he was going to stand over a £79 million budget. That figure is central to negotiations with the legal profession about the publicly funded legal services. When, out of the blue, did you decide to raid that budget for £4 million?”

    You see what I mean? The draft budget was announcedbefore think I believe.

  • Lionel Hutz

    On the 10th of February 2011, the Justice Committee heard evidence from the Law Society and Bar Council and NICTS.

    http://archive.niassembly.gov.uk/record/committees2010/Justice/110210_Remuneration.htm

    Commenting on the overnight reduction from £79 million to £75 million, at that meeting the NICTS said that, “The difference of £4 million will be met from administrative savings in the Legal Services Commission and civil legal aid. There is no impact at all on these proposals. No additional savings are required from criminal legal aid.”

    In relation to how close the bar’s proposals were, he said “The Bar’s proposal includes £325,000 in administrative savings. I think I acknowledged in the previous meeting that it was not very far away. It would leave it £250,000 shy of the budget if those proposals were accepted”

    So we were £250,000 away. At the same meeting the Bar Council and Law Society were asked to meet together and put forward a joint proposals. Previously, they had each their own proposals. They did so.

    The committee met again on 24th February 2011
    http://archive.niassembly.gov.uk/record/committees2010/Justice/110224_RemunerationforDefenceCounsel.htm

    This time Mr Crawford says the joint proposal was out by £600,000:

    It comes close to the overall budget, but the calculation in the joint proposal falls short by about £600,000. You might recall that we said that the additional savings required to move from a £79 million budget to a £75 million budget would include £1 million from administrative savings and civil legal aid. However, we have given some indicative figures for that, which relate to £2 million for civil legal aid and £2·5 million from potential administrative savings. In fact, the administrative savings figure will be lower. However, with those indicative figures, we intend that the total will be £4 million. That may have been misunderstood. The joint proposal seeks to make £4·5 million in savings from that area. One of the difficulties with that is that we have not yet identified the civil legal aid savings. It may be difficult to make them within the timescale, but, in presenting the joint proposal, £600,000 less savings are being made from Crown Court remuneration. That is why I said that there is a lower savings level than there was previously in the Bar Council’s proposal. I refer to it because it was the previous closest contender.”

    So Basically the Bar and Law Society were told to factor in £4.5 million savings from other areas (£2.57 million in administrative savings and £2 million in civil legal aid savings). However, the Court Services decided that there would not be instead only £2 million in administraive savings.

    The NICTS were asked to give a break down of their savings:

    “Mr McDevitt:
    Mr Crawford, could you give a breakdown of your £4 million savings? How much of that is administrative, how much is fees and how much of it is other types of savings?

    Mr Crawford:
    The current estimate of what can be made in administrative savings in 2013-14 is £1·5 million. I think we originally submitted a figure of £2·5 million in an earlier paper. That was inaccurate for that year. The civil legal aid savings will make up the difference. If £4 million savings are required, civil legal aid will make up the difference. We have already advertised to our colleagues in finance, and through them to the Department generally, that we have some doubts about the ability to make the civil legal aid savings in that timescale. ”

    The reason for the financial aspect of this dispute is that – “The net effect of the scrap you are having is that you are telling us that the reason their budget is unacceptable to you is because they are assuming a greater level of efficiency than you are willing to give”

    That is £600,000. What does it represt for the NICTS?

    “Mr McDevitt:
    What efficiency is £1·5 million?

    Mr Crawford:
    It is 5% year on year.

    Mr McDevitt:
    That is not very challenging really, is it?

    Mr Crawford:
    It is the same as is being applied to the Department.

    Mr McDevitt:
    Your Department is getting a light touch here. Everyone else is being hit twice as hard as you are; you are getting off with 5%. The Bar Counsel and the Law Society are coming to you and asking whether you can do better than 5%, and you are saying that that you would rather have your easy ride, and those guys can pay for your efficiencies. That is the extent of the £600,000 that you are talking about. You want them to subsidise your efficiency, or your lack of it.

    Mr Crawford:
    I do not think that is a fair comment, exactly, because it is the same as —

    Mr McDevitt:
    How is it not a fair comment? You are getting away with a 5% efficiency —

    Mr Crawford:
    Five per cent year on year is a 15% cut in 2013-14 and a 20% cut in 2014-15.

    Mr McDevitt:
    If you spoke to every other Department in Northern Ireland these days, they would bite your arm off for that. You are asking professional bodies, effectively, the private sector, to subsidise your unwillingness to make another marginal efficiency.

    Mr Crawford:
    I do not believe that is subsidising it —

    Mr McDevitt:
    Well, that is what they are doing. “

  • Comrade Stalin

    The hillsborough agreement guaranteed the budget for legal aid

    From the text :

    “The legal aid allocation is a £20 million a year addition to
    baseline through to the end of 2012/13, after which efficiency
    savings will be expected to take effect, allowing the baseline
    increase to be reduced to £14 million a year. To meet
    additional pressures over the next two years, including other
    courts pressures, we agree the need on a one-off basis for a
    further £12 million. If, in the event, pressures turn out to be
    higher than this, HM Treasury will provide further money
    from the reserve up to a maximum of £39 million. Until the
    end of 2012/13 this access to the reserve will not be
    recouped from future EYF.”

    I am not sure how this all adds up to £79m, and I wonder what the “efficiency savings expected to take effect” are.

  • Lionel Hutz

    My understanding is that the Baseline was £65 million.

    So it was £20 million a year in addition, taking us to £85 million after which efficiencies had to come in ( i.e. reducing the legal aid budget). By 2013/14, it was due to go down to £14 million above the baseline ( £79 million). It was ringfenced.

    But even if that was changed by the CSR, the above dialogue from the NICTS shows that they were not taking it out of the Criminal Legal Aid budget.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    I must admit I really hadn’t taken much interest in this topic until I came across this thread after a news item on the radio. I volunteered an early comment addressed to the legals, essentially don’t be ashamed of acting in your own best interests, and was rebuked for lowering the tone of the debate; I had used the phrase “Snouts in the trough” (apeing an earlier post incidentally).

    I therefore read up on the topic as much as I could through the Internet, and chatted to a couple of people, and have now achieved a level of understanding which albeit limited is better than anything I could have achieved from reading the thread. However I am now clear on certain things.

    Over the last ten years the legal aid bill has tripled to circa £100m and the arse ripped out of system (sufficient for more than adequate reward) in part by VHCCs; that the arrangements for a new system based on E&W have been headed off at the pass; that the legals having successfully retained much of the pot at the end of the rainbow at Hillsborough (circa £80m) are still fighting for the same pot in a recession when everybody else is being cut; that the legals will threaten a judicial review over a semi colon of no consequence; that they will employ financial consultants and cite them as wholly independent; and that they will go on strike rather than accept implementation of a generous scheme which needs alittle refinement and an accelerated review.

    In so doing they have successfully avoided meaningful conversations about overmanning, overclaiming, clawback, overrunning, meaningful work recording and double jobbing.

    My favourite nugget was when the solicitors complained in evidence about the disproportionate burden that the solicitors’ profession is being asked to bear in comparison with colleagues at the Bar, and the barristers argued in evidence in the same room that the fees already provided for greater payments to solicitors, 2:1 being the ratio, and that 65% of the cuts were coming from the Bar. Quite simply where money is concerned and the spoils need to be divided, people fall out.

    All of the above is highly selective and not in any way impartial and I have a conflict of interest which I will not declare, all of which makes me highly qualified to contribute to this thread. Just so you do not think me any different to the rest.

  • Crubeen

    Articles,

    “All of the above is highly selective and not in any way impartial and I have a conflict of interest which I will not declare, all of which makes me highly qualified to contribute to this thread. Just so you do not think me any different to the rest.”

    You just have to be a civil servant … or worse! Only a wannabe Sir Humpy would spout garbage like that and expect to have credibility. It is customary, indeed it is essential to verify one’s credentials, that a conflicty of interst is declared prior to proffering comment.

    You have now stated that you are not impartial, have a conflict of interest (only now declared), have been selective in the evidence you offer … and your previous contributions to this thread (abstracts from movie scripts), as you now admit, were not at all based on research or the evidence. Can you suggest any good reason why your views should be given credence?

    Is there any way you could convince me that your real name isn’t Davy Forde?

  • Lionel Hutz

    “Over the last ten years the legal aid bill has tripled to circa £100m and the arse ripped out of system (sufficient for more than adequate reward) in part by VHCCs;” The lawyers accept that the bill got too high and were the first to volunteer the abolishion of the VHCC.

    “that the arrangements for a new system based on E&W have been headed off at the pass;” Good! Everyone, including the NICTS and DoJ accepts that the Graduated Fee Scheme would be disastrous.

    “that the legals having successfully retained much of the pot at the end of the rainbow at Hillsborough (circa £80m) are still fighting for the same pot in a recession when everybody else is being cut;” There had been an agreement that by three years time, they would have to reduce the bill to £79 million. In fact they have now got it cut to £75 million. Bear in mind that several million of that is spent by the LSC on administration.

    “that the legals will threaten a judicial review over a semi colon of no consequence;” Basically you have listened to David Ford speak. Where is this judicial Review? bear in mind that the judicial has to be commened within three months of the action.

    “that they will employ financial consultants and cite them as wholly independent;” They were asked to draft proposals, they instructed financial consultants to help them cost the proposals. They could hardly do that themselves. They have have shown their figures with everyone. The Department has not shown their costings.

    “and that they will go on strike rather than accept implementation of a generous scheme which needs alittle refinement and an accelerated review.” The reason why I have said from the outset that I do not believe that this is about money is that from what I know, there isn’t alot of money between the sides. I very much doubt that the entire legal profession would go two months without income for the sake of a few £100,000. It doesn’t make sense. This is about where the cuts should take place and trying to implement the cuts in a way that doesn’t undermine representation.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    Just for completeness Mr Hutz may I have your comments on the two paragraphs indicated below as well. Therein lies the their value as they are likely to be as selective and self serving as the rest. For example your first response (forgive my inability to italicise):

    “Over the last ten years the legal aid bill has tripled to circa £100m and the arse ripped out of system (sufficient for more than adequate reward) in part by VHCCs;”

    “The lawyers accept that the bill got too high and were the first to volunteer the abolishion of the VHCC. ”

    This surely must be borrowed from the Sinn Fein book of political wheezes by spinning an utterly indefensible negative into a positive for the public good. Will lawyers please form an overly queue to hand back the monies they over claimed. Myself I’d be tempted to send in the fraud squad.

    As I say, please comment on the following for completeness.

    In so doing they have successfully avoided meaningful conversations about overmanning, overclaiming, clawback, overrunning, meaningful work recording and double jobbing.

    My favourite nugget was when the solicitors complained in evidence about the disproportionate burden that the solicitors’ profession is being asked to bear in comparison with colleagues at the Bar, and the barristers argued in evidence in the same room that the fees already provided for greater payments to solicitors, 2:1 being the ratio, and that 65% of the cuts were coming from the Bar. Quite simply where money is concerned and the spoils need to be divided, people fall out.

    Finally can you tell me how to italicise my comments. Now i want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

  • Lionel Hutz

    [i]all of this would be italicised[/i] if you changed the [ brackets for < brackets.

    On your substantive point. Where has it been claimed that there has been overmanning or overclaiming or double jobbing. I dont even understand where you are getting that from.

    There was a recognition that the VHCC scheme resulted in a level of payment that was unsustainable. Basically, the professions had to make a choice, remove the VHCC scheme or face cuts across the board that would be higher. That is why they suggested removing VHCC. Its worth bearing in mind that the VHCC scheme still operates in England and Wales even after they made their cuts.

    Where is the overclaiming? and fraud??????? get serious, who is feeding you this rubbish.

    My favourite nugget was when the solicitors complained in evidence about the disproportionate burden that the solicitors’ profession is being asked to bear in comparison with colleagues at the Bar, and the barristers argued in evidence in the same room that the fees already provided for greater payments to solicitors, 2:1 being the ratio, and that 65% of the cuts were coming from the Bar. Quite simply where money is concerned and the spoils need to be divided, people fall out.

    Initially the Bar and Law Society had drafted each of their own proposals. it is true that intially the LAw Society suggested it was unfair that the cut to the standard rate was more for solicitors than for Barristers as both the Bar and NICTS had proposed. The Bar did point out that result of the cuts were being faced more by Barristers.

    In any case, at that meeting both Professions were invited to make agreed proposals. They did so. So there was no falling out. They are both singing from the same hymn sheet.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    [i] all of this would be italicised[/i] if you changed the [ brackets for < brackets.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    all of this would be italicised if you changed the [ brackets for < brackets.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    Thank you Mr Hutz.

  • Lionel Hutz

    no problem

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    Sorry about verifying the tip about italicisation. Unforgivable on my part.

    However back to the smorgasbord, methinks you do protest too much.

    Are you seriously telling me that there is no overclaiming, and that claims have not been challenged and subsequently withdrawn very sharpish. And this in a system which allows for an appeal.

    Incidentially when is the NIAO report coming out?

  • Lionel Hutz

    What do you think they are overclaiming for?

    Is it the number of hours worked? Because the idea that you would charge for the exact number of hours and minutes is ridiculous. For example, it woudl hardly be right for me as a young barrister to charge ten times what a more experienced barrister would charge just because it would take me ten times the time to do the work?????

  • Lionel Hutz

    To put it simply, we live in a world dominated by civil servants who clock in and clock out – flexitime and the rest. These are the people who are running the place.

    There is no value for knowledge any more. These civil servants dont have any knowledge and do not understand the value of it. Worse still, you get the impression that they dont like it.

    They think the value of work is measured by the the time you clock in and clock out at. Barristers dont stop working. Thats not an exaggeration. You don’t actually stop. The works always there and if you are to be successful, you must eat, sleep and breathe the work.

    Its the same with any ‘profession’. My dad is a Doctor and it has got to a stage where the trusts just do not like doctors to excercise indepenent thought. They want computer systems to run it and pencil pushers. They will criticise if a doctor spends time with a patient. They want a conveyor belt and the concept of ‘care’ is being removed from the medical professions.

    The whole concept of professionalism is alien to these people!

    Clock in Clock out with 20 days annual leave and 14 days sick leave. A nice pension with a final salary plan.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    Now I know how it feels to have my lawns populated by moles. Just when you thought…..

    I’ll think you’ll find that most successful people work very hard be they “professionals” or otherwise, live with it.

    And that’s all from me on this subject.

  • Zig70

    Try being a dishwasher in a restaurant those dishes never stop. They come faster than a tax dollar into a barristers bank account. Good rant. Barristers never stop? Especially if your mates send you all the work, anyway, you can get a lot more work completed when you are undead and never sleep. That unreasonable rubbish nearly evens up for the attack on the civil service, any grade in particular, PPS solicitors? As for aston martin driving doctors , another bunch of overpaid cronies. £100k+ for listening to grannies and doling out amoxycillan ? Can we get Ford to sort out Doctors next.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    Check this out, it has been published at last.

    http://www.niauditoffice.gov.uk/pubs/2011/legal_aid/8935_Legal_aid_final.pdf

    Oh by the way rumour has it the NIAO Justice mob is being strengthened with the addition of some right rottweilers.

  • http://diaryarticles.blogspot.com/ articles

    Where is our resident Springfield apologist when you need him?