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The new militants on the block throw their wigs into the ring

Your Expert Witness blog logoIt would be deliciously ironic if the government of old Etonians were to be sent into headlong flight by the professional classes that it is seen by many to represent. As the miners brought down Heath through militant industrial action and the council workers did the same for Callaghan, could it be that the Cameron government could be forced into back-pedalling by, of all people, barristers and linguists.

Following the half-day strike by silks in Manchester and promises of ‘mayhem’ in Wales, there are reports that a ‘mass meeting’ of barristers in London vowed to boycott the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates and to defeat it. Moreover, the circuit leader launched a blistering attack on the cuts to legal aid, saying they would “destroy the independent bar” and hit “middle-class families hardest”.

Yet more woe was heaped upon Chris Grayling today with the publication of a poll showing two-thirds of people think the cuts in legal aid will result in people being convicted of crimes they did not commit.

The poll was commissioned by the Bar Council, whose chair Maura McGowan said: “The public thinks a properly funded legal aid system is a price worth paying for living in a fair society; this is not just the view of groups of lawyers.”

The report of the poll didn’t say how many people thought the cuts would result in guilty people getting away with it. I’ll stop there.

The linguists, meanwhile, have turned down the latest attempts to lure them into the MoJ’s contract with Capita to supply translation and interpreter services to the courts and tribunal system.

The message from Professional Interpreters for Justice was:  “Interpreters do not want to be persuaded to work under the Capita contract and those invited to the meetings told the Ministry of Justice exactly that. Unfortunately, these weak proposals will do nothing to improve the poor performance which is clear will continue under the contract with Capita.”

So, despite arguments within the governing party (I know, but it isn’t actually a coalition, is it?) between the swivel-eyed loons and the – well, other swivel-eyed loons – it looks like it could be the legal profession and those working for it that will cause Dave to blink.

• Another group of lawyers still fighting a rearguard action against LASPO is the personal injury sector. The latest shot back over the parapet came from the chairman of the Motor Accident Solicitors’ Society, Craig Budsworth. He is reported to have told the Manchester Law Society conference that the fight isn’t over yet. Fuel has been added to the fire by hints from the shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter that Labour might ‘unwind’ some of the changes to civil justice.

• A report in yesterday’s Law Society Gazette hailed a Ms Arwa Al-Hujaili as Saudi Arabia’s first female lawyer. One is staggered by the progressiveness of the move. Hold on, though! If the judge doesn’t approve of women speaking in court, he (for it is always a HE) can disregard her counsel or even forbid her to speak.

Isn’t that like allowing a registrar to pick and choose who they will or will not marry? Couldn’t happen here!

Chris Stokes

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 18:48