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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


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What most reports didn't mention was that aid is also being withdrawn for almost all clinical negligence cases: those for which compensation is most crucial to the physical well-being of the victim.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


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


Who do you trust with writing your will? Maybe an insurance company; they’ll see you right.

Your Expert Witness blog logo“At the moment, unregulated individuals are charged with distributing considerable sums of money. It is becoming more difficult to assist consumers to identify reputable service providers.”

Furthermore, new recommendations, if implemented, will: “…require regulators to develop proportionate and targeted approaches to supervising providers by identifying and targeting risks and taking swift enforcement action if things go wrong.”

The subject of those two statements, by Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff and the Legal Services Board respectively, is not the European processed food industry – although it could well be – but the recommendation by the LSB to recommend to the Lord Chancellor that the writing of wills should become a ‘reserved activity’. The recommendations follow a two-year investigation by the LSB and, if accepted by the Lord Chancellor, will not come into force until 2015. Speed, apparently, was not of the essence.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 17:45


So who pays what price for what?

Your Expert Witness blog logoHeroes of the week have to be that brave band of relatives of the 'victims' of the Mid Staffs scandal, who are metaphorically camped outside the Department of Health waiting for someone to take responsibility for the disaster. They have the knives out for NHS commissioning boss Sir David Nicholson, and the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Dr Peter Carter. Both are sitting fast and vowing to ride out the storm.

Carter is in the dock for allegedly failing to support whistleblowers, despite the best efforts of experts from all areas of the legal fraternity to encourage a system of protecting those who raise the alarm. Sir David apparently has the confidence of the other Dave, so watch this space.

The health service union Unite does not share Dave's confidence: it has joined the chorus calling for his resignation.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 17:48