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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.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 18:48

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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).

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 May 2013 16:42

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Barristers strike a blow for justice, but who spins the best horsemeat yarns?

Your Expert Witness blog logoThe Government's 'reforms' to the legal aid system have turned their focus to the criminal law, and have been met with a little more fight than the civil system has so far shown. In the North of the country the moves have been met with an unprecedented strike by barristers, more than 400 of whom, it is claimed, stayed away from court on 22 April.

The focus of Monday's action appeared to be Manchester (are barristers the new Peterloo Martyrs?), where over 100 solicitors joined their colleagues for part of a meeting. One Manchester solicitor told the Law Society Gazette that four prison vans had left the Crown Court in convoy at lunchtime.

The action was in response to a number of changes, seen by lawyers as restricting access to justice in addition as capping their fees. One such is the allocation of counsel by the court system, described by Robin Murray as Stalinist. He quotes Winston Churchill, who wrote: "The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country."

Last Updated on Friday, 03 May 2013 14:28

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All the furore around legal aid leaves the victims unheard – and penniless

Your Expert Witness blog logoOn 1 April the Jackson reforms to legal aid kicked in. On news broadcast and in the press, mingled in with the reports of the implementation of the bedroom tax were items on the loss of legal aid for a range of cases, including welfare, family and housing claims.

What most reports didn't mention was that aid is also being withdrawn for almost all clinical negligence cases: those for which compensation is most crucial to the physical well-being of the victim.

To its credit BBC Wales did address the issue on its website on Friday, with an interview with the father of little Kate Pierce. Sadly, Kate died while on holiday last month, aged just seven. When she was nine months old she contracted pneumococcal meningitis, which was missed at the time by the doctors at the hospital she attended.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 April 2013 15:18

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If you don’t like ‘em, kick ‘em out: if only it were that simple

Your Expert Witness blog logoThe judge has delivered his verdict in the action brought by personal injury lawyers to halt the Government's move to limit costs in RTA 'portal' cases. During the hearing it was alleged the Cabinet Office had been in communication with the Association of British Insurers to engineer what could be said to have amounted to a stitch-up prior to any consultations taking place with the public or the lawyerly fraternity. The judge, Lord Justice Elias, dismissed the action on the basis that no matter how unfair you may think government actions are, the place to overturn them is at the ballot box.

That reasoning infuriated correspondents to the Law Society Gazette's Comments section, most of whom were of the view that trying to defend lawyers' fees to the electorate may not prove particularly fruitful. There was one dissenting voice from the clamour for a march on Parliament, pointing out that to a great extent the 'industry' had brought it all on itself – "Did you really think hiring a bunch of paralegals and charging upwards of £200 an hour for firing off a few poorly worded template letters was going to last forever?" – but most were howling with outrage.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 April 2013 15:19

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