Monday 22nd April 2013 will see a significant event on the Northern Circuit. It is not a strike (despite what the Law Society Gazette say) but the whole bar will be having a general meeting to discuss how to respond to BVT. It is unsurprising that this has to be held on a weekday – the time period given by the Ministry of Justice is so short that it is not realistically possible to organise a weekend or evening meeting. It should also be remembered that it is not that unusual for court rooms (and whole courts) to be shut whilst Judges or Court staff or whoever discuss important business matters.
If anyone from the ‘powers that be’ are disapproving that Courts may sit idle, then they only have themselves (or at least the MoJ) to blame by imposing a ridiculously short timetable.
The CPS sent round a letter yesterday (18th April) which can be seen here. It did not go down well with practitioners, many of whom saw it as bullying or threatening. One particular barrister has decided that ‘enough is enough’ and resigned from the CPS list. They asked me to (anonymously) publish their letter for others to see the strength of feeling, both about the letter and the CPS generally. I have posted it here below, unedited (apart from removing the name), and without comment.
18th April 2013
Thank you for your letter of the 18th April. Its content, which amounts to a thinly veiled threat to Criminal practitioners in private practice, is disappointing but wholly unsurprising.
I set out my personal response herewith.
You refer to a positive relationship between the Criminal bar and the CPS.
This is, presumably, the same CPS that has consistently reneged on fee agreements and initiatives over the past decade;
It is, no doubt, the same CPS that has consistently relied on the hard work, goodwill and sheer persistence of the Independent Criminal Bar to get the job done in the face of increasingly inadequate support from an increasingly deficient prosecution service;
It is, I assume, the same CPS that has, for the past four or five years cherry picked the straightforward and better remunerated cases for its own advocates and palmed off the difficult, anxious and messy to the independent bar. (If you weren’t aware, this is known as the “tick and star” system down South).
You say you would be “very disappointed if prosecution work….suffers”. It strikes me that if you were to spend any time in any Crown court on the Northern Circuit you would spend your life disappointed. The catalogue of CPS cases unreadied for trial, of evidence unobtained and of decisions unmade or worse, made without thought or reason, is both tiresome and distressing.
I have lost count of the number of mentions I have observed and undertaken over recent months where the CPS is dragged toward the trial starting- line in spite of itself. So when you decide to threaten us, as you do in your letter, just remember something: – without the independent Criminal Bar, the CPS will have no one’s skirt to hide behind.
I would be grateful if you would remove me from the prosecution panel forthwith. Your’s is the sort of goodwill I can do without.