JusticeWatch: Is the Justice System Failing Women?

Where’s the next generation going to come from?
’When I first ask students why they studied law or what they want to do when they graduate, many happily say they want to be criminal lawyers,’ began Dr James Thornton, a law lecturer at Nottingham Trent University for the Justice Gap (here). ‘Yet, come graduation, the majority of law students ultimately do not… . ‘The Law Society has reported a ‘looming crisis’ in the number and average age of duty solicitors (those ‘on-call’ to assist detainees and defendants at police stations and courts). With an average age of 47, who is going to replace this cohort when they retire? Similarly, the latest survey by the Bar Council (published 2018) found that a third of criminal barristers would leave the Bar if they could.’

Were lawyers just ‘greedily chasing the grand salaries of commercial city law firms’, he asked? ‘Having anonymously interviewed a variety of criminal barristers and solicitors, I don’t think this is the case. That is not to say that money is unimportant, but the issue is less about how much lawyers are paid, and more about the indirect effect fee levels have on the way the job must be done.’

The big three ‘frustrations’ mentioned by lawyers were: time, late payment and other services. None of these are about not earning enough, but looked at more closely, they are indirectly affected by low fees.

‘Interviewees spoke of being ‘ground down by various governments’ over the years, leading to a loss of goodwill. Others pointed out how the above was aggravated by the natural stresses of the job (cross-examining vulnerable complainants, dealing with clients with acute mental health difficulties etc.). The more experienced noted how many junior lawyers had already become ‘prematurely war-weary and cynical’ by their late 20s.’
James Thornton

Old Bailey rumble
’A hero ex-GB athlete-turned-barrister’ broke up a fight at the murder trial of ‘five drill rappers who killed a rival with swords’, reported The Sun.The report continued:The killers who murdered their victim with huge blades were jailed for a total of 116 years as fighting broke out in court and prosecutor Oliver Glasgow, QC, was forced to step in to prevent the Old Bailey rumble.’

After the judge passed sentence ‘enraged supporters of the killers started screaming abuse’. ‘One man in his 20s clambered over the rail of the public gallery and dropped down into the courtroom. Prosecutor Glasgow rushed over to restrain the man with the help of three police officers while objects, including an umbrella and a seat from the dock, were thrown across the court. The man yelled “I will murder you” to Mr Glasgow and those trying to restrain him he was bundled out of the court and handcuffed in the corridor outside.’

According to the tabloid, the QC is ‘an accomplished athlete competing for Great Britain in the male 35-39 age group duathlon world championships in Hungary, in 2007’. The duathlon is a 10k run, a 40k bike ride and another 5k run. He finished 12th.

Homeless ruling
A homeless man’s inability to find a lawyer may be a compelling reason to bring an appeal after the normal 21-day time limit, the Court of Appeal has ruled – as reported by Derek Bernardi in the Justice Gap (here).

Overturning the High Court’s decision to the contrary, Sir Stephen Richards emphasised several important factors which affect a homeless person’s ability to act as a litigant in person. These included ‘common difficulties or shared characteristics of those experiencing homelessness’ such as poverty and mental illness, difficulty understanding councils’ decisions, limited internet access, and imminent loss of temporary accommodation after a negative decision has been made.

Lawyerly pomp
’Does anyone, other than lawyers,’ asked barrister turned journalist Catherine Baksi in The Times’ Brief, ‘use the word revert when indicating in emails that they will reply? Why do lawyers do this?’

Apparently, the debate dived the legal twitterati. ‘“Because they have already replied to you. They will come back with a fuller response. Revert is precisely the correct word in that context,” came the po-faced answer from @JustCounsel, a barrister at 3PB chambers.’

‘Because we like to sound pompous,’ responded lawyer @AdrianYalland. Nonetheless the issue engaged ‘more than 80 (mostly) lawyers’. ‘We trust all the time was duly noted on their time sheets and that they will revert to their managing partners with the figures,’ Baksi noted.

Is the Justice System Failing Women?
A third fewer rape cases are being referred by the police to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and even fewer cases are being successfully prosecuted, according to the latest quarterly figures. The CPS’s quarterly report shows a decrease of 32% in cases referred by police for charging decisions despite an increase in reported cases. The data also reveals that the number rape charges brought between 2018-2019 fell by 38%. 

The Young Legal Aid Lawyers, the APPG on Legal Aid, Justice Alliance and More United have prepared a briefing for mps on early legal advice. You can read it here.

Neill re-elected
Veteran MP Bob Neill has been re-elected to serve as chair of the House of Commons justice select committee, according to the Law Society’s Gazette.  ‘Neill saw off a challenge from his Conservative colleague Steve Brine after a vote by MPs on Wednesday,’ the Gazette said. ‘In total, Neill secured 322 backers compared with Brine’s 226, with 37 invalid votes recorded.’ Former health minister Brine had said in his mission statement that select committees should no longer be ‘dry think-tanks, serving the interests of their chairman or members’.

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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