JusticeWatch: Courageous advocates

Courageous advocates
‘If there is any symbol of women’s progress in the legal profession and judiciary, then Baroness Hale of Richmond embodies it,’ began an interview by The Times’ recently retired legal editor Frances Gibb to coincide with International Women’s Day.

‘My impression is that judges are now a great deal more courteous and patient and respectful of everybody in front of them, both lawyers and litigants, than when I was at the Bar,’ Hale said. ‘That has definitely changed. Certainly we try to treat people with proper courtesy in this court.’

‘Being an advocate requires considerable courage. You’ve got to stand up to the court, to your opponents, your clients – both instructing solicitors and lay clients – and it requires courage to overcome the inevitable stage fright of appearing in court. To increase the difficulties and bullying is not acceptable, whether from the court or an opponent.’
Lady Hale

Meanwhile Joshua Rozenberg interviewed Sir Terence Etherton, Master of the Rolls and second in the judicial hierarchy for The Jewish Chronicle. Apparently Sir Terence had delivered the Lionel Cohen lecture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in ‘confident, fluent Hebrew’. ‘And not just a few words of greeting: he told the story of his grandparents, arriving in the East End of London from the pale of settlement in Russia during the early years of the 20th century only to find more antisemitism here.’

‘My paternal great-uncle persuaded his parents to change the family name,’ Sir Terence said. ‘And so Schliama Borrenstein became Seddon Llewellyn Delroy Ryan Etherton.’

Rozenberg spoke to the judge in London after the interview. Sir Terence was a business and property lawyer at the Chancery bar. ‘Starting with no inherited wealth, he was one of the first barristers to earn more than £1m a year,’ Rozenberg wrote. But he had no expectation of becoming a judge ‘not because he is Jewish but because he is gay’.

‘We knew that when Lord Hailsham was Lord Chancellor — from 1979 to 1987 —there was an explicit policy of not appointing gay men to the bench because, in his view, we were exposed to blackmail,’ Sir Terence said.

The policy was revoked by Lord Mackay of Clashfern in 1991 but ‘nobody was told’. When Labour came to power in 1997 it became possible to apply for a High Court appointment by writing to the Lord Chancellor.

Sir Terence was sworn in by Lord Irvine of Lairg, the Lord Chancellor, in 2001.

‘Although not an activist, I swore to myself that I would never deviate one centimetre in the course of my judicial office from being open about my sexuality and my relationship — and that it was my task to normalise the idea of a gay couple in the minds of the senior judges.’
Sir Terence Etherton

Political football
‘If you search for media stories on legal aid you will find plenty playing on the theme of legal aid being a way for grasping lawyers to enrich themselves and for guilty criminals to avoid justice,’ wrote LAG’s former director Steve Hynes for the Open Democracy site. ‘Governments have tended to play a game of kicking around the legal aid political football by making comments exemplified by Blair’s and using tactics such as publishing figures of the top earning legal aid lawyers prior to making an announcement about cuts.’

This ‘toxic political discourse’ gave the Coalition the ‘political cover’ to introduce LASPO. In last month’s LASPO review, ministers committed to ‘some minor, but important changes’. There were signs that policies were changing. ‘Ministers have committed themselves to pilot studies around the impact of early advice and have pledged some cash for digital led innovation,’ Hynes wrote. ‘Labour, if they return to government, are promising more radical change, including a substantial expansion of Law Centres and restoring areas of civil law such as benefits to scope.’

IT breakdown
An IT issue left some trials across England unable to proceed, reported the BBC News. ‘Lawyers told BBC News that trials had been adjourned because evidence stored on court systems could not be accessed,’ it reported. ‘HM Courts & Tribunals Service said its supplier had “made some changes” and users should “be seeing an improvement”.’

The Criminal Bar Association told the BBC that the Digital Case System had not been working in Birmingham, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Sheffield and York. Problems were also reported at the Old Bailey.

LALYs 2019
The Legal Aid Practitioners Group has launched nominations for the 17th legal aid Oscars. You can nominate your favourite legal aid lawyer here.

Suffolk Law Centre
In the last three months of 2018 alone, Suffolk Law Centre dealt with almost 400 enquiries, covering all sorts of issues from unlawful discrimination to immigration cases. ‘As you can see, it’s been an incredibly busy, successful and rewarding first 12 months,’ director Audrey Ludwig told the Ipswich Star.

‘We have improved access to the law for hundreds of Suffolk residents who otherwise would have been left in the system to fend for themselves – a frightening prospect,’ she said. ‘With several of our key grants coming to an end this year, we are seeking new funds and working hard to find further grant funding opportunities and to diversify our income streams.’

A ‘Friends of Suffolk Law Centre’ scheme will be launched on its one year anniversary celebrations at the Marriage Hall at Gotelee Solicitors between 2pm and 4.30pm on March 22. Among the speakers will be Sarah Langford, author of In Your Defence.

Sir Terence Etherton

 

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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