JusticeWatch: Time for a pay rise?

Time for a pay rise
Ministers had ‘run out of excuses for failing to match legal aid rate increases with public sector worker pay rises’, the Times Brief reported (here). Senior barristers and solicitors pressed the MoJ to match rate rises for criminal defence work with the 3.5% increase announced for junior teachers this week.

‘At a time when public servants across government are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel of austerity, there is no justification for excluding the dedicated barristers and solicitors whose daily struggles keep the criminal justice system going,’ Andrew Walker, QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said.

‘Criminal duty solicitors offer a vital public service, but cuts and the fact they have had no pay rises for more 20 years are driving more and more of them away from criminal defence work.’
Christina Blacklaws, Law Society president

Max Hill QC: politically correct snowflake?
Meanwhile Frances Gibb of the Times wrote that the next director of public prosecutions not only needed to restore ‘the badly dented confidence’ in the CPS but he also needed to prove to right-wing critics that his ‘liberal credentials’ did not undermine faith in the post.

Apparently, the QC had come under fire as the independent reviewer of terrorism laws for meeting an Islamist group that praised Jihadi John as a ‘beautiful man’.  Gibb wrote: ‘The Conservative MP Philip Davies has called Mr Hill a “politically correct snowflake” and among some lawyers he is referred to as “TV’s own Max Hill”, a jibe at his high media profile.’

Former DPP Lord Macdonald came to his defence. ‘Unlike these deckchair generals, Max Hill has put terrorists in jail. And he’s done it fairly and squarely. Anyone who thinks he’s soft is in for a shock. Max Hill is independent, robust and a first-class lawyer with a track record in the big cases.’

Not completely unrealistic
The Supreme Court president ‘steered close to a live political controversy’ by citing north Yorkshire court closures in what she called an imaginary scenario of lack of access to justice. Delivering the Nuffield Foundation’s 75th anniversary lecture, Lady Hale said the challenges facing the justice system today were ‘too numerous to mention’ but singled out the LASPO cuts and court closures in ‘a fictitious but “not completely unrealistic” family story’.

‘FDAC (the family drugs and alcohol court) works in every sense,’ Tim Loughton, the former shadow minister for children and member of the home affairs select committee told Amelia Gentleman in the Guardian. ‘It needs to be mainstreamed across care proceedings.’

As reported on LegalVoice, the national unit that supports the FDAC will close in September because of a lack of support from local authorities and funding from central government.

According to Gentleman, fewer than one in five parents who go through ordinary care proceedings end up keeping their children, while at least one-third of families stay together if they go through the FDAC system and, in some specialist courts, the rate of success for families is almost half.

‘The court is also cheaper than care proceedings: for every £1 invested in FDAC, £2.30 of public money is saved by reducing the long-term need for drug treatment, drug-related crime, future court costs and money spent on taking children into care.’
Amelia Gentleman

Writing about FDAC’s problems for the Justice Gap, the director of the Centre for the Justice Innovation Phil Bowen said:

‘The existing family system sits like a great leviathan, shrouded in a barely conscious establishment inertia, defying new approaches like FDAC to be better and cheaper while demonstrating in a daily diet of misery that it does not work itself. What is needed is the Ministry of Justice and Department of Education in Whitehall to rethink what we are doing to our most vulnerable children— and to change it.’




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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