JusticeWatch: ‘It’s payback time…’

It’s payback time
Boris Johnson is to accelerate moves to limit the powers of campaign groups and individuals to challenge ministers in the courts, reported The Times. The prime minister claimed that judicial reviews were being used to ‘conduct politics by another means’.

As the Times put it: ‘It was as a result of a judicial review that Mr Johnson’s prorogation of parliament was ruled to have been illegal in September last year. The Conservative election manifesto served notice that judicial reviews would be included in a wider constitutional reform.’

This is payback time,’ shadow attorney general, Shami Chakrabarti told the Mirror. ‘It’s revenge for losing 11-nil in the Supreme Court. It’s like losing 11-nil in the cup final and coming with a baseball bat for the referee.’

Writing for the Justice  Gap, Nicholas Reed Langen joined the dots. He linked this story to proposals that judges’ sentencing remarks in criminal trials could be streamed live from the Crown Court. The idea that seemed less about promoting ‘open justice’ and more about exposing our judiciary to the fury of the public. ‘Sentencing may become an exhibition akin to the executions of the Dickensian age, but with the audience directing their opprobrium at the judges for failing to bring the full weight of the law, as they perceive it, upon the convicted,’ he wrote.

‘It started with a kidnap’

The thread even captured the attention of the justice Robert Buckland (here).

Can I get my copy of the Communist Manifesto back?
Legal Cheek reported that a trade union barrister has pledged to sue the Metropolitan Police after being arrested on a picket line outside a London university.

The blog reported: ‘Franck Magennis, head of legal for the United Voices of the World trade union, accused the Met of an “outrageous breach of civil liberties” after being briefly handcuffed at a protest at St George’s, University of London’.

Magennis, who is on secondment from prestigious human rights set Garden Court Chambers, says that he has instructed solicitors to sue the police for what he described as ‘false imprisonment’. UVW had organised 15 days of strike action at St George’s in support of its ‘severely overworked and disrespected’ security guards.

A video taken by the Wandsworth Guardian shows Magennis arguing with police before being handcuffed. Released just a few minutes later, the barrister is seen to quip ‘can I get my copy of the Communist Manifesto back?’

CPS hiring spree
The Crown Prosecution Service has embarked on ‘a major hiring spree to cope with the extra work that will land on its desk after the government vowed to get tough on crime’, as reported the Law Society’s Gazette. It reported: ‘The prime minister has pledged to recruit 20,000 extra police officers. This will result in more work for the CPS, which received an extra £85m to “build capacity and manage caseloads”.’ The CPS aims to hire 390 prosecutors by June as well as 100 support staff including paralegals.

The poor relation
Meanwhile the National Probation Service overseeing some 106,000 high-risk offenders was facing ‘unreasonably high’ workloads – as reported the Justice Gap (here). A new report by HM Inspectorate of Probation reported ‘critical shortages’ in the service with six out of 10 probation officers over-worked.

‘This reflects an ongoing and, in some areas, critical shortage of probation officers, with over 600 vacancies reported in June 2019 across England and Wales,’ wrote the current chief inspector Justin Russell; adding that, once staff were recruited, there was ‘a lack of investment’ in their training and development which was ‘not of a sufficient standard to meet their needs’.

Last year the immediate past probation chief inspector called Chris Grayling’s part-privatisation of probation ‘irredeemably flawed’. One NPS manager told the watchdog: ‘We are the poor relation in the CJS [criminal justice system]. We have unrealistic targets, too high caseloads and insufficient staff.’

‘Probation is a vital service for protecting the public and rehabilitating clients back into society. Since it’s part privatisation introduced by Chris Grayling, it has been brought to its knees. The government must now listen to the Unions and the workforce and restore the service to the award winning status it was before.’
Ian Lawrence, Napo

Congrats to Glyn Maddocks QC

Some 114 lawyers featured in the 2020 list of QC appointments – just 30 women and 22 people from ethnic minority backgrounds. Glyn was one of 10 honorary QCs have also been appointed.

Embarrassing cash pile
On a related note, the Gazette reported that the company that recommends the appointment of QCs has admitted embarrassment about its £1.4m accumulated cash pile, saying ‘it would be desirable for reserves to be at a rather lower level’. Queen’s Counsel Appointments collected more than £750,000 from silk application and appointment fees last year. Lawyers must pay £2,160 to apply for silk and an extra £3,000 + VAT if their application is successful. 

Public Interest Lawyers
The Gazette also reported that unsecured creditors –  including barristers’ chambers – were owed a total of £6.3m by the collapsed Birmingham-based human rights firm led by disgraced former solicitor Phil Shiner. His firm Public Interest Lawyers is still owed £700,000 by the Legal Aid Agency for work carried out before its liquidation in 2018. Shiner was struck off in 2017 after a tribunal found he had acted dishonestly in the aftermath of failed claims against the Ministry of Defence on behalf of Iraqi civilians. A progress report by the liquidator confirms an investigation into the handling of PIL’s affairs remains open.

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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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