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M'learned friends are fighting among themselves, while the whiplash bug has come back to bite

Your Expert Witness blog logoThe criminal bar has launched itself into the true spirit of the labour movement, it appears, with a good old-fashioned bout of infighting to go with its new-found militancy.

After two successful days of action by barristers in conjunction with solicitors, the Ministry of Justice announced that a planned fee cut was to be postponed until the middle of next year – after the General Election. The Criminal Bar Association responded by calling off its protest action, including the so-called no returns policy.

There were immediate accusations of selling out and abandoning their solicitor colleagues to their fate. One barrister resigned from the CBA executive committee in protest, calling the deal “entirely the wrong decision”, while others took to the Twittersphere to protest.

Yet another wrote in a resignation letter: “In exchange for a 15-month reprieve, we have abandoned our solicitor colleagues at a uniquely united and strong moment in our history.”

But a fortnight is a long time in political infighting. The response of the Bar Association was to hold a ballot, in which two-thirds of respondents voted to accept the ‘deal’ and call off the action.

The president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association (LCCSA), described the result as 'disappointing’, while noting that a sizeable number of barristers had rejected the deal.

“We look forward to working with them in the future,” she is reported as saying by the Law Society Gazette.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2014 18:41


Scots start their own legal upheaval and stolen bikes are no joke

Your Expert Witness blog logoHaving watched the justice system in England and Wales going through a protracted programme of reforms – many would argue it to be more a process of death by a thousand cuts – the Scots are now witnessing the beginning of their own potential trauma. On 6 February the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill and the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill were laid before the Scottish Parliament. The former does what it says on the tin: introduce changes to the Scottish system of criminal justice; the latter deals with the process of the civil courts in that country. It attempts to put into effect the recommendations of the Scottish Civil Courts Review, led by Lord Gill and published in 2010.

The review concluded that the civil justice in Scotland was “slow, inefficient and expensive” and recommended reforms which are both structural and functional.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 March 2014 09:05


Out with the old; in with…the old!

witness blogThere was something vaguely comical about the sight earlier this month of barristers in full wig and gown waving placards outside the Old Bailey during their not-strike over legal aid cuts. The sight was vaguely comical, yes, but the issue they were protesting against is anything but. Legal aid in criminal cases has been a cornerstone of the justice system for many years. It is axiomatic that anyone accused of a serious offence must have the opportunity to defend themselves. That opportunity, unfortunately, has to go hand-in-hand with the wherewithal. In a system within which expertise is rewarded proportionately there has to be some way of offering the necessary funding to those who need it but don’t have it. It’s true there is the risk of some criminals being financed by the state to defend the indefensible, but the risk of the opposite is considerably greater.

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 January 2014 17:53


Family experts’ standards are vaguely familiar, as are the awful figures for maternity failings

Your Expert Witness blog logoThe much-heralded standards for experts in the family courts were unveiled simultaneously by the joint response of the MoJ and the Family Justice Council, and by Lord McNally in an address to the Bond Solon Expert Witness Conference on 8 November. There are 11 of them in all, and for a document that can have a far-reaching effect on the delivery of justice for children they seem to the lay reader to be a little vague.

The first standard, for instance, requires the expert’s area of competence to be “appropriate to the issue(s) upon which the court has identified that an opinion is required, and relevant experience is evidenced in their CV”, while the second requires them to be “active in the area of work or practice, (as a practitioner or an academic who is subject to peer appraisal), has sufficient experience of  the issues relevant to the instant case, and is familiar with the breadth of current practice or opinion”.

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 November 2013 19:07


With our legal history being celebrated and our health service under threat, the Americans can still deliver a punch

Your Expert Witness blog logoIn 2015 the country will be celebrating the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, which is claimed to have been the cornerstone of democracy and the rule of law in England. There is an organising body for the celebrations, with The Queen as Patron, and all sorts of events planned.

One such will be a ‘Global Law Summit’ – a conference to “promote Britain’s legal system around the world”.

Announcing the summit, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: “The Global Law Summit 2015 will be a world-class conference showcasing the UK’s unrivalled legal expertise, based on a long history of freedom and justice.

“We will be working with legal professional bodies and business to champion one of the UK’s greatest exports, our legal system. The summit will also mark 800 years of the Magna Carta, a tradition that still provides the foundation for the best commercial and legal environment for business to flourish.”

Last Updated on Friday, 18 October 2013 10:28