Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Depressing But True

This piece in the Law Gazette  (the solicitors' trade paper) rings a lot of bells. I have often commented on the tendency of politicians who reach the Home Office to lose touch with reason and become bloodthirsty and populist fans of Laura Norder. Some people had hopes that a Lib Dem presence at the ministerial table might moderate the excesses of the unlovely procession of Home Secs. that included Howard, Reid, Smith, Blunkett and Straw. Straw was a particular disappointment to me as he led the National Union of Students when I was an undergrad, but veered off to the right once in power. I even voted for the bugger in 1968.

The virtual disappearance of legal aid has hit and will hit ordinary people who simply cannot cope with the complexities of the law. Someone once criticised politicians who could not use the word 'liberty' without prefacing it with the word 'diabolical'. I agree.

13 comments:

  1. In medicine, if we asked people to do things without being properly informed, or under duress in some way, we'd be culpable. Vulnerable people liable to coercion (children, demented, prisoners, soldiers etc.) have to consent to trial treatments with even more care, and usually an Ethics Committee approval.

    The way people get treated in court makes me seriously wonder how some lawyers (on a bench or not) can honestly claim to be members of an ethical profession.

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  2. THE LCJ said recently that the senior judiciary were getting worried that all these litigants in person( civil cases) were bunging up the courts as the poor old litigant could not navigate their way through the complexity of the procedure. Soloution? They have decided to try and simplify the procedure. If that is right one wonders why it hasn't been done before.

    Plain fact of the matter there is very little justice these days - maybe its a Tory plot to make sure only the rich can afford litigation.

    Its a scandal

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  3. I have never been on a bench that has not gone out of its way to help a defendant who is not represented. The same goes for legal advisers and I know of at least one regular CPS prosecutor who also stresses things in the defendant's favour when he sees they are not represented. He openly says in court that he sees it as part of his role as an officer of the court to do so, because if they were represented he is sure their lawyer would do so on their behalf.

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    1. Yes, that has been my experience too, We have to be careful how far we go but I have always felt that the defendant received fair and proper assistance both from my bench and from the LA. I could be mistaken but I have also felt that the CPS does adapt well and properly to an unrepresented defendant.
      We can all point to things that make us feel less than proud of our system, especially the way it is being managed, but I do feel proud of our sense of justice at a local level. Doing justice to all manner of people is truly the name of game. At least we at the dirty end of justice haven't forgotten that.

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    2. Are you seriously suggesting that a prosecutor is motivated or rewarded to obtain a defendant's acquittal ?

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    3. The Prosecutor is an officer of the court, and has a duty to see justice done, so it is quite ueual to see CPS bending over backwards to be fair.

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    4. If you think prosecutors bend over backward, and justice is so well preserved for unrepresented defendants, etc., then why do you also think that defendants' best interests are served when they have their own advocate ? You can't have it both ways.

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  4. Well, that's nice for somebody who comes up against your favoured CPS prosecutor. One just wonders about what evidence he or she might have that the Bench never sees.

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  5. Anyone who cares about the impossibility of legal aid, and the tiny tiny number of exceptional cases in which it has been granted, should read this very short judgment from last month: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/OJ/2014/B127.html

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  6. In my experience of nearly 30 years practice most lawyers when facing an unrepresented opponent do the right thing, especially in a criminal case where liberty might be in danger. but, there is a limit to how much help one can properly give.

    It is true that most people cannot now afford to take a civil action and if they are driven into court have little chance of defending themself if the otherside can afford a lawyer. The procedure can be mind bogglingly complex and most of the costs are built up on the road to court not actually the hearing.

    I'm not being flipppent but what we really need is something like the Judge Judy type court wehre the parties come in say their piece and the judge decides- it might not keep lawyers happy but I'm sure it would be justice

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  7. I was in a small claims court and forgot to sign my declaration of fact. I asked the judge if I could sign it (when it was pointed out to me by her), she refused; more interested in the letter of the law than the spirit.
    As it was, I had taken to court an energy company which had taken me to court for not paying them an electricity bill...for electricity which they had NOT supplied me.
    The court awarded £1000 (+ VAT) against me for the time of the opposition: a barrister, a solicitor, an admin person...and a trainee solictor.
    The judge then appeared to 'wake up', i.e. deny the opposition the cost for the trainee solicitor, and reduced the bill to £500 + VAT.
    So, since when is a trainee solictor worth £500, and a barrister, solicitor and admin person worth the same?

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  8. "the unlovely procession of Home Secs. that included Howard, Reid, Smith, Blunkett and Straw"

    The unlovely procession that marked the end of fifty years of increasing crime statistics ?

    Laban Tall

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  9. So now we have falling crime. Really? Pull the other one. We just have different ways of recording it so the figures look better.

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