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MoJ averts one strike but gets caught up in another.

Your Expert Witness blog logoOne of the new – and quirkiest – features on the Your Expert Witness website is a one-click button for lawyers to find details of translators and interpreters for work outside of the court system. It is, apparently, proving popular among language experts keen to offer their services in the commercial field.

That is not entirely surprising, given the controversy surrounding the contract entered into last year by the MoJ for the supply of such services within the judicial system, which has given rise to criticism from bodies such as the Commons Select Committee. Many are reported to have boycotted the new contract, while the furore has prompted the MoJ to offer improved pay and conditions to those who jump on board (at the taxpayers’ expense, of course).

It is in the long and successful tradition of British industrial relations. In the 1840s, while countries across Europe were struggling with insurrection and revolution, here workers were offered more generous conditions and the groundswell for universal suffrage subsided until the Great War reignited it. We have yet to see whether the strategy will work this time.

• One group of people who one assumes are new to the industrial unrest game are barristers (What do we want? More silk! When do we want it? NOW!) Following the unprecedented strike by those on the northern circuit, their colleagues in Wales and Chester have threatened “mayhem” in protest over the reforms to criminal legal aid, while the Bar Council has called on the MoJ to scrap the cuts, saying they will “…irreversibly undermine access to justice and damage the reputation of our justice system all over the world”.

The latest rebuke came in the council’s response to the MoJ’s consultation on the subject.

The ‘core  case’ document continued: “We believe that all people should be entitled to choose a lawyer to represent them based on quality, not just be allocated one on the basis of whoever can do the job for the lowest price.”

The Law Society Gazette has revealed that only two of the top earning legal aid solicitors’ practices would bid for contracts under the new system (described by the Bar Council as a “Dutch auction”), while the Law Society itself has hinted that restriction of choice may be unlawful.

The report quotes a partner at a prominent Yorkshire firm as saying: “You only have to see the shambles and the utter incompetence of tendering in the court interpreter contract to see what’s going to happen.”

Which brings us back to…

• An unexpected – and one assumes unintended – consequence of the election of Police and Crime Commissioners (yes; there was an election, despite the fact that nobody voted) is the possibility said officials may decide to use their force as a kind of personal enforcement organisation.

PCCs were called to Westminster for a wigging by Theresa May – or “reminded of their obligation to ensure that information relating to interests and expenses is placed in the public domain”, as it says in the online newsletter Police Oracle.

It follows a controversy in Cumbria, where the worthy elected to perform the task so obviously required by the public repaid over £700 in expenses for chauffeur-driven car journeys within the county. So that’s all right, then – except it isn’t: two of the members of constabulary staff who blew the whistle on him were arrested after he complained about being bubbled.

In response to a complaint from the local MP Tim Farron, the PM said in April: “In general we should support whistleblowers and what they do to help improve the provision of public services.”

He may need reminding of that statement someday.

Chris Stokes

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 May 2013 16:42