JusticeWatch: a vision in pink

Franklin Sinclair

A vision in pink
Everyone needs a break. Just before the defence lawyers rep bodies announced that they were going to suspend their action after an exhausting 52 days, Franklin Sinclair – managing partner of Tuckers, leading member of the Big Firm Group and a man not afraid of a bit of colour in his wardrobe – tweeted a holiday snap from Scotland where he was topping up his tan.

Loch lomond and a vision of pink beauty pic.twitter.com/qnSOpUoNOU

— Franklin Sinclair (@FMStuckers) August 18, 2015

Franklin Sinclair 2
Franklin on the picket line – from Legal Cheek

Legal Cheek collected some of Sinclair’s sartorial greatest hits – and suggested that his mind not be with his comrades on the picket line.

Old punk/ BBC Radio 6 broadcaster Tom Robinson tackled the legal aid cuts on his first album for almost 20 years, Only the Now. According to the Independent, ‘The Mighty Sword of Justice’ is ‘a controversial song attacking government reforms to the Legal Aid system, features Colin Firth, the Oscar-winning actor, reading a BBC News headline report about the withdrawal of support for family cases, which Robinson argues will significantly reduce access to justice’.

‘There’s one law for the rich and  another one for the poor/ Rebekah’s friends and fortune protected her in court.’
Tom Robinson

The singer told the paper that he was not making a comment on Rebekah Brooks’s guilt or otherwise. ‘Justice ought to be available to everyone. It costs around £700 to plead not guilty in court, but £150 to plead guilty,’ he said.  You can see him give it an early airing outside the Old Bailey art a July 2013 rally

You can watch Robinson singing an early version of the song outside the Old Bailey in July 2013 at a Justice Alliance demo (here).

A leading forensic scientist ‘paid tribute to solicitors working with a ‘decimated’ legal aid budget after announcing an exit from the UK market’, according to the Law Society’s Gazette. Chief scientist Tiernan Coyle, in a blog on the company’s website, said the need for forensic fibre examination was ‘greater than ever’ but ‘the fact that the police suppress that demand is as inexplicable as it is indefensible’.

‘I’d like to pay tribute to all our clients from the criminal defence sector. Over the years they have faced a daily struggle to get the necessary funds from a decimated legal aid budget; just so they can provide their clients an understanding of the strength of the scientific evidence against them – which is a fundamental human right.’
Tiernan Coyle

Coyle reckoned Contact Traces was ‘instrumental in securing justice’ in more than 700 cases involving burglars, car thieves, robbers, drug pushers, paedophiles, sex offenders, rapists, kidnappers, armed robbers and murderers.

The latest idiotic idea
Anoosh Chakelian wrote about the iniquity of the new criminal court charge for the New Statesman here.

‘Thirty magistrates across the country have already resigned in protest against the charge. An insider at the Magistrates Association – which is pushing the government to let magistrates use their discretion regarding the new charge – reveals that the number of magistrates resigning may be higher than 30, and is likely to increase.’
Anoosh Chakelian

One such magistrate wrote to the Guardian to explain the reasons why he felt the need to resign. The last time he sat he dealt with two cases – a theft of £5.86 which ‘resulted in a total financial imposition of £385 for an unemployed young man’ and an unemployed young man ‘who put excessive toilet roll down a police-cell toilet and ended up with a total financial penalty of £410’. ‘These ridiculous amounts are down to the crazy new court charges,’ he noted.

‘After over 21 years as a magistrate, I cannot impose a sentence without fear. I am afraid these new court charges are going to destroy ordinary people’s conception of a fair British judicial system.’
R Stilwell

The ‘latest idiotic idea’ bears ‘no semblance whatsoever to justice being done or being seen to be done’, he argued.

A provocation best ignored
Steve Hynes, director of the Legal Action Group, blogged about Michael Gove’s exhortation that wealthy lawyers should ‘look to their consciences’ and do more pro-bono.  ‘LAG believes he is in danger of taking the legal profession’s commitment to pro-bono work for granted and of ignoring the constraints around such services,’ he wrote.

‘The implication of Gove’s speech is that the legal sector, particularly the large commercial firms in London, need to respond by either undertaking more pro-bono work or stump up cash. These firms though, all have their own priorities, are commercial rivals and above all fiercely independent. They are therefore unlikely to respond collectively to the Lord Chancellor’s call, but I’d suggest that they do have sufficient political acumen to know that a government with a majority of twelve has little prospect of forcing through legislation to move pro-bono from a voluntary service to statutory obligation or to introduce what amounts to a legal services tax. The Lord Chancellor’s speech therefore should be seen as a provocation which is best politely ignored.’
Steve Hynes

On Legal Cheek, Jonathan Ames took the Bar Council to task over its first pupilage fair for not offering discounted rates to legal aid chambers. Exhibition fees started at £800 which apparently buys chambers ‘a six-foot trellis table and a couple of fold-up chairs’ through to the £3,000 “gold” package which allows for ‘two tables and up to four chairs, or, as the Bar Council describes it, “alternative furniture”.’

‘However, chambers specialising in state funded and public law work will not be getting any favours from the organisers. Despite the Bar Council frequently complaining that government plans to slash legal aid fees and eligibility rates could drive many barristers to the wall, chambers in those fields will not be given a discounted rate to exhibit at the fair.’
Jonathan Ames

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve wrote for Prospect Magazine as ‘a Conservative who believes that my party is mistaken in its current approach to human rights’ here.

Liberty awards
Public Law Project and Detention Action, amongst others, have been shortlisted for this year’s Liberty’s human rights awards – details here.

About Jon Robins

Jon is a journalist and has written about the law and justice for the national papers and specialist press for more than 15 years. Jon is a visiting journalism lecturer at Winchester University, a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln and patron of Hackney Community Law Centre. He has won the Bar Council’s legal reporter of the year award twice (2015 and 2005). Jon is editor and co-founder of LegalVoice

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